A friend of mine was angered and upset by an e-mail she deemed "hate mail" because it cited Biblical prophecy that the writer applied to New Orleans.
She chastened the writer as follows:
Katrina did not cause destruction to the Gulf coast because the people are ungodly. Katrina was a force of nature that could have hit anywhere; it could have just as easily hit [our community]. Events like Katrina, 911, Tsunami's, etc. are the fault of no one. Rather, they are "of the world" because of original sin. Lots of bad things happen to good people who don't deserve it. Good, caring and loving people can get cancer and suffer so much. To become judgmental and point fingers may be a knee-jerk response coming from fear. It may also be a response taken by those who need to feel superior spiritually and in other ways to their brothers. Hate is not the solution here.
Here is an excerpt of the comments that angered my friend:
Was hurricane Katrina an act of nature, or an act of an angry God? There's no way to prove either way. One can, however, state that New Orleans had turned its back on God, and was the most crime ridden and sin ridden city in the U.S. . Witchcraft, Black Magic, and everything you can imagine was taking place there. What city will be next? Only God knows the time and place.
The question was asked: "Was hurricane Katrina an act of nature, or an act of an angry God?" Is asking this question "hate?" I don't think so. Is quoting Old Testament prophecy and trying to understand how it might be applied to our time "hate?" Diligent preachers try to make the connection all the time. Is it true that many in New Orleans who promote or participate in corruption and the sleaze that made that City famous have "turned their back on God?" I think so. Call me judgemental - or call me observant and discerning. Certainly God doesn't want us to lose our discernment, does He?
There are several points that I believe my friend is missing:
God is a God of mercy and a God of justice. Most Christians understand that Jesus made a way for us to receive God's mercy and eternal life. But the bad behavior of so-called "Christians" as well as pagans, Muslims, Jews, aetheists, and secularists will not "save" them despite what they might say with their voices. One of the biggest lies we are told is the "faith alone" lie, that is, declare your trust in Jesus Christ and go on sinning; continue asking for forgiveness and keep on showing the same disregard for the commandments of God. Continue disliking your neighbor, indulge yourself, and think you will be blessed by God.
Here is my take on Katrina and New Orleans:
Some folks endorse the "supernatural punishment for sin/intervention of God" interpretation of Scripture and declare that Katrina was God's punishment to a wicked people. I cannot go that far. They base their interpretation on the Sodom and Gomorrah Old Testament story (for those of us who believe it really happened - I have no reason to believe it didn't). Preachers and ministers all over our nation preach that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was God's punshment for the evil of those people. I have recently come to supplement my understanding of the cause of the demise of those cities in two ways.
One: There have always been natural disasters - earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, pestilence, etc., just as my friend explained. People throughout history have reacted to and prepared for those disasters in various ways. Those who become self-absorbed in their sins will not be as prepared or care about the coming destruction as those who are diligent and responsible. Picture the drunken "hurricane party" that you often hear about. Are those people prepared? Do they care? There will be many more casualties among those who don't care or who are ill prepared than those who are prepared. Likewise, the governments that tend to be less responsible or more corrupt will be less effective in good disaster preparedness. The government of the City of New Orleans bore this out. In this county, the government is the people. Katrina demonstrated that the "relatively corrupt" government of New Orleans failed its people in many ways, not just during Katrina, but decades before as well.
Two: The natural disasters that God allows to take place impact the righteous and unrighteous alike. All have an equal chance to exhibit their righteousness during such times. Some choose to plunder and loot. Others choose to rescue and repair. Job of the Old Testament is an example of this universal truth of God's workings. Job was tested as severely as anyone on earth. He could have blasphemed God, or he could have remained faithful. He chose the latter. He remained faithful. He passed the test. He grew in strength and faith.
These two points being made, it remains my understanding, based on many passages of Scripture, that God judges, both here on earth and in the life to come. I agree it is not for us to judge. But those who think that God does not NOT judge blaspheme God. They are simply in error. Those who deny that God judges through natural events deny the power and discretion of God. Perhaps more accurate: What God allows He allows so that we may judge ourselves by our actions. We may respond with prudence and faith and love, or we may respond with imprudence, doubt, and hate. It is these actions that will be ultimately judged by God.
One final point of doctrine: Original sin. My friend declares natural disasters exist because of "original sin." I do not believe this to be true. We are responsible for our own sin, not the sin of others several thousand years ago. It is so convenient to blame another person - even more convenient to blame another person who lived so long ago! A lot more of God's children today need to claim responsibility for their own actions. Doing so, we are likely to be a lot more diligent and successful in anticipating, sensing, and responsibly preparing for natural calmity.
I have a bad feeling that New Orleans still doesn't get it. The prevailing chatter on New Orleans talk radio, one week after the storm, is their committment to their next Mardi Gras in February. Wouldn't it be more pleasing to God (not to mention the lives of people whose government they too often depend on for their very lives) to get their flood control system in order - to discuss rebuilding their City to a less vulnerable status? The beat goes on.