October 25, 2007
Just two years ago, arguably the world’s most learned social commentator—rapper Kanye West—called out President Bush for hating black people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. If we were to adopt West’s thinking, it seems reasonable to conclude that Bush also hates Hollywood movie stars living in Malibu and the San Diego Chargers football team. Why? Because President Bush has allowed all those wildfires to rage in southern California.
Forgive the sarcasm, but you get the idea.
Today it seems that some Christians want to tie the wildfires in Southern California to the judgment of God. Given the manifold vices that permeate the region, the argument goes, it stands to reason that God has decided to withhold His hand of grace and pour out His wrath on Californians. God, the argument continues, has grown tired of the idolatry, pride and immorality of SoCal and, therefore, has decided to torch the place—to purge it of its wicked ways.
No more does our President order natural disasters to devastate Democratic strongholds than God unleashes His wrath upon stereotypically sinful cities like San Francisco with the 1989 earthquake, New York with the terror attacks on 9/11, New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina or a region like Southern California with raging wildfires. This sort of silliness is best summed up by asking ourselves: “Would we be discussing whether the Lord removed His hand of protection if Katrina had instead made a direct hit on the little town of Dothan, Alabama?”
Of course not.
Perhaps we didn’t learn enough from the late Jerry Falwell’s refusal to immediately apologize for his claim that God had somehow allowed September 11th to unfold as a way of punishing gays, lesbians and all others guilty of sexual sin. (And, of course, televangelist Pat Robertson’s reticence to object to Falwell’s ill-timed observation didn’t help much, either.)
The implication in saying such a shallow thing is that a lesbian living in Manhattan is somehow more deserving of God’s judgment than a homosexual living in Des Moines, Iowa or that a creator of pornography in Canyon Country, California warrants God’s punishment more than an “Adult Store” owner in Paducah, Kentucky.
If Hurricane Katrina was God’s way of avenging the many evils of Mardi Gras, how have so many of our nation’s “Gay Pride” parades gone seemingly unpunished? For example, in my home city of Seattle, our Gay Pride parade goes off annually without a hitch (no pun intended).
Scripture reminds us on more than one occasion that vengeance is the Lord’s (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19) and that He shall not be mocked (Gal. 6:7). God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that His timing is perfect (Eccl. 3:11). And a wise man once said, “Even God waits until we’re dead before judging us.”
Doesn’t it stand to reason that God would not exercise His perfect judgment against sinners based on the size of city in which they happen to live or other arbitrary criteria? It is always dangerous to put God in a box—indeed, sinful to speak for Him apart from what Scripture makes plain. However, God did bless us with some common sense to ease the sting of not having His infinite knowledge.
On the very day California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made clear that all was going according to plan with the war against the wildfires, Senator Barbara Boxer blamed President Bush and the Iraq War for there not being enough man and air power to fight the fires.
Why so many homes had to burn is something only God knows for sure. What we do know, however, is the fact that so few people have died or been injured in the California wildfires is undeniable evidence of God’s wonderful, boundless grace.
Thor Tolo is the host of “Live From Seattle.” His program is heard daily on KGNW-AM 820 in Seattle and at KGNW.com. Contact Thor at [email protected]