In a previous post, I said, only kind of joking, that we were a wicked people and deserved to be judged. Then I read this Pete Wehner column calling out James Dobson over his post-Newtown comments. Dobson had said that Newtown is an example of God judging America for abortion, gay marriage, and disbelief. Wehner, a conservative Evangelical, was ticked off at this, and explains briefly why this is theologically ignorant. And then:
Why is it that tragedies often bring out such callous statements – including from the very people you would hope would show some measure of grace, discernment, and perspective? And why are some of the most offensive statements made by some of the nation’s most visible (conservative) Christians? I am at something of a loss to explain it.
Since in the past I’ve criticized other Christian leaders for making similar statements, I wanted to explain why I, an evangelical Christian and social conservative, find them to be disquieting. It’s because they discredit a faith I cherish – and what these people say is not the expression of the faith I hold. For them politics, not faith, is their interpretive lens. Christianity becomes a blunt instrument in an ideological struggle. The result is that people of faith explain a brutal massacre by connecting imaginary dots. And the fact that doing so damages the Christian faith seems to bother them not at all.
Amen. I have a friend whose previous pastor, at his non-denominational megachurch, told him that his (my friend’s) son’s chronic medical condition is something God allows because of his (my friend’s) sin. Is that sick, or what? It grieves me to think about the pain in my friend’s heart, having been told by his pastor that he is responsible for his little boy’s suffering. It’s a lie, of course, and my friend now sees it’s a lie (this is part of the reason he’s no longer at that church). But what kind of Christian pastor tells a man trying to raise a disabled child that God is taking out his wrath against him on his child?
Theologically, however, we have examples from the Old Testament of God pouring out his judgment on Israel, and on others (e.g., Sodom and Gomorrah). So Christians cannot say it never happens, it seems to me. But it seems equally clear that Christians must not say that it has happened in a particular contemporary instance. How would we know? How could an attempt to find someone and something to blame for a calamity a) be accurate, and b) help those damaged by it cope with their suffering, and be drawn to God through it?
+1 Pete Wehner, is what I’m saying.