Monday, August 29, 2005

For Whom The Bell Tolled This Time

Do you remember when Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Anne Graham Lotz all raised hackles by implying, or outright stating, that New York City had gotten what it deserved on September 11th because of gays, feminists and liberals?

And do you also remember some of the unseemly gloating by some Christianist websites after the tragic tsunami last winter?

Or even the way Pat Robertson claimed that some brush fires in drought-stricken Orlando, Florida a few years ago were caused by Disney World’s pro-gay policy?

Well, I wonder how these televangelists will explain Katrina.

If we were to accept their twisted logic that tragedies of this magnitude are the revenge of a wrathful God on sinners, how would we then explain that Katrina’s worst force was felt in all the red state areas? And even in those red states, the more urbane blue-state cities were spared the worst of the storm’s effects.

In Florida, Fort Lauderdale was brushed and had some power outages but western Broward County, especially the northwest area, which is the bluest of blue state areas in the country, with all its Jewish senior citizens and blacks, had the least damage, while Katrina ploughed into the parts of Miami-Dade that had voted for Bush.

And once Katrina moved into the Gulf of Mexico and regained strength, she headed for New Orleans, only to turn slightly at the last moment; and so it was the rural Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coastal areas that took the brunt of her fury.

Oh it was bad in the Big Easy too. But that legendary frivolous hard partying, sinners’ town – and blue-state town to boot – didn’t get nearly the disaster that was predicted.

Where is the gloating of the Christianist fundamentalists now?

No, I’m not gloating either. I’ve got good friends in some of the harder hit areas in the suburbs outside New Orleans and in Alabama. In fact, my niece is riding out Katrina right now in Tuscaloosa. And frankly I don’t care what their politics or their religion is, I don’t want to see anybody perish tragically. All the people in those hard hit areas have my heartfelt prayers.

But, now, while it’s fresh in everybody’s minds, it’s important to point out an essential truth.

Storms, bombings, fires, tsunamis, deadly diseases are not necessarily God’s judgment on sinners. They are often random tragedies that affect the innocent and the good as well as the evil among us.

It was, in fact, Jesus who once observed that the “sun and rain fall on the sinner and the righteous alike.”

So do disasters. So, the next time Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell tries to tell you differently, remember Katrina, who was no respecter of righteousness. Katrina was just a dumb, brute, random force of nature, just as the tsunami in Indonesia was last winter. Those people didn’t suffer because they were Buddhists or Muslims. And the people of Alabama and Mississippi and rural Louisiana aren’t victims because they’re red-state Christians. And downtown New Orleans wasn’t spared because the French Quarter is charming and tolerant. The Big Easy just got luckier. This time.

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