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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Prophets and Losses

Here we go again (inspired by the ever insightful Elisson)...

It seems like there can't be a tragedy anywhere in the world without some religious leader making a public pronouncement that it was G-d's punishment for some real or imagined transgression. 

Since, thus far, G-d has not allowed me a peek at His master plan for the world, I have no idea whether these pronouncements are true or not.   But for those of you who claim to have the 'inside track', I need to ask a favor:

Just once I would love it if those of you who claim to have G-d's cell phone number would let us know before He smites something?  I mean seriously, if you're really plugged into the Big Guy the way you claim to be, how hard would it be to stand up at the plate and 'call the shot' before the Pitcher goes into his windup? 

I'm not talking about something general like, "A large city in California will be devastated by an earthquake because of liberal depravity".  That's a given!  :-) 

Seriously though, if you announced on, say, a Wednesday that Las Vegas was going to be reduced to smoldering rubble over the weekend... and it actually came to pass... that following Monday you'd run out of ink and paper before you finished signing up all the new converts to your religion! 

And lest anyone think I'm pointing exclusively at the televangelist crowd... I remember about 4 years ago when a couple of dozen of celebrants were killed (and hundreds more were injured) in the collapse of a Jerusalem wedding hall.  Within moments of the news being broadcast, some Rabbi had made the pronouncement that the collapse was G-d's punishment for men and women dancing together at the wedding!  All I could think when I heard this was: Why was this guy walking around in a rumpled black suit and living off Government handouts?  If he had this buddy-buddy relationship with G-d he could hit the Creator of the World up for the winning Lotto numbers once in a while, right? 

So, the point of this little tirade is that I wasn't particularly surprised that in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, several Monday morning prophets made similar pronouncements about how it was G-d's Intention to smite the Sodom and Gomorrah known as New Orleans.

The only thing that has surprised me is how much real and virtual ink these idiots have been given.  People, people... please don't give these frauds any more publicity than they are already getting. They live for this kind of stuff!

One of my daily reads, the lovely and talented Lachlan, posted about how an Evangelical group claims that G-d 'destroyed' New Orleans "because of the gay festival that was to have taken place in the city over Labor Day Weekend." 

Now, I am loath to weigh in on the side of iniquity (kidding Lach!), but this post-hoc pronouncement begs the same old questions:

First of all, if these prophets are so tight with the Almighty, why wait until after the fact to spill the beans?  Don't tell me it was because they thought the Homosexuals wouldn't show up if G-d's hand was tipped too soon.  I think I'm pretty safe in saying that if ever there was a group of people less likely to change their weekend plans because a guy in a bad toupee declared that they were going to be smitten (hmmm... it doesn't sound nearly as bad in the past tense, does it?), it would be the Gay and Lesbian community. 

Next, pinning the tragedy that has befallen New Orleans (not to mention the surrounding areas) exclusively on the Gays ignores New Orlean's, shall we say, casual historical relationship with propriety.  Over the past few centuries there has been a pretty fair amount of heterosexual debauchery going on there... and it's moniker 'The Big Easy' wasn't earned for it's accessibility to the handicapped.  I'm actually a little surprised that the motto on the Louisiana license plates isn't "Show us you Tits", with the plate itself bordered in Mardi Gras beads.  So c'mon guys... if you're going to paint some blame, bring the wide brush!  :-)

Which brings us to the last issue on the agenda which is the countless thousands of people who turned out to be collateral damage in G-d's most recent alleged act of vengeance.  Even if you subscribe to the more general theory of New Orleans' being worthy of divine punishment, there are still a huge number of people who haven't been flashing their breasts at anyone with a spare necklace.  What about those 'good' people who got punished along with the 'bad'?

Those who know their Bible should understand that G-d has made it pretty clear how he feels about killing innocent bystanders.  After He destroyed the entire world with the great flood, He promised never again to carry out universal retribution.

When G-d wanted to 'whack' the real Sodom and Gomorrah (I'm using the anglicized pronunciation because of the broad audience here), He allowed Abraham to draw Him into a fairly important negotiation.  Without spelling out all the 'handelling' that went back and forth, suffice it to say that G-d finally agreed that, for the sake of ten righteous people, He would spare the entire population of those cities. 

