Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Alabama State Senator: Hurricanes Were 'Judgment of God' on Sin

Beliefnet has this fascinating story.

Alabama Republican state Senator Hank Erwin from Montevallo, wasn't surprised by Katrina:

"New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness," Erwin wrote this week in a column he distributed to news outlets. "It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God . . . . Warnings year after year by godly evangelists and preachers went unheeded. So why were we surprised when finally the hand of judgment fell?"

"If you are a believer and read the Bible, you know sin has judgment," Erwin said. "New Orleans has always been know for sin. . . . The wages of sin is death."

United Methodist Bishop, William Willimon, disagreed:
"I have no idea what sort of senator or politician Mr. Erwin is, but he's sure no theologian. . . . I'm certainly against gambling and its hold on state government in Mississippi, but I expect there is as much sin, of possibly a different order, in Montevallo as on the Gulf Coast. If God punished all of us for our sin, who could stand?"


Instinctively, I find Erwins comments disgusting. My God does not act so vengefully.

But on a logical level, if one believes that God intervenes in the physical world, then how else do you explain Katrina? Surely free will can't explain a severe hurricane striking a major metropolitan area. And there would have been devastation and death no matter how prepared we were. If you accept that God intervenes in the physical universe, then don't you have to also conclude that God either intended Katrina, or just didn't care?

This type of theological trap besets many who face personal tragedy. Personally, I take John Shelby Spong's position--that God is a Transcedent Absolute, a Truth. I take our conception of God as a personal "being" as metaphor--if a generally very helpful metaphor. If God's nature is Absolute rather than Personal, then we can say that the question of why God didn't stop Katrina simply misunderstands the nature of God.

It may be painful to question the metaphor of God as Personal Being, but doesn't adhering to it in cases like this contort our image of God anyway?

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