It is sometimes curious how diverse things intersect. A Christian congregation gathered at Jacksonville Beach Pier to turn Dorian away and to tell the hurricane to “calm down.” Meanwhile Marianne Williamson, a New Age self-help author, tweeted and then deleted a statement that Dorian could be turned by the “creative use of the mind.”
So what about the people in the Bahamas? Were then not spiritual enough? Were they sinful? Did they lack faith?
Or is it the case that things like hurricanes and other disasters are not fueled by morality or faith and follow, rather, a very complex and dynamic set of rules that have nothing to do with human beings?
Our church worked to provide meals last week for a transitional shelter for homeless families. Later I overheard someone remark at church “What choices did they make that got them in that situation?”
There is a deplorable form of spiritual materialism that infects people who believe in both a code of morality and an all powerful god. It is spiritual in the sense that it is based on a divine code of behavior and it is material in the sense that the consequences are physical.
Yes our actions have consequences, but none of us are so aware or so powerful that we can take into account everything that might happen. If we say our prayers turned the hurricane, what does it say about the ones that were hit?
God is not a cosmic Game Engine. There is no Divine Calculus that says “If behavior X then universal action Y occurs at Z time.” Nor is God a demon out of the middle ages, who could be bound to service by the right words and rituals. Just because you prosper does not mean you are right, just because someone else suffers does not mean they are wrong.
Everyone of us is one great tragedy away from homelessness. Everyone of us is a hair’s breadth from disaster. Our material fortunes have nothing to do with our relationship to God nor to the morality of our actions.
This, however, is scary territory. It means we cannot pat ourselves on the back for material goods or believe them a just reward for a life well lived. We cannot condemn those in need for somehow bringing it down on themselves.
The weather is not the whip of God. Money is not the whip of God. Circumstance is not the whip of God.
Why do some prosper and others fail? Why do some suffer and others not? Why do children die of cancer and rich greedy men live to old age?
I do not know. Go ask Job and see what he says about asking those questions.
This I can say: My relationship to God has nothing to do with my circumstances in life. Neither does yours.