Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Natural" Disasters

In case you didn't know, I write for a little publication known as the Exponent. You can visit me there if you like a good discussion. Here is my article for this month:

This past week in Europe has been overwhelmingly stressful for people. With the eruption of the Icelandic volcano, (and my subsequent reading on the causes of the eruption), I've been reminded of the religious bent to look at each natural disaster as a sign of the times. After all, that is what the Bible teaches us to do.

Job was an extremely pious man. He was also very prosperous. He had seven sons and three daughters. It was proposed by Satan that Job was ONLY pious BECAUSE he was prosperous. Thus, to prove a point (because God needs to prove his points), God allowed Job to be tried—with almost every possession and family member taken away. Then he got boils and whatnot.

When Job’s wife had felt that Job had suffered enough she said, “Do you still hold to your integrity? Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9-10). Job responded to her, “You speak as one of the foolish ones speak. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Apparently, Job accepted the idea that the natural disasters that killed his family and took away his possessions were all apart of God’s plan. This idea is reiterated throughout the scriptures. In Matthew 5:45, “For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Recently in the news, the Iranian cleric blamed the regions earthquakes on promiscuous women. It was the women that caused 25,000 people to die in Bam. Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi told worshippers in Tehran that, “they had to stick to strict codes of modesty to protect themselves. ‘Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes. What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes,’ he said.”

Similarly, the Rabbinical Alliance of American issued the following statement about the profound effects of allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military:

“When Americans are suffering economically and millions need jobs, it’s shocking that the Administration is focused on its ultra-liberal militantly homosexualist agenda forcing the highlighting of homosexuals and homosexuality on an unwilling military. This is the equivalent of the spiritual rape of our military to satisfy the most extreme and selfish cadre of President Obama’s kooky coalition….

"Thirteen months before 9/11, on the day New York City passed homosexual domestic partnership regulations, I joined a group of Rabbis at a City Hall prayer service, pleading with God not to visit disaster on the city of N.Y. We have seen the underground earthquake, tsunami, Katrina, and now Haiti. All this is in sync with a two thousand year old teaching in the Talmud that the practice of homosexuality is a spiritual cause of earthquakes.”

In reading various articles this week, you can find the belief that God has been behind every major “natural” disaster that has occurred in the world. And why it may seem ridiculous to many of us today—most Christians live by these ideas—as they are constantly illustrated in the Bible and The Book of Mormon. The Great Flood, Sodom & Gomorra, The Tower of Babel, to the destruction of the Nephites time and time again. All of these things, I was taught as a child, were signs of the times—signs of the ending of the world…and that ultimately, it would be the sinning nature of humanity that would bring about these natural disasters. It makes sense, in the context of orthodox religion, to blame 9/11 on gays wanting to join the military and women letting their hair down. Doesn’t it?

Um, not really. That’s the thing. Don’t these ideas, when based on fundamental logic—tend to illustrate just plain ridiculousness? Doesn’t it seem weird to believe in a God that would flood the earth because women wanted the right to be in control of their bodies, or a God that casts fires on the state of California right after it approved same-sex marriage, or a God that would wipe out New Orleans because of the rampant gambling and drug usage? What about a God that preordained a system of ruling that has a man at the head and several wives that adhere to his priesthood power? What about a God that promises to burn the world at his coming? What about a God that based the Plan of Salvation around the violent murder of one of his children?

That’s the problem with me lately. I can’t seem to take that God seriously anymore.


JonJon said...

People assume God is as angry and petty as we humans are. Pretty sure that's not the case.

sammy said...

i'll try and be brief as to not 'overflow' your comment box.

the story of job has always given me trouble. some say it is a literal person and that believing he was a literal person is pretty much necessary to being a christian. i guess the mindset goes something like, 'well if his story wasnt a literal dot on the historical timeline, then what else can be made into 'myth' or 'allegory'.

that is exactly how i feel parts of the bible are meant to be taken. an extended parable or allegory. i am honestly troubled by the story of job. ironic because its apparently supposed to bring comfort or faith in god's faithfulness. having kids of my own is what really brought me to the place im at now. if my kids were taken from me so god could prove a point to satan in an apparent 'game', i would be devastated and definitely not stand in adoration of his actions to my children. the notion that after allowing my children to die in this challenge, im supposed to be happy and joyful because god 'replaced' them with different kids is utterly ridiculous. you can replace a pet goldfish or dog, you cannot simply just replace a child and expect things to be kosher.

so much more to say, but i said i was going to be brief and im already not, so i'll chime in more at a later date.

really good article and thoughts.

Rowena said...

that attitude has always made me laugh. Particularly the one about the women being immodest and leading young men astray.

I've always wondered about the great weakness of men, in this worldview, and if they really should be in charge of the world and the world of the spirit, if the mere sight of an ankle or shoulder or loose hair might send them over the edge into lustful indulgence.

I mean, we're supposed to assume the men are superior and meant to lead the world, but a flutter of our eyelids can cause them to fall into sin?

Maybe women should be in charge, then we'd all be okay. No more earthquakes?