The bad news for Sodom and Gomorrah is that other than Lot, his wife and two daughters, the place was fresh out of righteous people.  But that doesn't tarnish the point that G-d was willing to give Sodom and Gomorrah a pass if there had been even ten good people! 

So are these false prophets really telling us that there weren't ten good people anywhere along the gulf coast?  My guess is that there are a lot of good people sitting in shelters right now eating Red Cross box lunches who might resent the implication that they weren't worthy of being spared.

Again, I have no clue why G-d allows (or perhaps refuses to prevent) suffering in the world.  But I have a hard time believing that the entire gulf coast was subjected to the meteorological equivalent of carpet bombing by an angry Old-Testament G-d. 

If man, in all his limited capability, can deliver a cruise missile into a third story apartment (second window from the left) from beyond the horizon, I have a hunch that G-d also has the ability to carry out a surgical strike if and when He is so inclined.

This isn't to say that G-d isn't capable of visiting fire and brimstone (or a hurricane for that matter) upon the entire U.S. gulf coast.  But unless you are prepared to call the shot before the devastation begins... you had better be prepared to be judged for trying to make yourself into a prophet on the backs of countless good people's losses! 

[I already have a feeling (prophecy?) that this post will probably coax a few raving lunatics out of the shadows... but I really don't care.  Typepad, in its infinite wisdom, has bestowed upon me the ability to smite any comments that don't find favor in my eyes.  So be warned.... lest ye be smitten!   :-) ]

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Posted by David Bogner on September 4, 2005 | Permalink

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Dave, great post. You can't imagine how many letters to the editor I've read with this slant on the disaster. Those damn gay people cause SO much suffering all around the world. sigh.

I agree wit you about not even giving them the opportunity to 'spew' this crap.

It's just so unnerving to have a disaster of this level in our own backyard and realize that though we profess to go and help the world, we seem to be unable to help ourselves.

Posted by: val | Sep 4, 2005 3:20:05 PM

even if they could predict this or any calamity gives them no right to take the high ground. just look in yesterday's parsha with the condemnation of the false prophets - that bring signs and wonderment. yet despite their accuracy we are still meant to reject them (and prefer to embrace a shapeless and unspeaking g-d)

Posted by: kobi | Sep 4, 2005 4:40:15 PM

Forgive me, but I am having a hard time understanding the point of this rant. Are you trying to say "they deserved it"?

Posted by: AmyS | Sep 4, 2005 5:38:32 PM

Val... Charity begins at home, right? :-)

Kobi... After rereading my post I can see where you could get the impression that correctly 'calling' one of these disasters might give some of these frauds the right to sit in judgement. That was not my intention. What I hoped people would take from this is that it is the height of vanity to presume to know why anything happens in the world. Now, if someone wants to be angry because the US didn't have adequate measures in place to deal with a disaster of this magnitude... that's an argument worth taking up.

AmyS.... Read it again. Nowhere in here was I implying that anyone deserved divine punishment in the form of Katrina. I was simply trying to point out how foolish it is to try to know G-d's motivation for causing suffering or choosing not to stop it.

Posted by: David | Sep 4, 2005 5:52:21 PM

Some people will take advantage of any opportunity to try and make people believe things. It is a very sad comment, but true. Exploitation of others is something that has always been a part of social interaction and will continue to be a part of.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 4, 2005 7:26:56 PM

David, col hakavod. excellent post. take care.

Posted by: timna | Sep 4, 2005 7:41:13 PM

Yeah, those awful, evil gay people never do anything good or righteous or kind. Like, say, this or this or this. *sigh*

The ones who utterly refuse to think, I agree, it's best to just ignore. :o)

(And don't even get me started on Lot "please gangrape my virgin daughters" = righteous...)

Posted by: Tanya | Sep 4, 2005 8:49:23 PM

though we profess to go and help the world, we seem to be unable to help ourselves.

Typically, when we go to help people in other parts of the world, they don't shoot at us.

Posted by: Tanya | Sep 4, 2005 8:51:15 PM

I've been equally underwhelmed by those members of God's accounting staff who've pronounced this devastation as retribution for the destruction of Gaza's communities.

