Revenge of Al Gore’s God: Part II

God spared New Orleans. Sort of.

That means God sent the storm to Mississippi. Maybe.

God is now pouring out his wrath on New Orleans. It just seemed like the city was spared with that final Eastern tweak in the storm path.

It’s a global warming thing. Mother Nature is taking her revenge.

God and/or Mother Nature is also mad about America and all its SUVs that drink so much gas. This is going to show America the error of its ways. Somewhere, Al Gore is laughing.

And so forth and so on. It is hard to watch the Katrina coverage without hearing variations on all of those themes in the back of my mind, a kind of nightmare flashback to the questions of last fall (when I was living in West Palm Beach). Once again, the only God language we are hearing in the coverage right now are the prayers of thanksgiving by the survivors. Another predictable layer of faith language will show up — as it should — as aid pours into the region.

But veteran religion reporter Deborah Caldwell at Beliefnet has plunged into the theological blame game. This is tricky territory, but she has done a fine job of listening to the muttering voices on both sides of the religious aisle.

Was this storm linked to recent events in Israel?

All along the theological and political spectrum, Katrina has crystallized people’s fears into a now-familiar brew of apocalyptic theories similar to what we saw after September 11 and after the Asian tsunami several months ago.

At least one New Orleans-area resident believes God created the storm as punishment because of the recent role the United States played in expelling Jews from Gaza. On Sunday evening, Bridgett Magee of Slidell, La., told the Christian website Jerusalem Newswire that she saw the hurricane “as a direct ‘coming back on us’ [for] what we did to Israel: a home for a home.” Stan Goodenough, a website columnist, described Katrina as “the fist of God” in a Monday column. “What America is about to experience is the lifting of God’s hand of protection; the implementation of His judgment on the nation most responsible for endangering the land and people of Israel,” Goodenough writes. “The Bible talks about Him shaking His fist over bodies of water, and striking them.”

Meanwhile, spiritual and political environmentalists say that massive hurricanes such as Katrina, along with the Asian tsunami, are messages from the earth, letting humanity know of the earth’s pain. These hurricanes are caused by global warming, environmentalists say, which are the result of using too much fossil fuel. They see the catastrophic consequences as a kind of comeuppance.

And then there is this excellent summary quotation (although I also want to know how a professor evolves into an expert on apocalyptic media):

Stephen O’Leary, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and an expert on the media and apocalypticism, says, “God’s got a two-fer here. Both sides are eager to see America punished for her sins; on one side it’s sexual immorality and porn and Hollywood, and on the other side it’s conspicuous consumption and Hummers.”

Even The Associated Press has pulled out some of the stops and, Caldwell writes, has started “priming the doomsday pump.” Here is one of those leads:

“When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans on Monday, it could turn one of America’s most charming cities into a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins released by floodwaters from the city’s legendary cemeteries.”

I tried to wade into this last year in one of the columns that I wrote amid the wreakage in South Florida. The crucial thing, for me, is that these kinds of questions are being asked right now on the ground in the Gulf Coast region. That means they are fair game for the media. My question is this: Who are the sources? Who are the best sources? Who are the untapped sources? Any ideas?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Scott Roche

    If this were the “fist of God” for what we’ve done here or abroad there wouldn’t be any part of Washingotn DC standing, not a brick, not a PAC, not nothin’. Why would He pick LA?

  • Stephen A.

    “Wrath of God?” Preposterous. But I don’t blame the media for the theological foolishness, because many out there still advocate it.

    Guess Robertson was so busy oilin’ up his rifle for Chavez, he forgot to turn Katrina around with that Uber-Prayer of his.

    What I blame the media for (though only the hysterical European media, so far) are the few stories lining up to blame this active hurricane season on Global Warming, and, of course, to blame Global Warming on Pres. Bush.

    Drudge linked to a NY Times story quoting scientists who pretty much debunked this rather quickly.

    (This link is mighty long and it may not work. Just check out if it doesn’t post.)

  • Pingback: CaNN :: We started it.

  • Molly

    Here is a link to an author that suggest is isn’t God but the fact that there is more stuff to be knocked down that makes recent hurricanes so destructive. Sort of a “if a hurrican came aground and no one was there to a) have their home destroyed, b) stand in the wind and do a live report on it, or c) send federal aid to the area afterwards, would anybody care?” sort of thing.

    OT: why the use of authorization codes at night?

