Was Hurricane Katrina a Demonstration of God's Wrath?

An organization called "Repent America" has taken the opportunity to step into the limelight after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and Mississippi, claiming that Katrina was God's judgment on a "wicked city."

If you can stomach it, read the entire press release here.

"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city," stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage... "We must help and pray for those ravaged by this disaster, but let us not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said. "May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God," Marcavage concluded. "[God] sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45)

It saddens me when groups like this volunteer to speak on behalf of the entire Christian community. But it sickens me when groups like this volunteer to speak on behalf of God Himself, especially while in the same breath mangling what God really has said.

Who gave Repent America the authority to speak on behalf of God? Who told him that this horrible event was a result of the "Southern Decadence Festival," a party catering to homosexuals that was to be held in New Orleans this week? Even if it were, why did the hurricane wipe out other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi? I suppose that's where Marcavage's quotation of Matthew 5:45 comes into play.

Unfortunately for Marcavage, Matthew 5:45 seems to make the opposite point. Jesus' comment in the Sermon on the Mount was spoken in the context of His instruction to love others, even the unlovely. When Jesus mentioned rain in this context, he wasn't speaking of it in a torrential, tragic, judgmental sense, but in the sense of a blessing. In an agrarian culture, rain was seen as a blessing from God (just as sunshine, which is also mentioned in this passage, but not quoted by Marcavage), not a curse. Just as God bestows a certain amount of blessing on the entire earth, of which sun and rain are examples, followers of Christ should not show partiality in their love of others.

What do we say of Katrina? Why did Katrina ravage New Orleans and leave it in complete and utter shambles? Because it was a hurricane. That's what hurricanes do.

Why did Mount Pinatubo erupt in the Phillipines in 1991 killing more than 800 people? Because it's a volcano. That's what volcanoes do. If they didn't erupt, they wouldn't be volcanos.

I'm not saying God doesn't have control over nature. He surely does. But we shouldn't look at every natural disaster as evidence of God's wrath against a culture any more than we look at sunny days as evidence of God's acceptance of a culture.

To claim inside knowledge of God's ultimate reason for every event that takes place on this earth is presumptious. Job was one of the most righteous men to ever live, and he didn't know why disaster after disaster came into his life. Furthermore, as we look back on the story we recognize that it was not because of God's judgment of Job, but because of God's pleasure with Job that He allowed Job to be tested.

God's thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Although we as Christians would like to be able to give an answer for everything we do not understand, that is not our responsibility. Why did God allow this horrific tragedy to happen? Maybe we'll understand someday. For now, it's not our responsibility to speak concerning God's purposes where God's Word has not given us that privilege or responsibility.


candleman said...

Hi Chris,

Well, this has been one of the more well reasoned responses to Katrina I have read. As someone else stated if this was punishment from God why were so many believers and churches that preach the word also wiped out? God sends the rain to both the believers and the unbelievers fields as well as horrific acts of nature. That said, God does use any circumstance for conviction of sin and the preaching of the Gospel that hopefully leads to repentance.