Posted by: Andy Levy-Stevenson | Sep 4, 2005 9:48:34 PM

Jack... It's always easier to 'predict' the outcome of the world series in November.

Timna... Why thank you.

Tanya... I've always been a bit troubled by Lot offering up his daughters to the mob. But it is worth pointing out that he used very bad judgement throughout that episode since he closed the door behind himself and put himself in direct danger from the mob. If the two messengers/angels hadn't reached out and pulled him to safety he would have been the one in trouble... not his daughters.

Andy Levy-Stevenson... As usual you've found a perfect way to describe them. They really act as though they know the full accounting of the universe.

Posted by: David | Sep 4, 2005 10:31:38 PM

Good post David. Me and my wife had this discussion the other day. It is hard to understand why G-d allows bad things to happen to good people. I have heard two answers to this question. People who believe in G-d say, "I don't know." or "Sin is to blame." I prefer to think that G-d set our atmosphere, gravity and storm systems in place and let it do its thing. Why does God not stop storms that cause such distruction? I will have to say I just dont know. I dont have that cell phone conection to the big man in the sky to get a clear answer on that one. I ask...but I dont hear much back. If I did hear back they would call me a schizo.

Posted by: jason | Sep 5, 2005 5:18:28 AM

This is a terrific post, David. You may know that Al Qaeda appear to have made statements stating that Katrina is a divine suicide bomber sent by themselves to avenge US doings in Afghanistan, Iraq etc.

http://socalpundit.com/blog/index.php/2005/08/31/alqaeda-claims-responsibility/
so they clearly have satellite phones to Hashem Yisborach too...

Meanwhile, I've put links to some of the ship-of-Chelmites making various blame calls here:

http://adloyada.typepad.com/adloyada/2005/09/katrina_how_and.html

And what news is there of Elroi Rafael and his parents, who are *not forgotten*?

Posted by: Judy | Sep 5, 2005 9:51:21 AM

"and it's moniker 'The Big Easy' wasn't earned for it's accessibility to the handicapped."

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.

Posted by: lisoosh | Sep 5, 2005 2:54:17 PM

I think it's often easier to blame G-d for these things than to take a good hard look at our own culpability. It's the easy way out, because we can put all the guilt, responsibility and focus on to G-d and the actions of others.

Personally, I think the tragedy says a lot about our choices. If we knew the levees were weak, why didn't we find the money to strengthen them? If we knew a hurricane would someday hit the area (it's a simple matter of probability), then why didn't we have a plan to evacuate those who had no transportation? There are many questions like these; but we may not like the answers.

And yes - what's the latest on Elroi?

Posted by: Steve Bogner | Sep 5, 2005 2:57:53 PM

Jason... It goes a bit beyond why bad things happen to good people. The truth is we don't know why bad things happen to bad people or good things happen to good people. We just don't know... and anyone who says they do is full of crap! We may think we know something because it seems to make sense... but in truth we are only guessing. Instead of always saying "why me Lord?" when bad stuff happens I wish people would say "Why me Lord... What did I do to deserve this?" when something good happens. We seem to only question G-d when he does something we don't like (I'm guilty of this too), and I find that a tad ungrateful.

Judy... Ah yes, our peace-loving 'cousins'. I surprised that they haven't made a statement that Katrina was a Zionist plot to disrupt the world's supply of Sazerac cocktails! Oh right... they're not supposed to drink that stuff! ;-)

Lisoosh... Thank you! Jebbus it's hard to get a laugh out of this lot! :-)

Steve... I think there will be plenty of personal culpability to go around. The problem will be that nobody will agree who that culpability actually belongs to. My guess is that when all the finger pointing is done and the music stops, Bush and his FEMA chief will have the donkey tails pinned on them. I know there is still plenty of blamestorming ahead, but when it happens on your watch; you're to blame. Full stop.

Posted by: David | Sep 5, 2005 3:21:21 PM

After all of the talk about culpability, this is what really hits home:

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard as he was interviewed by Tim Russert on Sundays Meet the Press:

"..The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” and he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.” Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday… and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night! Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us…" He then broke down crying.