  • Matthew M.

    I’m personally praying for God to send precision-guided tornadoes on the households of anyone who spreads comment spam, myself. </sarcasm>

  • ceemac

    The person I’d want to interview for his thoughts on this topic would be the OT scholar Walter Bruggeman. He has written much on themes like exile and suffering.

  • Maureen

    You want Rudyard Kipling’s “Natural Theology”.

    “We had a kettle: we let it leak:
    Our not repairing it made it worse.”

    Btw, I can barely read these comment authorization codes. Do you hate my monitor or just my poor eyes?

  • Stephen A.

    ceemac’s comment about wanting to interview a scholar got me thinking, then I turned on Larry King Live last night and heard a very enlightening interview.

    A partial transcript is below:

    _Transcript of Larry King Live, Aug. 30, 2005_

    Larry: Welcome. With the Gulf Coast regions Louisiana and Mississippi reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, our guest tonight has been very busy. He’s been a household name for many years, is the author of several best selling books, and is an expert in theology. Jesus Christ, welcome to the program.

    Jesus: Thanks, Larry, good to be here.

    Larry: Jesus, let’s get right to the hardest question of all. Did you send this hurricane to create death and destruction? Some on the American Left seem to think this is retribution for the war in Iraq. The Right is claiming it’s a condemnation of Hollywood values.

    Jesus: Larry, thanks for giving me the chance to answer that question. No, I had nothing to do with it. I’m still working straight out trying to deal with last year’s tsunami, and I’m spending a lot of time in Africa these days too, and frankly, I just don’t do those kind of things.

    Larry: Send hurricanes, you mean.

    Jesus: Yeah. I’m never physically *in* the hurricane, moving it around like it’s some kind of airplane. I’m in the face of the rescue workers, and in the hearts of those who pray to me for guidance as they face homelessness and loss. Out of the south may cometh the whirlwind (Job 37:9), but it wasn’t my doing. I’m the still, small voice after the wind, not the wind itself. (1 Kings 19:11)

    Larry: But could you have turned this around if you had wanted to?

    Jesus: No, it doesn’t work that way.

    Larry: So Pat Robertson’s claim that he turned a hurricane around with prayer a few years back wasn’t a true statement?

    Jesus: I don’t want to get into Pat Robertson’s statements right now, Larry. That whole assassination thing has kind of got me worked up.

    Larry: So you condemn his comments about wanting the U.S. government to assassinate Hugo Chavez?

    Jesus: Unreservedly. But back to the whole “turning around the storm thing,” it didn’t happen. I don’t know where he gets this stuff. I’d be turning around storms all the time. And who would I turn them towards? What if two folks in different directions are praying and I have to decide which one to turn it on? No, I’m not getting into that whole mess.

    Larry: Okay. We’ll be right back with more with Jesus. And later in the program, and update on the search for Natalee Holloway. You know anything about that, Jesus?

    Jesus: I’m not going there, Larry.
    Note: No disrespect is intended here. It’s meant as satire and commentary.

  • Scott Roche

    Stephen that was great!

  • Richard K. Ball

    The idea that God is not in the calamity, but only in our compassionate human response to it, is a nice thought that fits the sentiments of our time perfectly, but is unscriptural. It leaves us with a God who is either less than omnipotent, indifferent, or asleep at the switch.

  • Stephen A.

    You’re right. God sent the hurricane – and the tsunami, and 9/11, and killed my grandfather, and gave my mother cancer.

    So, what’s your view, Richard? Was he mad about Iraq or the porn industry? What was his motive for Katrina, do ya think? (If you can clear up this millenia-old issue for us on a blog, you get my vote for Pope, even if you’re not Catholic.)

    As for the media (since that’s why we’re here) I haven’t heard much about God in relation to this event, other than that it’s referred to as an Act of God a lot and that the Gov. of LA called for a day of prayer – I believe it was yesterday.

    I guess one day was enough.

  • Richard K. Ball

    The question is not why calamity comes to some, but, given our sinful, stubborn hearts, and wicked behavior, why calamity doesn’t come to more. Jesus said, concerning 12 on whom a tower fell, “Do you think these were greater sinners than the rest of you? No — and, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish”. Cancer and death are the devil’s domain, into which we have fallen. Jesus came to heal sickness, forgive sin, raise the dead, and give eternal life to those who turn to him. For telling the truth, we crucified him. God is not the guilty party, my friend.