From The Grio — It seems God just can’t do anything right when a natural disaster hits. The horrific disaster in Japan is the latest case in point. The twist this time is that it’s not just the usual parade of Bible thumping evangelicals that solemnly declare that Japan or any other disaster is God’s punishment for some almost always unspecified national sin or transgression. Recently a WNBA player got into the God blaming act with a tweet dredging up Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and implying the ongoing situation is payback. New York Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter quickly apologized for her idiocy. But Pondexter did not back off from her belief that as a spiritual person she believed “that everything, even disasters happen for a reason.”
The truth is that Pondexter and thousands of others from preachers like Pat Robertson to gasbags like Glenn Beck really think a vengeful God is out to brutalize the Earth for humankind’s wrongs. Their wrong-headed evocation of God is nothing new. The original flood, the ten Egyptian plagues, and the killing of first born babies in antiquity were also dumped into God’s lap. God has served as a convenient scapegoat for all humankind and nature’s ills for a couple of reasons that go beyond just the standard punishment for human sin explanation.
Natural disasters that claim thousands of lives for many are just too big and terrible to be chalked up to fault lines, rising tides, climate change, let alone human faults such as poverty, overcrowding, or a proliferation of human built nuclear power plants. That complicates things for the true believers who are taught to see a divine hand in everything. They just don’t trust science anyway, so God becomes their easy and convenient way to explain tragedies, a way that fits neatly into their skepticism and fervent religious beliefs.
But it’s not just personal belief that cause many to drag God into natural disasters. There’s often a political intent. Last year Pat Robertson aclaimed that God was punishing Haiti with the earthquake for making a pact with the Devil in kicking the French out two centuries earlier. Megachurch pastor John Hagee once claimed God was punishing New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina for its alleged moral decadence and debauchery. Robertson and Hagee are not just conventional preachers. They are political evangelicals who have used God to mobilize thousands in their cultural wars against abortion, gay rights, and to stir up anti-big government hysteria. Whipping up their flock into a God driven frenzy translates into crusading votes for the GOP, and, of course, hefty cash into their church and movement’s coffers.