For all of the arguments about levees, global warming, oil prices, busses, evacuations, looting and all the rest, what really makes me ashamed is that we could not get drinking water to those stranded for 5 days. DRINKING WATER!!!!!! In Florida it took them only 3 days to start writing compensation checks after Ivan.

Posted by: lisoosh | Sep 5, 2005 4:38:58 PM

David...That IS on the Louisiana license plate.

Posted by: Alan Tennenberg | Sep 5, 2005 9:35:27 PM

Lisoosh... What I would really like to see is a groundswell of public activism/heroism to help the refugees. It is fine to point fingers at the government (local and/or federal) for dropping the ball... but no condemnation cuts quite so deeply as having the public do what the government couldn't/wouldn't. Once everyone is safe, dry and fed THEN let's see the people in charge try to 'spin' their failure.

Alan... Thanks for clearing that up... I haven't been in a while. :-)

Posted by: David | Sep 6, 2005 12:19:11 AM

When you get one of these guys to pass along G-d's cellphone number do ya think you could put in a little call for me, "Psst G-d, Yael needs an apartment, got any hot tips?"

Great post!

Posted by: Yael | Sep 6, 2005 7:14:37 PM

Yael... I know of a couple of nice places for rent here in Efrat.

Posted by: David | Sep 6, 2005 11:59:13 PM

nature. thats all it is. if you live in an area susceptible to hurricanes and tsunamis, you can't ask such questions. dont get me wrong, i feel for the people who suffered this tragedy, but when one builds a house next to a
volcanic mountain, you have to expect some tragedy will happen. God made nature and its laws. the way i understand it, he doesn't like 'over ruling' these laws. we have to study and operate within them.

drop a baby from the 100th floor, and gravity will take effect...

Posted by: tbrazen | Sep 8, 2005 2:05:57 PM

nature. thats all it is. if you live in an area susceptible to hurricanes and tsunamis, you can't ask such questions. dont get me wrong, i feel for the people who suffered this tragedy, but when one builds a house next to a
volcanic mountain, you have to expect some tragedy will happen. God made nature and its laws. the way i understand it, he doesn't like 'over ruling' these laws. we have to study and operate within them.

drop a baby from the 100th floor, and gravity will take effect...

Posted by: tbrazen | Sep 8, 2005 2:08:31 PM

tbrazen... That also presupposes that we know G-d's mind/intention... but I find your version a lot more palatable than the those who subscribe to the divine punishment theory. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

Posted by: David | Sep 8, 2005 4:30:03 PM

David, thanks for the mention! :)

And yes, while I don't believe in giving nutjobs (of any variety) free press, sometimes, things just have to be said. Primarily because gays aren't the only ones who act debauched and depraved in NOLA! The hypocrisy burns me to my core.

Posted by: Lachlan | Sep 11, 2005 11:07:29 PM

David, I wandered in from Lachlan's blog tonight. Wonderful post. I will never understand "religious" people that preach hate and exclusion.

tbrazen, I'm with you on this one. I don't believe that the intelligence who put together the original pieces that grew into our universe, planet, species, society, etc. would tinker with the pieces of a larger picture just to change small moments in time. Similarly, he/she/they gave us free will and we've been making mistakes and inflicting horrors upon our fellow man, our planet, and the other species that share it with us for 1,000s of years. Would it make sense for G-d to take away our free will so we'd stop hurting each other? No, not imho anyway. Come to think of it, we've even changed global weather patterns since the industrial revolution. Hmmm...

Posted by: jg | Sep 12, 2005 8:51:36 AM

Lachlan... You inspire me more often than I give you credit for... this was just a perfect opportunity to finally acknowledge some of that. And yes, that was part of my point, that one can find any kind of goodness or badness in NOLA depending on where and when one looks. To assume that G-d shares some narrow view of retribution with a bunch of hypocrites would be laughable if they weren't so influential.

jg... Any friend of Lachlan's is a friend of mine. I like your point about the weather patters. It hadn't occurred to me to mention that, but you're 100% right! The blame for global warming and the destructive weather patterns spawned by it can be shared by a huge swath of the human race... not just the 'sinners'. Thanks again for stopping by.

Posted by: David | Sep 12, 2005 9:17:03 AM

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