The earthquake, tsunami, human devastation and nuclear crisis in Japan are God answering prayer. Really? This bizarre interpretation is being circulated on YouTube by Pamela who says “I am so overjoyed” that God answers prayers directly. Is this pure craziness? It is the antithesis of compassion and spirituality.
I find this this view to be highly offensive. The video in question has been strongly rejected by many Americans. Sadly it is not an oddity. It reflects a certain religious perspective given voice to most prominently by Jerry Falwell who said on CNN that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were God’s judgment on America. He identified gays, feminists and abortion as the provoker’s of “God’s wrath.” Falwell said the attacks were because “God had been driven out of” American schools. Or Pat Robertson who called the Haitian earthquake “a blessing” (FOX News). Or John Hagee who proclaimed on TV that New Orleans got what it deserved for its sins.
The YouTube video celebrates prayers offered on Ash Wednesday by some Christians to “open the eyes of atheists all over the world” and that a few days later “God literally shook the country of Japan saying – ‘Hey look! I’m here!’” The YouTube messenger – who calls herself Pamela but whose real name is believed to be Tamar Boehm – believes this reveals “Such an amazing God…I’m so encouraged.” Chritainity Today says Evangelical author Steven Keillor is not alone among those making the case for a God of judgment.
I understand the Holy and the spiritual to be about one primary invitation – the journey to love and compassion. In that grounding we enter into the stories of others and discover with new eyes our oneness as people. As our empathy for one another grows we do not celebrate calamities, we rediscover our shared humanity. Instead of judgment our compassion invites us to reach across whatever may divide us.
The spiritual path is one of becoming both fully alive and fully human. It is about more than being the authentic unique person and voice that each of us is. We are only fully human and alive in the context of other people. We are not here to judge but to discover that we are made for compassion and love.
So where does the vengeful, destructive God who delights in carnage come from? For Falwell, Robertson, Keillor and the YouTube messenger they take refuge in a strand of theology found in a small part of the Hebrew Scriptures – proof texts like this from the prophet Amos: “When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?”
Taking such texts out of contexts is always dangerous business. It doesn’t equate with the Rabbi Jesus who says that love is the only commandment to aspire to.
My heart goes out to the people of Japan living through their still unfolding crisis. My heart is with those from many spiritual traditions – or none at all – who are on the ground representing many countries as relief workers. I’ll stand with those who are praying and giving financially to disaster relief efforts.
Pamela does stop with Japan in her video. She says the destruction there is just a taste of what God will do in America – “I can’t imagine…how vengeful he’s going to be on America.”
The expectant glee of such hatred is hard for me to fathom. I’ll cast my lot with all of those – the religious, spiritual and anyone else – who understands that the sacred is discovered in every person. With those who work for the inclusion of all. Surely this is where compassion and love are revealed? I don’t know about you but it’s there that I find reason to celebrate?
Your voice of compassion, love and hope is needed!
Add your voice – post your comments or reactions below!