Some of you may remember that, while stuffed inside my shuttered concrete and metal fortress West Palm Beach fortress, I sent out a missive the other day on the theological implications of being hit multiple times by hurricanes in the space of a few weeks. It included the following lines that were went in jest, sort of. Maybe. Maybe not. I am not a Calvinist, so I can say it is all a mystery.
God shows up in quite a few of the news stories during hurricane season, but, so far, no one has put in print the question that you actually hear down here on the sidewalks and in the pews. The question is simple: Why is this happening? Close behind that question is this one: Why is God doing this to us? And then this one: Was it something we did? Why is Pat Robertson mad at us this time?
In the past few days, more than a few people have sent me the graphic that accompanies this post, which has been floating around in people's email listservs. Has it actually been published anywhere? It proposes a somewhat partisan explanation for what has been happening to Florida, in light of the 2000 election. It is sort of Pat Robertson for Unitarian activists at www.MainstreamCoalition.org.
The thing's pretty funny, if you ask me. However, look at one tiny detail on that pre-Jeanne map -- that blue-tinted Palm Beach County. Let me assure you, as a resident of this fair locale, that we have not been missed by the storms. (Wait, I need to save my work because I think the campus computer network is still shaken by storm damage. There, I'm back.) Also, St. Lucie County as been pounded.
So, while I have questions about the fine details in this map, I stand by my statement that the whole subject of theodicy and hurricanes is fair game. Some one ought to take it seriously.
And that someone is not columnist Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle. Still, I have to admit that he gets off some funny lines in his "Does God Hate Florida? After four brutal hurricanes, why aren't Bush evangelicals talking about the Almighty's wrath?" Here's the opener:
You know it's true. You know if, say, San Francisco had just been blasted by not two, not three, but fully four lethal trailer-park-eating earthquakes, why, the Right-wing Bible set would be yelping with barely disguised joy.
Of course they would. They'd be jumping up and down and saying I told you so and pointing to Volume 18 of "Left Behind" and claiming that this was, of course, God's wrath upon the sinners and the gays and the heathens and sodomites and the tofu eaters and the Toyota Priuses and the yoga studios and the anal sex and the incense burners and the Zen meditation centers.
Ha ha snicker, they'd say. Serves you right, they'd sneer. Shoulda voted Republican, they'd add.
And so forth and so on, paragraph after paragraph (some of which are actually funny), while adding zero content to the discussion. Maybe, even though he is a columnist, he could have tried interviewing an actual theologian or two, offering competing perspectives. Just a thought. The religious left is easy to find out there, but, hey, the Southern Baptists even have a seminary nearby. Give 'em a ring.