This photo from Queens has been circulating widely, showing the devastation caused by fires which broke out in Breezy Point during Hurricane Sandy:
The survival of the statue of Mary impressed some Catholics. But as you might expect, I think this illustrates the sort of thing which I blog about often, and which I was talking about with students in my “Faith, Doubt, and Reason” class yesterday: people often use theological language without thinking about the implications, assuming that any invocation of or expression of thanks to God is an appropriate expression of piety, when in fact, the opposite may be the case.
What sort of God would cause or allow a fire to run rampant, destroying 80-100 homes, and would interrvene not to save anyone’s house or belongings, but only a statue?
As we have seen in the case of recent statements by politicians, the statement “a baby is a gift from God” – which few would find objectionable if made to happy parents who had been hoping for a child and who were well poised to care for it – takes on sinister and disturbing overtones when said in the context of rape.
And we have not yet even mentioned the idea that a hurricane itself might be a blunt instrument with which God smacks more than a dozen states, just to send a warning to people not to vote for Romney. Or who floods Wall Street because of his anger at greed and the practice of usury.
Not all mentions of God are appropriate expressions of piety, are meaningful, or are theologically correct even within the framework of the one speaking the words. The mere mention of or giving thanks to God is not an expression of piety, if the result is that you depict God as a monster.
To paraphrase a warning sometimes given in relation to another topic altogether: If you use the word God, use it responsibly.