Positive religious spin on Katrina
February 10, 2013 8:09 AM   Subscribe

There's a quote from Criminal Minds that has stuck in my head: Gideon: After Hurricane Katrina I read some essays by religious scholars. One writer said God was punishing America for its immorality; New Orleans was a wicked city, like Sodom and Gomorrah. Another one, a priest from New Orleans, he thought the hurricane was proof of God's love. Those levees didn't break until after the storm was over; if they'd broken sooner, thousands would have died. Sooo...is there any truth to that quotation?

My google-fu has failed me. All I get is the negative "Katrina was God's punishment" garbage.

[Not interested in whether God actually had anything to do with Katrina, but for examples of other people saying that what happened or the way it happened (or didn't happen) was proof of God's love or protection.]

Also interested in other examples of positive interpretations of other disasters, natural or man-made.
posted by sarahkeebs to Religion & Philosophy (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a lot more--I don't know the best term, maybe logical, to say, "That terrible thing is evidence of God's judgment for man's wickedness," than to say, "That terrible thing is evidence of God's love." So, I don't think many people would phrase a positive spin like that.

You may have better luck looking for phrases like, "Where was God?"

The judgment/punishment response positions God as directly responsible for the tragedy. Alternative responses have to be more nuanced, because it really doesn't make sense to say, "God caused this terrible thing that killed a bunch of people, but he did it in a way that killed fewer people than he could have--praise God!" So, you can go in a few different directions in answer to the question, "Where was God when this disaster happened?" and there isn't a great soundbite from any of them because you're grappling with something incredibly complex.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:42 AM on February 10, 2013

I don't have the exact quote you're looking for, but it sort of reminds me of the "God sent a boat" story, although that's more about the importance of taking action rather than relying solely on faith - here's one version:

You know, you remind me of the man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report
that the river was going to rush up and flood the town. And that all the residents
should evacuate their homes. But the man said, “I’m religious. I pray. God loves me.
God will save me.” The waters rose up. A guy in a row boat came along and he shouted,
“Hey, hey you! You in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety.” But the
man shouted back, “I’m religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.” A helicopter
was hovering overhead. And a guy with a megaphone shouted, “Hey you, you down there.
The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I’ll take you to safety.” But the
man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that
God will take him to safety. Well... the man drowned. And standing at the gates of
St. Peter, he demanded an audience with God. “Lord,” he said, “I’m a religious man,
I pray. I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?” God said, “I sent you a radio
report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?”

posted by eponym at 8:57 AM on February 10, 2013

I googled for you and couldn't find it, but did find some other positive interpretations:
I never undertood why christians (being myself brought up as one) face death as a tragedy. An atheist thinks of it as the end of existence and therefore a tragedy, but a true believer should know that god is waiting our souls after we leave this miserable world.
And as for all non-believers, and everyone in general, don’t you know human kind and every single living creature on earth has been suffering all sorts of natural catastrophes since the beggining of times? This is not new! I think there is something very wrong with the way our society deals with natural disasters, illness, death, or also personal failure in love, carreer and life… This is a long debate, but to put in a nutshell I´ll just say the obvious: pain is part of life, should make us stronger and better individuals, should get the better of us and strengthen our values as society by helping eachother. The sooner we learn that everything could change for the worse right now, the more prepared we shall be to survive and not worry about questioning any beliefs.
And more:
Of course, floods still occur in the world and many people die as a
result of their destructive force. However, now that we understand the
science of storms and floods, we no longer see these natural disasters
as being sent by God in response to sin…they are simply the
unfortunate by-products of the natural world. Hurricane Katrina and the
deadly tsunami of 2004 were not punishment from God for sins committed
by the people of those regions. On the contrary, God was present to the
victims of those disasters, offering his grace and mercy which was made
manifest through the charity of human beings who reached out to their
posted by vegartanipla at 9:10 AM on February 10, 2013

There is a passage in the bible (old testament I believe) about the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous alilke and it is not up to man to figure out the purposes of god, in fact I think more than one place (Job and Ecclesiastes and proverbs) it says very much the same thing.

A similar folksy saying is the same rain that floods the field drowns the rats meaning nothing is ever totally good or bad.
posted by bartonlong at 9:36 AM on February 10, 2013

the question of why bad things happen is incredibly complex and we will never have complete answers in this life. that said, it is still helpful to try to make some sense of tragedies so we can live with hope and meaning. in the hebrew bible/old testament there is the story of joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers only later to rise to power in egypt and be used to alleviate a famine in israel. scripture tells us: He [joseph] told his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). so, joseph's brothers sold him off in a fit of jealousy and later assumed he'd died. then, when his brothers and their country were in trouble they went to egypt to buy grain and God had positioned joseph, now high up in egyptian government, to be in just such a position to help alleviate the famine, and also to forgive and be reunited to his brothers.

in the new testament there is another key verse: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. because of free will God does allow bad things to happen to us, but he is always working for the good of those who love him. the bible is full of stories, like naomi and ruth, of God working to bring good out of bad situations. i think it's quite possible that natural disasters are consequences of how we have abused our planet. so, it's not judgment or punishment by God but rather that our actions, both good and bad, naturally have consequences. God is still always working to bring good out of consequences like katrina because that is who God is and what he does. really, that is the overarching message of scripture--redemption, salvation, life from death.

ultimately though, even having answers, as partial as they will be, doesn't take away our suffering in this life. in the book of Job, when Job looses everything he never gets the answers from God as to why it all happened, but God does show up and that is what brings him peace--God's Presence. if we know that God is with us no matter what happens and he is always working for our good then that can bring us great comfort. just as when tragedies happen to our loved ones many times the most helpful thing we can do is just to be Present with them and let them know that they are not alone but that we will lovingly walk with them through whatever they are going through, doing what we actually can to help.
posted by wildflower at 11:06 PM on February 10, 2013

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