I just heard Kevin Phillips on CSPAN-2 denouncing the Religious Right on the ground, inter alia, that “Jerry Falwell interpreted a hurricane as proof of God’s wrath.” “How ridiculous is that?” asked Phillips, or something to that effect.
To the contrary. I give credit to Falwell and others for having the guts not to flinch at the implications of more sanitized religious pronouncements. If we credit God for the good things that happen to us, the corollary must be that God at the very least tolerated the bad things, if not willed them outright (one is really groping in the dark here to come up with some adequate way of describing God’s different levels of intentionality). I frequently hear that God has kept America safe since 9/11–John Ashcroft so pronounced upon leaving the Justice Department, but others have voiced the sentiment as well. If God could keep us safe after 9/11, he obviously chose not to exercise that protective power on the day itself. And since he did not, it seems to me perfectly appropriate to search for reasons why he may not have–the Religious Right at least has been willing to step up to the plate and provide some possiblilities.
The Old Testament is chock-full of instances where God decided to wipe out large numbers of innocents in punishment for the sins of a few. So Falwell’s prophetic interpretation of a hurricane strikes me as perfectly legit. Phillips and others are just ducking the truth of an omnipotent God.