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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Essay: Is God sending disaster upon an unfaithful America?

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Is God sending disaster upon an unfaithful America?

From the book: Chum for Thought: Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters by David Satterlee

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Chum For Thought:
Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters

Is God sending disaster upon an unfaithful America?


Sometimes I realize that I just haven’t been paying good attention. Last week, a neighbor was talking to me about this column and suggesting some topics. She pointed out that God was punishing America for straying from the faithful Christian path, citing disasters such as the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York and the damage to New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina as examples.

I think that, at the time, my response was “Oh,” instead of the first thing that came into my head. People react oddly to being surprised by a new idea and I am no exception. Besides, Lord knows I’ve sprung enough new ideas on unsuspecting people to learn how quickly people can become defensive when presented with a new idea.

A little research revealed a 2008 recording of Wasilla [Alaska] Baptist Church’s pastor, Larry Kroon explaining that “’The Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.’ There will be not one act of unjust violence that God does not deal with.  Whether it’s a huge nation like Assyria, a corrupt African nation, or a slipping, sliding country like the U S of A. The Lord will leave no one unpunished.” Commenters pointed out that “The religious right has said this stuff for years,” and that “This is actually Sarah Palin’s sister Molly’s pastor.” So, I guess it doesn’t count.

In August, 2011, Michele Bachmann told a large Florida audience, “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had
a hurricane [Irene]. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’” A spokesman later said that this comment was made “in jest,” so I guess it doesn’t count. But, it turns out that thought leaders, such as Pat Robertson, have been exercising this theme of Divine retribution against America for years.

Another Christian “God hates America” commentator explains this idea using Romans 8:31, “If God be with us who can be against us?” You kind of have to turn this one inside out like a laundered tee-shirt. The implied transformation is that: “If some bad things happen, or someone is against us, then God must not be with us.” Presto change-o. You see how that works? Thus, America has been bad and God is punishing us. QED. His cited “acts of God” include 1999: “God opened the year, still in an angry mood: the Blizzard of 1999 was a strong winter snowstorm which struck the Midwest United States…”

Just for starters, my first impulse is to be wary of preachers, politicians, and pundits who believe that God is punishing this country and we have it coming. When might they decide that they’ve been called to commit some retribution – you know, do some of our Heavenly Father’s will?

Have you noticed? People sometimes think of government as being like a father. Did you have a punishing father who took off his belt and make you stand still and take your whoopin’? Or, did you have a nurturing father who cared enough to teach you how to make good decisions? Ideally, your parents truly cared about your welfare, looked out for your best interests, and were nurturing.

This puppy is gonna need a Part 2. Please stay tuned for next week, when I move on to comparing different kinds of fathers and their parenting styles and ask: “What kind of Heavenly Father do YOU pray to and what kind of government will YOU vote for?”



Addendum:

My wife heard a related interview in progress on our local conservative/Christian talk radio station. I found the MP3 of this segment and listened to the entire thing. I’m not just cherry-picking some extreme examples, above. This is today’s reality being broadcast to me and my neighbors. Yet, I’m still surprised at the common conservative conviction that God has a suite of purposes in using disasters to warn, call, and teach us. They believe that God is overtly doing things to unbelievers and allowing things to happen to believers (“using sin sinlessly”). They believe that God is judging America with shootings, droughts, and other calamities.

Post-postscript:
These conservative guys are also very much against Mitt Romney politically and religiously. Very interesting.

Post-post-postscript:
This issue of “God’s will for America” is winding up to be a real conundrum for committed Christians. A recent Pew poll reveals that 48% of registered voters have been convinced that Barack Obama is, or may be, a Muslim. This is despite the fact that our president has made it clear that he believes that, while responsible to/for a diverse nation, his private beliefs are entirely Christian. Oops.

On the other hand, many of these same people have serious concerns that Mormons (like Mitt Romney) are not actually Christians. The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints deviates significantly from conventional Protestant beliefs. It holds that God used to be a man and that faithful Mormons can become Gods with responsibility for their own universes and planets. Also, the Bible is accepted only “so far as it has been translated correctly,” and contemporary prophets continue to reveal truth and interpret scripture. Uh-oh. We got us some dueling gods now, do we?