God, Nature and the Sins of Man
You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.
- Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-2)
A friend of mine brought the above Scripture to my attention to my attention on his devotional email list. Biblical prophesies and revelations can be controversial topics, because we are often unsure about how we should interpret such texts. The dangers that Paul discusses with his disciple were just as relevant in the early first century as they are now. What's powerful about the Bible is that it's teachings have a way of pertaining to the both present and the distant future. In the case of the New Testament, the parallels between Rome, the empire of that day, and America can be very striking.
Some Christians are interpreting Hurricane Katrina as the wrath of God for the "sins" (read: fornication and homosexuality) of the country and New Orleans in particular because it's a city known for licentious behavior and overall immoral indulgences. Biloxi is considered a "baby N.O." and therefore equally deserving of it's fate. Problem with that line of thinking is that there are many Christians who live in the Gulf Coast - "Good church going folk" as we like to say. Many of the people whose lives have been devastated did not even live either of the cities called into question. So, what would God's motive be in killing them or disrupting their lives? Bad things happen to good people I guess.
The fact of the matter is this: New Orleans is not Sodom, Biloxi is not Gomorrah and nobody in that region deserved death any more than the rest of us. We should be talking about sins hower, but let's focus on the sins of neglecting the masses of poor, primarily black folk which have been most affected by the catastrophe. Us Jesus followers tend not to take Jesus's teachings on the poor too seriously. Many Christians are standing up and mounting a noble response to the disaster, but how much death and loss could have been avoided in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and places where poverty detroys people's lives everyday, if we could have simply treated them like they were Jesus himself? Would we make sure everyone had reliable transportation to get to work as conveniently as we do and flee before disaster strikes. Would we make sure that the levees were renovated to protect the poor who are always "left behind". No rapture for them this time.
Any attempts to blame these acts of God or nature or both on the sins of a handful of people, whether they be gays or gamblers is just bad theology. There is one sin we all need to atone for, or maybe two. God has two primary commandments for us: Love Him above everyone and everything else and love your neighbor as yourself. The failure to properly meet the needs of the poor, which has been addressed, is a violation of the second commandment. The worship of idols such as national flags, money (what the Bible calls "mammon") and our own flesh is gross disobedience of the first directive from the Lord. If we're honest with ourselves, we can probably identify one or more of these iniquities in our lives. The sins of the nation are many and we all bear responsibility for them in some way. Love of God and neighbor is the path to repentence.