Fundie Christians are an interesting bunch. On the one hand, they profess to love God "with all their heart," and yet, on the other, they regularly send around unhinged e-mails about how God causes natural disasters or other tragedies as a way to punish the U.S. for abortion, or "taking prayer out of schools," or some other perceived slight against the Almighty. If I were to send an email around accusing you of causing such things, you would consider it libel of the worst sort; certainly you wouldn't believe me if I said I was blaming you for mass murder because I loved you. But somehow, we're supposed to take this blaming of God as a compliment, or at least, expect God to do so.
Further, it never seems to occur to persons such as this that to love such a sadistic and maniacal entity is to be the worst form of enabler, and to call into question one's capacity for empathy, to say nothing of rational thought. To believe that God can both love the world and yet bring floods, earthquakes and other forms of suffering to that world as punishment for sin, is tantamount to believing that the abusive husband loves his wife, even as he pushes her down the stairs. Please note, this analogy is not intended to suggest a parallel between God and husbands, except insofar as they can both (apparently) do some pretty sick shit.
I received one of these mass e-mails a few months ago--a pedantic diatribe about Hurricane Katrina, and how God had sent the Hurricane because he was "removing his protection" from America, thanks to the above-mentioned transgressions, as well as a few others. As someone who lived in New Orleans for ten years, this one was especially personal to me, and thus, even more assaultively ignorant than all the many such missives I had read before. Aside from being irrational, the claim (which supposedly originated with no less a conduit to the Creator than Billy Graham's daughter) casts a huge pall over the basic decency of God, seeing as how the people who suffered most in Katrina were poor black folks: some of the most church-going, Bible believing people in this country. All of which means one of three things (or perhaps a combination of them): either Billy Graham's daughter is a fruit loop, God has really lousy aim, or God is a real asshole.
Of course, here's the truth that the fundies refuse to face: it wasn't God who caused the suffering in that city. It was people, flesh and blood, very un-possessed-by Satan people.
Like the white sheriff of Gretna, on the West Bank of New Orleans, who had his deputies point guns at a group of mostly black folks as they tried to cross the bridge over the river to get to safety.
Like the National Guardsmen who pointed guns at the heads of starving people as they tried to get food from the pantry at the Convention Center, and told them to "back away from the food or I'll blow your f*%&'ng head off."
Like the folks at the Department of Homeland Security who ordered the Red Cross to stay out of the city, even as tens of thousands suffered in the streets and makeshift shelters.
Like whomever it was that made the decision to send New Orleans public school buses to get 7,000 white people from St. Bernard Parish, next to New Orleans, and get them out of town, while poor black folks faced death in the city.
Like the persons who made the decision to rescue white tourists from downtown hotels, and to pick white tourists from Europe out of the crowd at the Superdome and get them to safety first, leaving poor black folks to suffer and die.
People did all of these things. Not God. Not the Devil. People, like you and me, and that's what is so scary about it.
Blaming God's wrath for the tragedies that befall us, whether those are AIDS, tsunamis, poverty, crime, or anything else, is just an attempt by human beings to avoid taking responsibility for the things we do in the world, and the way that we refuse to take care of one another properly. Putting it on God, even as punishment for our presumed sins, is the worst example of responsibility-shirking and passing the buck possible. This is not Ancient Egypt. These are not plagues of locusts. These are human failures.
And of course, if God were angry at us for "taking prayer out of schools," then that same God would have long since sent these storms and such to any of a number of European nations, or perhaps Japan, since none of them are as religious as the United States. But God doesn't do that, at least not with the regularity that he appears to be "punishing" us. Piety apparently does little to protect us from disasters, disease, crime, and all forms of assorted heartbreak.
Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it, but please note that Columbine High School was smack dab in the middle of an extremely Christian community, Littleton, Colorado. But that community's religiosity didn't protect it from the horror we have come to associate with their name and that of their school. Indeed, most all of the mass murder shootings in schools have occurred in heavily Christian places, like Santee, California, Pearl, Mississippi, Giles County, Tennessee and Edinboro, Pennsylvania, just to name a few. They have not, noticeably taken place in ostensibly "Godless" places like San Francisco, or West Hollywood, or New York City. Wonder why? My guess: God is mad at conservative Christians, and therefore punishing their communities for presuming to know what he's thinking, and for always bringing him into it, whenever something goes wrong. But of course, I'm just speculating here. How would I know? I wouldn't, and that is precisely the point.
And to pick, as they do, 1962 as the starting point of the nation's decline (because that was the year that mandatory prayer was taken out of schools) is entirely selective. Why not pick 1945? Why not say that God is punishing the U.S. for incinerating 200,000 innocent Japanese civilians in Hiroshima? That would make just as much sense, which is to say, not much. Or why not pick some other year? And why is it that in the 1920s, when the U.S. was a more blatantly Christian nation, with regular prayers being offered up every day in schools, we still got the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl in all those Bible-thumping, God fearing Midwestern towns?
Oh, and let's remember, those same Christian schools with all that prayer were typically segregated, which is to say they were committing the sin of racism for years, all under the cloak of their own religiosity. Which is to say that prayer often emanates from the mouths of those who know not the God they claim to follow. Why didn't God send his punishments far earlier, in response to those types of sins? Is God more offended by sex and a lack of prayer in schools than by lynching, slavery and segregation? Or the commission of genocide against Native Americans?
Maybe that's it: maybe everything bad that happens to us is punishment for helping to wipe out millions of indigenous people. In which case, repairing that breach is going to take a lot more than prayers.
In point of fact, since 1962, when children were no longer forced to pray to Jesus in school, the U.S. has become a stronger economic power, and violence in schools today, contrary to popular belief, is actually less common than it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so I guess however angry God must have been after '62, he got over it sometime in the early '90s, and so crime in school, and among young people has actually been dropping as a result. Or wait...better yet...maybe God has nothing to do with these trends at all. Maybe crime and violence are done by people, without an assist from the almighty. Maybe. It's. Not. God's. Doing. Just maybe.