Maryland Blogger Alliance

Alliance FAQs

Latest MBA Posts

January 05, 2005

Assessing God's wrath

When Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell said, right after September 11, that God had allowed our enemies to give us "probably what we deserve" because of our libertine society, they were instantly attacked by people of almost every political and religious persuasion.

Today, the Washington Post gives us an objective and neutrally phrased report on the Muslim religious leaders in Indonesia who are saying that the tsunami is God's punishment for not adhering strictly enough to shari'a law. The article also quotes individual residents who concur in this position. There's no suggestion in the article that this is a morally problematic view of the calamity.

Is the Post racist? Is it treating the Indonesian Muslims as if they were animals in a zoo? "Look, that seal stole a fish from the other seal." You don't make moral judgments about animals.

Can the Post summon outrage only about traditionally American religions?

Is there a special rule for conservative Christians?

Please understand. I'm not defending Robertson and Falwell. Far from it. I realize there's plenty of support in biblical texts for their view that God punishes nations in real time for their sinful behavior, but if there's anything more troubling about the Bible than that, I'm at a loss to identify it. Who are Robertson and Falwell to know God's specific designs?

Then again, who are the imams of Indonesia to make the definitive interpretation of God's actions? Like Robertson and Falwell, most of the people quoted in the article focus on libertine behavior as the cause of the calamity, but one imam blames it on Muslims killing other Muslims in Indonesia. What makes him think God isn't punishing Muslims for murdering Westerners? Prove it! Prove the opposite!

I'm really not trying to get into theology here. My point is simple: Attributing disasters (natural or human) to God's wrath is wrong, whether you're an American Christian or a Southeast Asian Muslim. It seems that for the Post, only the Muslims take a pass on criticism.