Saturday, March 25, 2023

God, Florida, and Our Bad Theologies

There, in the comments section of one of the weather sites I visit, was the comment.  I know, I know, don't read the comments, but I did, and there it was.

The wording, a little more profane than I permit myself here on this blog, wondered aloud where God was in the destruction wrought by Ian.  Where is your fake Easter Bunny God now, stupid homeless Florida Christians, was the trite refrain.  It's the sort of casual, shallow, sophomoric cruelty one expects from internet trolls, as if people of faith haven't found rational, gracious answers to the problem of suffering.  

Bad theology, I mumbled, and I rolled my eyes.

Then, deep in the body of an article about survivors of the now-devastated Pine Island, a woman who earnestly declared that she was certain God existed because she and her husband had survived the ordeal.  Now I know God is real, she said.  This isn't particularly Biblical, if you ever crack open the book of Job.  Or any of the Gospels.

Beyond being theologically questionable, it's also probably the opposite of the truth.  She is far more likely to have gotten a definitive answer to the puzzle of God's existence had she not survived.  I sighed at the peculiar solipsism of it all.  Bad theology, again.

Then there were the fulminations of the far right conspiracy theorists, the QAnon adhering "Republicans," declared with bright eyed certainty that the storm only hit that area of Florida because the DEEP STATE was using HAARP WEATHER CONTROL to PUNISH the GOD FEARING AMERICANS who voted for RON DESANTIS.

This is, of course, insane.  If the Leftist Globalist Deep State Pizza Pedophile Cabal had any real control over the weather, Ian would have leveled Mar-a-lago.   

QAnon is theology, of a sort, and it's bad.  Really, really bad.

Knowing my own heart, I am not above some bad theology myself.  Though I know that God brings rain upon the righteous and unrighteous alike, and that suffering and loss are simply part of our mortal condition, it's just so very tempting to attribute divine intention to the destruction of Ian.

Particularly if the divinity in question is the I Am That I Am, the God who we know through the Bible.  Because that God has a very particular interest in how we treat the poor and the outcast, the orphan and the stranger in our land.  Against that metric, Florida ain't doing so well lately.

I mean, here is a state that once welcomed people escaping poverty and oppression with open arms. 
Recently, though, it has gone wildly out of its way to be unwelcoming to refugees forced to flee their homes.  Ian comes just weeks after Florida Governor Ron Desantis engaged in a show of egregious cruelty to a group of Venezuelans fleeing that brutal, failed Marxist regime.  

We will not welcome these desperate, hungry, homeless strangers into our homes, he declared, even though said refugees weren't even in his state.  He spat out the word "sanctuary" like it was a bad taste in his mouth.  Move along, you are not wanted here, he declared, sounding for all the world like he was the satrap of Jericho in a previous life.

Now there are tens of thousands of Floridians without homes,  Floridians who have lost everything, Floridians forced to seek refuge elsewhere.  Floridians who know, first hand, what it is like to be forced to flee.

Bad Theology whispers in my ear: "Biblical cause and effect, baby.  This is the work of a just and angry God.  The measure you give is the measure you will receive.  They deserve this.  It is punishment for their collective sin against the stranger.  That was the sin of Sodom, and the sin of Gomorrah, after all."

Were I a different sort of Christian, I might listen to the Tempters' whisper.  But all I see, among Floridians, are people in need, children of God, some faithful, some not, some kind, some not, some welcoming, some not.  It's not for me to do anything other than hope they find food and shelter and hope for their future.