NLQ Question of the Week: Why Do So Many Believe Natural Disasters Are ‘God’s Judgment’?

NLQ Question of the Week: Why Do So Many Believe Natural Disasters Are ‘God’s Judgment’? May 7, 2015

QuestionoftheweekThis is a new series we’re going to start running on Thursdays. Examining some of the questions involving long held Quiverfull theology and life.

It seems lately that every time you look at the news there’s some fundamentalist or evangelical leader either blaming a natural disaster on God’s wrath or claiming that doing x,y, or z will be bringing God’s wrath, judgment and punishment down on the heads of various people. Remember how 9/11 was blamed on abortion and gays? Last week Pat Robertson said that Americans mocking fundamentalists would bring down God’s wrath and punishment on the nation. He also said this at Right Wing Watch:

Robertson cited riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, legal abortion and the Supreme Court’s attempt to “bring in sodomy and put it in the Constitution” as signs that country is straying from biblical values, warning that the U.S. would be “doomed” without the voices of religious fundamentalists like himself.

“Sooner or later, a holy God is going to say, ‘I’ve had enough with you, I’ve had enough, my hands are going to be taken off your nation,’” he said. “People mock the word of God and those who proclaim it are laughed at as fundamentalists. Well, we need the fundamentalists because if we don’t have them this nation is doomed.”

I have to point out that Pat himself has mocked Ken Ham and other fundamentalists on his show. He better pray that what he believes is not true. This is also the first year in many that Pat didn’t give out a list of disasters to happen at the beginning of the year.  So many of these guys seem to be salivating over natural disasters and immediately going into the no-science zone. Why is that? What are they getting out of all of this to keep them all continuing on believing that disasters are God’s punishment?

Those poor people in Nepal did nothing to cause that earthquake. It’s all tectonic plates and pressure.

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  • Maphilindo

    It’s a comfort thing, I think. If earthquakes is the result of people sinning then there is something they can do to prevent them, someone to blame. Because tectonic plates are notorious for not giving a f**k about what what others think about them, and bringing ’em to Jesus is simply not plausible.

  • Julia Childress

    For fundamentalists, what’s not to love about natural disasters? They’re inevitable, and they’re great marketing tools because they reinforce the fear-based message that so many fundy talking heads hammer away at. Fear is the prime motivator and shows that we are not so different from our primitive counterparts. The idea that deadly events are just random acts of nature can be too much to cope with. So like our ancient forebears, we make up explanations dealing with cause and effect. How perfect is it that natural disasters can be used after the fact to show how the sin-of-the-month has caused God to turn his back on the nation.

  • Julia Childress

    Plus, they can scapegoat other groups. I don’t think that I’ve ever heard a fundy preacher blame a natural disaster on Jimmy Swaggart, Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard or Ted Haggard.

  • Mel

    The world’s smallest and scariest mindset.

    Once you’ve decided that you know the mind of God – a claim that monotheistic religions view as blasphemy – everything is proof of your privileged place above all other people.
    You’ve absolved yourself of human decency and compassion and become a monster.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    It’s an easy way to explain things.
    Additionally, based on things my mom used to say to me, I think that the entire fundie milieu appeals to those who want nice, easy, black-and-white explanations for everything. The world is a scary place, after all.

  • gimpi1

    It’s the hypocrisy that gets me. God is always judging the things they don’t like.

    Why aren’t the tornadoes that hit the pious midwest in the States every year God’s judgment for intolerance and bigotry? Why isn’t the drought plaguing Texas God’s judgement for not following the Biblical injunction to welcome the immigrant, the refugee? Why isn’t it a judgement on the Republican party for their lack of charity when they lose an election?

    To me, if God agrees with you on everything you dislike, that’s a sure sign that you’ve made God in your own image.

  • gimpi1

    Yeah, geology is not subject to our desires. I wonder, when the Yellowstone resurgent caldera finally pops off, if the resultant destruction of much of the American mountain-west and midwest will be taken for God’s judgement for their intolerance?

    If a resurgent caldera is just caused by a mantle-plume, perhaps an earthquake is just caused by a plate-collision zone.

  • Rachel

    I remember as a child when 9/11 happened our Children’s Church leader said that God’s hands of protection were around the US, but we were sliding into sin so God opened up His fingers to allow those planes through. He compared it to when our parents spank us because we were bad. I think that says a lot. God is our Heavenly Father, supposedly. In the IFB model I grew up in, the father is the head and he punishes you when you step out of line. As God’s children, God is our Head and he “spanks” us when we do something He doesn’t like.

  • Saraquill

    Was that church leader trying to drive the flock away?

  • Allison the Great

    Exactly. The most horrible people always believe in the most horrible version of God. Imagine that!

  • Allison the Great

    I think what really pisses me off is when they say things like “God used the holocaust because x” or “God used Stalin to kill all those people because y” or something like that. So God kills millions of people to prove a point? There is something seriously wrong with that idea, and the people who believe it and act like it’s no big thing.

  • FrequentFlyer

    Taking comfort in an illusion of control? If we can make everybody do, or not do, xyz then the disasters won’t happen. If I’m submissive enough then my husband won’t cheat. If my skirt is long enough I’ll never be raped. This list goes on. You can follow all the rules you want, but random scary stuff will still happen and some people can’t handle that thought.

  • Julia Childress

    That’s the big problem with conservative thinking – seeking simple answers to complex issues. I would really like to ask those IFB leaders that we grew up with how God could witness what America did to the Native Americans and the African slaves, yet still allow America to become the most economically and politically successful nation in the history of the world. Of course, they would probably say the same thing that my fundy mother used to say – the slaves were happy and grateful to be able to come to America.

  • Rachel

    Typically the justification is that Africans were all pagan savages, and so by enslaving them they were “civilizing” and–more importantly–evangelizing them. Never mind that Christianity has had a strong presence in Africa since the writing of the New Testament!

  • Rachel

    That type of thinking is very common in the IFB church.

  • Mermaid Warrior

    Agreed. Fundie mindsets rarely allow for nuance or gray morality; something is either good or evil evil evil.

  • Exactly. Plus, they need not waste their time learning science.

  • If God sends all manner of nasty natural disasters to plague entire nations who do something He doesn’t like, think how bad it is for a person who steps out of line. The implication is you do what we tell your …. or else!