God and Katrina
From Enkidu, Theologian-in-Residence (October 1, 2005)
Though I grew up in New Orleans and was distraught, to say the least, as she went under Hurricane Katrina’s waters, it did not occur to me at the time to question God’s role in the disaster.
A number of my relatives and friends felt differently. “Why has God taken my home, my job, my known world? What have I done to deserve this?” Or, alternatively, “why was I spared when so many others, better than me, perished?”
Given God’s purportedly causative actions last Christmas in the eastern Indian Ocean and on an infinite number of occasions before, such questions may seem parochial, though they are unquestionably heartfelt.
A few groups of people, however, had no doubts about God’s intentions.
Al-Qaeda, in a broadcasted news item, announced that "the whole Muslim world was filled with joy" as God “battered New Orleans, city of homosexuals."
Some among the American Religious Right pronounced similar posthumous judgment upon my hometown.
Franklin (son of Billy) Graham explained that “God is going to use that storm to bring a revival. God has a plan. God has a purpose… I would certainly pray that the gay and lesbian movement, the people that have this lifestyle, will come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior and experience their sins being forgiven.”
Perhaps the American Religious Right and their Islamist counterparts worship the same deity after all?
Then again, the less moralistic among the American Right offered a slightly different explanation for His destructive motives.
“I truly believe that it was God’s intention to have Katrina come to New Orleans to eliminate the blacks from the city” my mother’s Republican friend told her.
“This is God’s way of getting rid of the blacks” my dad overheard while having his flood-damaged car repaired.
“And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them” noted Barbara Bush as she viewed the refugee camp in the Houston Astrodome.
Destruction and exile for the impoverished? Specifically those impoverished by centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and oppressive social and economic policies? Destruction and exile as the solution to black poverty?
I doubt the God of Al-Qaeda would be so racist. He is too busy smiting Shi’a, Australian tourists and, of course, homosexuals, too bother with such things.