Bad Weather or God’s Punishment?

Why is that every time something bad happens there always seems to be a preacher around to give God the credit for whatever disaster or tragedy that has occurred? John Hagee was one that let us know that Hurricane Katrina was punishment for the wickedness of New Orleans. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson concurred that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were God’s judgment on a sinful nation. Last week, John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, once again saw the judgment of God in a tornado that hit downtown Minneapolis.

Who was God’s target this time? The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Why did Piper assume that the tornado was intended for them? They were discussing sex — homosexuality to be exact. Piper’s understanding of God and homosexuality led him to the conclusion that God sent the tornado “as a gentle but firm” warning to the ELCA to terminate the discussion.

I have read the Bible and I just don’t get it. The Bible talks about sex, and there are even some passages that refer to homosexual behavior; but it is not in proportion to all the disasters and tragedies that preachers blame on it. In contrast, the Scriptures are filled with teachings about the poor and how they are treated. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus begins his preaching ministry by declaring that he has been anointed to bring good news to the poor.

If God were a God that used disaster and tragedy to chastise God’s creation in this fashion, then one would think that individuals and groups that create and perpetuate poverty, along with those who exploit and demean the poor, would be constant targets for such vengeful acts. Such does not appear to be the case, at least according to the preachers who divine such things. Did you hear any of them declaring the banking collapse as God’s punishment for a greedy nation? Maybe some did, and I missed it. If they did, then at least they were being more consistent with scripture. In the Bible, greed seems to bother God much more than homosexuality. In fact, the list of moral and ethical imperatives that receive more ink in the teachings of Jesus than homosexuality is a long one.

Why do we do this to God? I mean, why do we turn the hand of God into an instrument of terrorist threat? You displease God and God will wallop you! How can you fall intimately and passionately in love with a God that is liable to crush you when you mess up? Why would the same God who took on flesh and dwelt among us in order to demonstrate God’s sacrificial love for us, and amazing grace to us, turn around and inflict pain and suffering upon us?

I try to assume that preachers who label devastation and disease as punishment from God mean well. Sometimes I wonder, though, if such characterizations of God only serve to rally their core of constituents. When, in their interpretation of events, small groups of easily picked-on minorities always seem to be the recipients of God’s punishment, I wonder if they are merely giving us permission in a not so subtle way to keep those who are different from us at arms length.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that God can do anything that God chooses to do. I also believe that God does amazing things in the lives of sinners and saints. I just have an increasingly difficult time believing that God uses God’s power to hurt, harm or even kill people. Jesus came to love us, to heal us and to reconcile our broken lives with the One who created us. When we turn away from the offer of that love, we break God’s heart. Yet, God continues to love us, seek us and reach for us even when we turn and run from God. When God wanted to do the very most that God could do to show God’s love for us, God did not send a tornado, or a hurricane, or a terrorist hi-jacked plane. No, when God wanted to love us like we have never been loved, God sent his Son.

May you know that love today and always.

4 thoughts on “Bad Weather or God’s Punishment?

  1. Well said, Pastor Ed! Of course Piper’s predestinarian theology gets him in trouble here. The Trouble is, almost every ‘natural disaster’ one can mention takes a toll on both the ‘just’ and the ‘unjust’ if those terms have any meaning anyway. Piper would clearly assume he is among the ‘just’. It’s best not to go beyond Matt. 5:45.

  2. What a beautiful article…we discuss these things in our mixed Newbies Class, and it is good to hear sound biblical reasoning from a fellow pastor. Granted, we have come a long way from days when punching out a ‘queer’ was a required thing by straight men, but we have to get a good reading on what is going on, with God and man.

    Thank you for the depth of thought, Pastor. Well said.


  3. Thanks for the excellent article. During my recent five week mission/immersion trip to Zimbabwe, I was reminded again how third-world theology should forever be engrained in our hearts and minds. Jesus ministered mostly with the poor of this world and it had an impact on his lifestyle and teachings. When you see people who are not getting their basis needs met (such as food, healthcare, education, clean water, and the list goes on) the questions of homosexuality and of Baptist power/politics should be at the bottom of the list of priorities. Other questions related to a wrathful God, the greed and wealth of the majority of Christians in the world (i.e. most with failure to share), lack of humility (more concerned about being theologically right than being commpassionate) are of more note. By far the majority of people in Zimbabwe who are suffering (Zim. being one of the poorest countries in the world) are loving and caring Christians. God’s wrath is not on them…His anger is more on those of us who have resources but no commpassion. His anger is more like the passage where He cleansed the temple …where we are called to be the priest of the temple…but yet His grace abides…He is patient with us…as He continues to knock at the door of our hearts…to come follow our commpassionate Lord!

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