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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

April 29, 2011

JUDGMENT CALL

A week or two after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans a few years ago, I was sitting at a service club meeting and someone at the table announced that New Orleans was destroyed by God, because the city was sinful.

I expected him to make some further crack about Martians and unicorns being involved but then I realized he was serious: he was actually saying that God destroyed New Orleans because of its sin.

I told him I did not believe that at all, and someone at the table quickly asked for the ketchup to avoid a religious war and the subject was changed.

A couple years later the terrible tsunami struck Sri Lanka and destroyed much of its southern coast. I had been on that coast and in many of its cities just a few months earlier. I had never met a better group of people and now their towns were destroyed. The wave was so strong that it picked up the coastal railroad train on which I ridden while there and tossed it off the tracks. That made an impression on me as to the force of the tsunami.

I heard that some thought that that too, was the work of an angry God.

I didn’t believe that then. I still don’t believe that now. I met a lot of generous, kind people in that country who were just trying to get by. Some of them were no doubt dead. And, now some Christians were saying they paid the price for being sinful and/or non-Christian.

Most Protestants and most Roman Catholics do not blame God for disasters. But there are many Christians who do believe that natural disasters are a sign from God. The recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan have brought this notion to the fore once again.

And once again, I do not believe God had any hand in this destruction of the good people and nation of Japan.

So, if God is not in the destruction, then where is God? I believe that God is the healing; within the spirit of the people to work and make all things right.

But when it comes to saying that God is punishing this people and that people by the destructive forces of nature, I have to wonder. Recently North Carolina was devastated by tornadoes. This week Alabama was hit with the worst tornado-related deaths in 40 years here in America.

Some of our Christian friends are hesitant to question anything written in the Bible for fear that there is a “slippery slope” and to question one part of the Bible might lead to questioning all parts of the Bible. I am not so concerned with that “slippery slope.” I may not take all parts of the Bible literally, but I do take all parts of the Bible as a source to be trusted and considered for the shaping of my faith.

Are North Carolina and Alabama to be questioned as to their sinfulness? Who decides that it was the power of God punishing the good people of those states in the South? Who draws the line on who is sinful and who is not? Do natural disasters ever strike the righteous, or do we then decide that they could not have been righteous in the first place, if they were struck? When we start saying that the sinful have received the punishment of God through natural disasters; that is a type of “slippery slope,” which concerns me more.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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