Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

The problem with Religion’s biased God

29th August 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith
Guest Columnist

There seem to be two groups of “religious” people: those who adhere to a theology which makes God sovereign, and those who use religion as an excuse and a vehicle to spout and support their political ideology.

As the floods have raged in Louisiana, I have heard religious people say that the storm is one of Biblical proportions — which it certainly seems to be — but as the homes of straight, religious people are being destroyed by the raging waters, there is an eerie silence from religious people on just why the storm has come with such a vengeance.

It has always sickened me when religious people have said that natural disasters are punishment from God for some social or historical situation with which they do not agree. When the devastating 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, for example, Christian evangelist Pat Robertson said that the disaster, which caused over 100,000 deaths, was the result of Haiti having made a “pact with the devil” when the tiny nation fought to win independence from the French colonists. They won the battle, but apparently they also earned the wrath of religious people who believe in colonialism.

When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Robertson, an opponent of abortion rights, said that the storm had come and caused so much devastation because America, at that time, had “killed over 40,000 babies.”

Both Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell blamed the 9/11 attacks on abortion and the push for rights for the LGBTQ community.

Every time there is a natural disaster I hold my breath, waiting for religious people to give their theological opinions – which in the long run are really no more than political ideology dressed in theological garb. It is disgusting and troubling, and, I have to believe, keeps people from wanting to be religious.

Now, as floods are causing behemoth destruction in Louisiana, the ideological religious are strangely silent as the floods tear through neighborhoods and communities which have never before suffered so. Tony Perkins, who is the president of the Family Research Council, has been quoted as saying that natural disasters are from God, punishing people for the “sin” of homosexuality. As late as October of last year, Perkins posited that Hurricane Joaquin, which hit the Bahamas, was punishment from God for the United States legalizing same-sex marriage.

Perkins is strangely quiet now, as his own home has been flooded.

This is not a uniquely Christian disposition; many fundamentalist religious leaders are quick to point to natural disasters as signs that God is not happy with sin. The trouble is, their God, whatever their religion, seems to be selective in choosing which sins. deserve total devastation by a natural disaster.

Abortion and LGBTQ issues are always front and center.

But other “sins” are ignored, like the molestation of children by family members and church leaders, or like hunger in a world that clearly has enough food for everyone. Violence against the LGBTQ community seems not to matter one iota to God, nor does racism.

Conservative fundamentalists are quick to say that people should be concerned only with their personal piety — i.e., being in “right relationship” with God on a personal level. In the Christian world, at least, many pastors avoid social justice issues altogether.

Unless those issues are abortion rights and the rights of LGBTQ persons.

That isn’t theology. That is ideology, using theology as justification to castigate some societal and political realities which do not meld with their political views.

Surely God cares about hunger and starvation, surely God cares about the damage caused to children who are sexually molested, surely God thinks that domestic violence, which results in too many women being locked up because they finally could not take the abuse anymore — surely these are issues for which God would send a storm! Surely racism, in all its glory, and capitalism, which has resulted in people putting money before God, sexism and militarism… surely all of those things bother God… and, following the line of reasoning by people like Perkins and Robertson, earn God’s wrath?

Apparently not. According to people who think this way, the only “sins” that make God angry are abortion and same-sex issues. Period.

I will be listening to see what Pastor Perkins says once the waters have receded from him home and his car… I am holding my breath, dreading that I may hear, yet again, political ideology clothed in theological language, God being portrayed as a very provincial, conservative, prejudiced spirit who cares nothing about the myriad ways we who believe in God fall short.

This article originally published in the August 29, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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