Of course, while the disaster in Japan rages on, and we don’t even know what the outcome will be, plenty of people are offering up helpful explanations of why Japan has been hit with such as severe disaster.
And as usual, a few “helpful” religious types are saying it’s divine punishment on Japan. People with a more “granola” orientation say goddess Gaia or Mother Nature is angry because of all our plastic water bottles.
Even atheists take an opportunity like this to crack out the perinneal and supposedly airtight cliche, “Why would a so-called ‘good’ God allow this to happen?”
Does God punish people and nations? Maybe. But probably not in the way you’re thinking.
Abusive Heavenly Father
Of course, blaming God’s wrath is nothing new. God’s firey anger has been blamed for everything bad, including Katrina, Haiti, 9/11, the Holocaust, the Civil War, and King of Queens. Well, I blame God for King of Queens. How could a good God allow that show to happen? Anyway, whenever something terrible happens, you can count on someone saying you had it coming.
What would you say about a parent that punishes a kid without warning, and doesn’t tell the kid why he’s being punished? If you said “abusive,” then give yourself a gold star. That kind of punishment isn’t even legal in America. You can’t put people in jail without telling them their crimes or giving them a trial. So if what’s happening in Japan is God’s idea of “justice,” God doesn’t even measure up to the American justice system. He’s more like an abusive parent.
What prophets of punishment never acknowledge is that God never acts like an abusive parent in the Bible. God always gave advanced warning when He was planning punishment. Heck, He usually repeated Himself over the course of decades. He gave people plenty of chances to repent before dishing the pain. And He always told the people why they were going to be punished.
It’s Not Punishment, It’s Inevitable
Last year, I drove through Norfolk, Virginia (neighboring Virginia Beach), where punishment pontificator Pat Robertson’s 700 Club is filmed, and I had an overwhelming urge to ask Pat why God is punishing that city. It’s the poorest, worst American city I’ve ever visited, and one of the few places I’ve ever feared for my life while not even leaving my car. I would’ve thought that the city would be exceptionally blessed after decades of Pat Robertson’s divine presence, but no such luck.
The fact is that people have always been far more skilled at causing their own misery than we give ourselves credit for. Every disaster has human fingerprints all over it. So in a way, we did have it coming. But it isn’t becuase God is punishing people. God didn’t punish a city built below sea level surrounded by crappy levies with a hurricane. A hurricane was inevitable. Japan isn’t being punished either. A huge earthquake is inevitable in Japan. Humans were the ones who believed it wasn’t inevitable and built 54 nuclear plants there. Did the Jewish people deserve the Holocaust? Of course not, but in hindsight, it was practically inevitable, and it was the fault of a lot of people, not God.
There’s no supernatural cause to financial meltdowns or earthquakes. People just have short memories and don’t learn from history. And it’s funny that while some people so easily pinpoint why someone is being punished, no one ever looks at a disaster and says, “I’m to blame for this.”
Why God? Whyyy?
I’ve been finding it extremely difficult to find a teaching job that is up to my qualifications. Is God punishing me? Some days it feels like it, and God knows I deserve it. But more than likely, a bunch of idiot humans have created a mess where hundreds of young teachers can’t find jobs.
Does God punish people? Sometimes, probably. But I think God’s a big fan of “natural consequences.” The best kind of discipline for a student or child is to suffer natural consequences for something he was warned about. People who don’t do it God’s way reap their own consequences without God ever having to put them in time out. And sometimes we suffer the consequences of other people’s greed or hate or stupidity, not God’s.
So while we figure out how to help Japan, ask yourself if your life is on a collision course with natural consequences. They are inevitable.
What do you think? Does God still punish people or nations with disasters, or are people just shortsighted?