Are there conservative Christians who, from time to time, like to claim that God makes sure that bad storms happen to bad cities?
Yes, anyone who has scanned mainstream news headlines during the Pat Robertson era knows that this is true.
Right now, it appears that there are a few people on the religious right who think Houston -- in the conservative state of Texas -- had a thing or two coming, too. As in this, care of People for the American Way:
Extremist anti-LGBTQ pastor Kevin Swanson is joining other radical Religious Right activists in declaring that Hurricane Harvey is God’s judgment on Houston and other cities that refuse to repent for their embrace of “sexual perversion.”
“Jesus sends the message home, unless Americans repent, unless Houston repents, unless New Orleans repents, they will all likewise perish,” Swanson said on his radio program today. ...
Swanson said that it is no coincidence that Houston was hit by this storm because “it was persecuting pastors and churches” and recently had “a very, very aggressively pro-homosexual mayor.”
You say that you've never heard of Swanson? Well, me either. But my point -- once again -- is that there are a few conservatives who keep saying this kind of thing. Thus, this old story angle drew fresh mainstream news coverage, as discussed a GetReligion post with this headline: "Religion News Service offers readers one half of the 'Why did God smite Houston?' story."
But here is the second half of the equation that host Todd Wilken and I discussed in this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in).
Are there lots of liberal Christians -- in academia, publishing, big pulpits, etc. -- who disagree with these conservatives? Of course there are. They get lots of calls from reporters whenever the press starts another round of hurricane-driven theodicy news coverage. That's OK.
But are there lots of conservative Christians -- in academia, publishing, big pulpits, etc. -- who also disagree with the whole "God aims hurricanes at sinners and that's that" concept? Yes, there are. World some of them offer a wide range of theological insights if asked to do so? Of course they would.
Ah, but how often do their telephones ring? Not very often, based on my reading of years of coverage of this topic. The basic format remains: Crazy conservative wackos believe THIS, while rational liberal thinkers believe THIS. Would it be a more complex story if readers found out that not all conservative Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc., buy into the now infamous Pat Robertson perspective on this giant theological mysteries? I think so.
So now, let's look at the flip side of this story. Are there political and cultural liberals who believe that Mother Nature (or God, or the goddess, or Something) aims storms at cities and regions because of their environmental or political sins?
What, you ask, would a news story about that look like? Well, there is this USA Today report:
The University of Tampa announced it has fired a professor who suggested in a tweet that Hurricane Harvey was "karma" for the state of Texas.
Since-deleted tweets from Kenneth Storey, a visiting assistant professor of sociology, spread across the internet after they were posted Sunday.
The first stated, "I don't believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn't care about them," according to the Tampa Bay Times, the Palm Beach Post and WFTS, a Tampa television station.
He followed that up by responding, "Well, the good people there need to do more to stop the evil their state pushes. I'm only blaming those who support the GOP there," according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Now, how many other stories of this kind have you seen? Probably not many. But are other voices in the left saying similar things? Maybe pay attention to Samantha Bee or Saturday Night Live's update material?
Also, have you seen any news reports in which the only voices quoted backing the hurricane karma theory are people on the left, while lots of conservative academics, writers and intellectuals -- alone -- are then allowed to critique this belief as if it was the liberal norm?
If you have URLs for reports of this kind, please leave them in our comments pages.