There are times when I want to throw up my hands in frustration when clergy exploit the story of Noah.
How many clergy have abused that story in the book of Genesis about God bringing down a flood upon humanity due to its evil ways and used it to attack a group of people, declare them immoral and accuse them of causing of natural disasters against civilization?
We saw this behavior during Hurricane Katrina and now Hurricane Harvey. Newspaper reports and wire services report clergy and media personalities declaring the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey is God’s punishment for Houston’s “affinity for the sexual perversion movement.”
Another called Hurricane Harvey the result of America’s “Satanic” obsession with capitalism. This commentator decried the excesses of capitalism for creating the mess Houston is in right now. I am relieved that at least this commentator says God was not responsible for Harvey.
The trend has been that some radical religious groups become obsessed with sexual issues as the cause of all America’s natural disasters. They go after the LGBT community or pro-choice advocates. Somehow the issue always turns into an attack against sexual mores. Do we really believe that God would literally cause the suffering of so many people because God does not like the LGBT community? Is that how the creator of the universe — the God of Love — acts?
A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune focused on how many of the famous fundamentalists have held their fire during Hurricane Harvey. One theory the article suggested is that since Texas is a conservative state so such polemics would not go over well.
Michael Brown, a Christian evangelical broadcaster and a member of President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board was quoted as saying, “Had we been living in biblical times, we would have recognized a hurricane like this as a sign of divine judgment, repenting of our sins and asking for mercy.” He may be right on that observation. But he also cautioned that “we must be very careful before we make divine pronouncements about hurricanes and other natural disasters, as if they were specific acts of divine judgment against specific sets of sinners.”
The well-known Rev. James Dobson said that declaring God inflicted divine punishment on Houston “ ... will not help those who are suffering. Unity is our greatest strength in times of trial so let us come together to support and serve the people of Texas.” I hope he will be this generous if, God forbid, an earthquake hits San Francisco or another hurricane descends upon New Orleans.
I have no doubt that the majority of America’s houses of worship are joining together and raising funds to help those in Houston. This is a time to demonstrate that Americans can pull together and that they will not let hatred and religious bigotry overshadow their true principles of helping their neighbor regardless of their race, creed, color or sexual orientation. People are people.
The rescue efforts in Houston are examples of America at its finest hour. I urge everyone to join together with their religious communities or other aid organizations to turn a blind eye to prejudice and donate generously to help our fellow citizens in their time of need.
Climate issues caused by human society — and not sexual mores — could have played a role in exacerbating these kinds of mammoth storms. If experts tell us so, then we should do more to protect our environment.
At this moment, however, God, has nothing to do with causing this hurricane. What God does have to do with this tragic situation is to instill in us the dedication to preserve life and help our neighbor. Remember what one of the Ten Commandments says, “Do not stand over the blood of your neighbor.” God does command us to get involved and give of our resources and our faith to those who are homeless, hungry and in need of support. Isn’t the real sin here turning a blind eye to another person’s suffering?
The book of Exodus says, “When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”
That is what Americans are doing — and, I hope, that the clergy of this country will call out to us to do — for the people in the Houston area.
Let us help our countrymen, relieve their tired bodies, sustain their spirits and steady their resolve. They are tired and need us now more than ever.