It has always been troubling to me when, after a natural disaster, we invariably hear a “person of faith” make the pronouncement that the devastation and suffering being experienced is God punishing God’s people – most often, it seems, those who are members of the LGBTQ community, those who support feminism, and those who support a woman’s right to choose whether or not she will have an abortion.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans 12 years ago, some from the Religious Right blamed the storm on all of the above, and as HIV/AIDS ravaged scores of people, religious leaders from the Right said the disease was the judgement of God.( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/warren-j-blumenfeld/god-and-natural-disasters-its-the-gays-fault_b_2068817.html)
Some religious leaders said that the tragedy at Sandy Hook, where little children were blown to bits by a mad gunman, was God punishing gay people and the tolerance of gay rights. (http://www.sltrib.com/religion/global/2017/08/30/where-are-the-condemnations-of-harvey-as-gods-punishment/)
Interestingly, there has been an air of caution and a lack of public judgement in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Both Texas and Florida are seen as firm bastions of evangelical Christianity. Voters in Texas struck down in 2015 a law that banned discrimination in bathrooms, and Florida is home not only to many of the Conservative Right, but also to the president of the United States.
In other words, God doesn’t punish people on the Right.
The god of the Right is a troubling presence (little “g” used intentionally). This god causes horrific punishment for people who have a different belief system than does the Right, but is oddly silent when home bases of those who spew this type of theology are hit with tragedy and disaster.
The enemy, it seems, to the Religious Right is liberalism and all that liberalism “allows.” In the world of the Religious Right, there is no room for diversity, no place for members of the LGBTQ community, no room for a woman to choose when she has a child. Liberalism gives people too much leeway, the Religious Right believes, leeway that is against the will of God.
Their definition and understanding of the will of God, however, is painful and limited. Their god doesn’t care about racism and the pain and misery it has caused; their god doesn’t care about sexism or about discrimination wrought against people who are somehow different from what the Right would call “normal.”
Their god had no feelings about the tiny, innocent children who were massacred at Sandy Hook, or about the people who have died horrific deaths because of HIV/AIDS. Their god’s values political, not compassionate; their god holds one group of people accountable for “sins,” while letting another group of people walk free for their shortcomings.
The people of Texas, many of whom are evangelical Christians with the attendant set of beliefs, are suffering, and now religious leaders are urging people to come together to help those who are suffering. This, in a place where voter suppression, immigrant discrimination, and sexism and homophobia are celebrated values. These people are spared the religious dribble and are allowed to suffer under an aura of compassion, urged by the Religious Right.
It is troubling to watch. At the end of the day, nobody really knows who is “all right” with God and who is not. The Christian Bible says that anyone who “confesses with his mouth the Lord Jesus and believes in his heart that God raised him from the dead shall be saved.” That sentence doesn’t eliminate any group of people; all who confess and believe are said to be “saved.” Sin, as defined by theologian Paul Tillich, is anything that separates people from God.
It would seem that the “do-over” of God and God’s will by the Religious Right – of all religious sects, because this judgmental tendency is not exclusively Christian – truly displaces the sovereignty of God and replaces it with human arrogance and bias. Humans stand between God and God’s people, and are therefore “the sin.” “The sin” causes other people to sin by putting between them and God false definitions of goodness and “rightness” in the eyes of God, definitions which are not from God or even close to the notion of God as loving and nonbiased.
The victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are being spared the horrific spewing of self-righteous dribble because many of those suffering are evangelical Christians. Please understand: this is not about putting down the Religious Right. They have the right to believe as they want, and I don’t have to ascribe to it.
This is about being disturbed about how any religion can celebrate in the suffering of other people, and be so arrogant as to assume that they know that the suffering is God’s will. God would not punish some for “sin” and not others, not if the description of God we learned in Sunday School is true.
The silence of the Religious Right in the suffering of the people in Texas and Florida is telling. These people are truly suffering, not being punished, because they are on the “right” side of the Religious Right.
Maybe that’s not true …but it sure looks that way.
A candid observation