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Acts of God


Growing up on the southwest side of Chicago, I saw a handful of tornadoes. The “Lake Effect” brought them out of the southwest and then swung them around through the southern suburbs into the dunelands of Indiana and Michigan. The sky turned the sickly green of old bruises; the clouds, bumpy-lumpy with a hundred cosmic insect bites. Then came that indescribable locomotive sound. At worst we lost a few mature trees and incidental damage from falling limbs. We were lucky.

The fifth worst tornado season in the history of the U.S. Weather Service brought all this back to mind.

We need to make sense of natural disasters that strike without warning—tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunami and tidal waves. But when reason fails and our powerlessness is clear, other answers tend to come from those who speak for God: Pat Robertson, the Assistant Bishop of Linz, Messrs Limbaugh and Beck. Whether hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti or Japan’s tsunami, there were clergy aplenty to claim “divine retribution” for some infraction of the rules: for tolerance of Gays or abortion or stem cell research or Secular Humanism.

The clergy I know in Agincourt are of the Liberal sort—friends of Howard’s mostly—who’ve probably responded with prayers for the injured and collections for relief. A few of Agincourt’s citizens will even have volunteered their medical, carpentry and other useful services and skills. I don’t yet know the clerics of a more conservative bent, however, but I know they exist; those inclined to see the loss of property and life in the Deep South as punishment from a righteous and vengeful God.

But Alabama is arguably America’s most conservative state. So it’s curious why the blogosphere has been relatively silent this time. Disaster in New York City or San Francisco would have elicited predictable rationales; likewise for foreign climes not yet harvested for Christ. At some point I’ll have to admit my minority point of view. It won’t be easy.


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