A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Chuck Currie highlights an evangelical group who called the flooding of New Orleans God's judgment. This may seem extreme or even unheard of as a claim, but as I was tabling for our campus ministry at my school I had an evangelical pastor come up and tell me the same thing. It was one of the only things he's ever said which has left me stunned, tongue tied, as is...can you be a decent, not moral, just a decent human being?

Or has religion operated in one's life to twist the soul so as to not recognize tragedy and suffering when it happens? It's a situation like this that makes me think that more often than we'd like, various forms of Christianity can be destructive, soul destroying, a trap that takes you far away from God..not because of this or that doctrine, but because it disconnects you from other people and their lives and suffering.

A study shows that if you go to church you're far more likely to support the war in Iraq and Bush's foreign policy. The report notes "frequent attendance at religious services has become a proxy for support of U.S. foreign policy". Why? "The actively religious U.S. public tends to see the world in terms of good and evil, holds its own values in the highest moral esteem, and feels ready to make whatever sacrifices are required to combat what they perceive as evil"

A number of elements in this report are troubling. Manichaeism has replaced the claims of the western monotheistic tradition which says that the poor, the destitute, those outside of the range of our compassion, other nations are part of God's world. The trust in our own values replaces a recognition that God is calling, challenging us to have higher more inclusive values. Militarism replaces the call for the peacable kingdom. And religion becomes the justifier of our disconnectedness not a call to reconciliation and a wider community.


At 12:38 PM , Blogger Blue Hobgoblin said...

It's a terrible shame how the Word of God is being twisted as a way to justify hate and violence.

At 2:56 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

Dwight quoted:

> "The actively religious U.S. public tends to see the world in terms of good and evil, holds its own values in the highest moral esteem, and feels ready to make whatever sacrifices are required to combat what they perceive as evil"

If you've not already encountered it, go out and buy Michael Mayne _Learning to Dance_ (ISBN 0-232-52434-3). In the chapter entitled `November' there's a fair treatment of this kind of problem with the fundamentalist right that resonates with your quote:

"...I have often despaired at those who take a literalist view of the Bible, or who, by their clear distinction between the enlightened and the unenlightened, seem to exclude many who are searching or half-believing. It seems such a judgemental form of Christianity, over-simplistic, intolerant and blind to the fact that the Spirit works in all kinds sof unlikely and surprising people and places, both inside and outside the Church. They seem to forget that, first and foremost, the Christian Gospel is not about producing neat QED answers to life's problems, but about encountering mystery. Faith, like hope, is an attitude of the heart, a changed orientation of the spirit. It is to trust that love is at the heart of the Mystery for whom the English name is `God'. And to do so in the face of the undeniable confusion, uncertainty and doubt which remain a natural part of all our lives."

I read those sentences on holiday up in Assynt last week, right out in the middle of nowhere, conscious of events in Riga prior to heading away, aware of the Mayor's warning to get out of New Orleans, listening to the fall-out of Pat Robertson's statements on radio, and I came back to find more examples of black-and-white fundamentalism as expressed in judgementalism.

About the only way I can avoid dismissing these people as unchristian is to think that maybe the judgementalism is a default case in a failed attempt to "understand" what's going off, beguiled by a feeling of need to say something.

My Bible has phrases like "judge not, lest ye be judged yourselves", and "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" and "love your neighbour as yourself" and "love your enemy [too]" (talk about having got us coming *and* going) and "who is my neighbour?" with an answer given in exemplary literary form. It also has a call not to attempt or presume to fight God's battles for Him, but to stand firm (Eph. 6) and says "vengeance is mine, says the Lord" - on the grounds that it is not *ours* to repay. That is the humility and service-of-God in which I hope to live.

At 11:33 PM , Blogger JasonF said...

It seems that if God were in fact punishing New Orleans, I would think that he would punish the rest of the country as well.

At 1:55 PM , Blogger J Philip Carter said...

I would answer, "Yes, I think that God is judging the whole of the US for it's sins in the illegal Iraqi invasion and occupation." It just depends upon perspective.....

At 10:57 PM , Blogger questioning catholic said...

I can't believe what I am seeing!
Do we as the faithful really believe that the destruction in Louisiana and Mississippi are God's wrath for our sins, particularly our sexual sins?
Is not God also distressed that people are not paid a living wage and that the poverty is increasing in this country and plenty of babies are dying in the War in Iraq
due to the endless fighting? Where is the righteous outrage over that?
Or is it that because the vast majority of the victims in New Orleans and Iraq are poor and dark skinned the interest of society at large is aware of their plight only at a time of catastrophe?

At 1:25 PM , Blogger 04-04-04 said...

As a New Yorker, I noticed, and have not forgotten, the similar comment by Jerry Falwell about 9/11/01: approximately, that God has punished the US, and picked out New York, to show his displeasure with homosexuality etc etc. Pat Robertson said, "I agree with that and I wish I'd thought of it first".

I thought:

- since when does God speak exclusively through Pat & Jerry?

- is this blasphjemy or psychosis?

- Are Jerry & Pat (and your local Trumpet of God reverend) any different from the people who circle the corners at 42nd and 5th howling at the clouds?

As I get older, I have less and less patience with people who claim to be Christian(TM) but who speak as if they're practicing for an evening propaganda show on the FOX network.

It's good to know that you exists.

For peace and in The Resistance,

John Welch

(no known relation...)

At 4:39 PM , Blogger E said...

Jonathan Swift:
"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."

At 8:53 AM , Anonymous Rick Smith said...

Sadly, this is not a surprise for me. The Westboro Baptist Church, publishers of such fine websites as:
godhatessweden.com (I think that is the url).

They picket the funerals of AIDS victims, gay high school in NYC, and that poor kid in Wyoming who was tortured and murdered a few years back.

If this is an example of true love, I sure hope my wife and I live a lie, because I dont think that their idea of love is anything but abuse.

That said, it is not a surprise to me that they have already come out to condemn it as God's wrath and will that so many would be tortured and killed in such a manner as is happening in New Orleans.

When I think of it being God's will that certain people should suffer, I think of two documents:
Book of Job
and the statement that the rain will pour on both the good and the wicked.

It seems to me that the idea of God's active participation in the suffering of man is not really something that he/she/it does.

The judgement and retribution of God seems to be more decisive than this. I am thinking along the lines of people turning into pillars of salt.

Causing his creation to suffer in such a way, on purpose, is not really his signature modus operandi. I could be wrong.

Of course, that is more of a casual observation from a the not as learn-ed. :)

At 5:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting quote reported in the Wall Street Journal:

'We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did.'

-- Richard Baker, US House of Reps, 6th District, Louisiana.

Wonderful example of how God is used in its way as a justification. I also wonder how well that will play in his own district back home?


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