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God Is in the Details

I remember reading a few New Orleanian quotes right after hurricane Katrina hit to the east. The quotes went something like “God has got our back” or “God protected us by diverting the hurricane.” I never did post about these, but at the time I was thinking, “God just hates Mississippians” and “We’re lucky God decided to kill other people.”

We awoke to find the true wrath of nature pounded down on the den of iniquity. We read the response by the “Jesus-freaks”:

An evangelical Protestant pastor in Elizabeth blamed the disaster on man, not God. "This is only a disaster because of man's lack of care and love for his fellow man," said the Rev. Gary Hartley of Christ Fellowship. "He didn't prepare for the disaster, even though he knew it was coming, and he didn't show any care for the people in imminent danger." Hartley also said Jesus explicitly discouraged people from viewing calamity as punishment for sin when he spoke in the Gospels of 18 people who died after a tower fell on them. "Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?" Jesus asks his disciples in the Gospel of St. Luke. "I tell you, no!"

Now there is some advice that could actually help America. Show your love for America and its citizens by protecting them. Do not lay the blame of a life altering disaster at the feet of those affected.

The old testament thumpers had quite a different response:

The Rev. Philip "Flip'' Benham, leader of the North Carolina antiabortion group Operation Save America, spoke approvingly last week about how Hurricane Katrina had shut down New Orleans' bawdy nightlife and forced the cancellation of a gay pride gathering. "The whole parade of drunkenness, homosexuality and passions of the flesh was just washed away," Benham, an evangelical preacher, said in an interview. "If you believe in God, then you have no choice but to ask yourself whether God is making a statement."

Thanks, Travis Bickle. These two evangelical preachers could not be more diametric.

Ronnie Houston wrote a good response bringing these two thoughts together:

Many of the victims of Hurricane Katrina are the poor and the marginalized. The Bible says, "He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished." The God of the Judeo-Christian writings has a special place in His heart for the poor. We are most like Him when we love as He loved and care as He cares.

This bifurcation of Christianity makes it difficult to hop on the Jesus bus in America. You get to know people and think they are kind souls, in part because they are Christian, and then they spew things that make your jaw drop. It causes many to withdraw from the churches, making spirituality a very personal and isolated thing - to the point of denying our core to others and even ourselves. As individuals working alone, we are severly limited in the things we can do to make a difference.

(For clarification, I am not ridiculing “Jesus-freaks” based on my own definition of them, which I’ll admit has arrived rather late in the game. Bill Maher likes to talk about “Jesus-freaks” running the country. He is unfortunately wrong. Every negative manifestation of The Bible in this country is strictly old testament. Gay rights, counter-evolution, and the concept of a cleansing flood is all more-or-less pre-Jesus. They are Cotton Mather in Jesus-freak clothing. To be called a Jesus-freak in today’s climate would be nearly analogous to being called a hippie.)