If Your God is a Jerk—It Might Be You

“To listen to lots of Christians—God must be a real a-hole.” – A non-Christian friend

When a series of devastating hurricanes struck in September, sitcom actor turned evangelical celebrity Kirk Cameron took to social media to remind us that the series of massive hurricanes currently leveling large swaths of the planet—are just God trying to tell us something.

In a video recorded at the Orlando Airport (on his way out of the area, btw), Cameron sermonizes:

When he (God) puts his power on display, it’s never without reason. There’s a purpose. And we may not always understand what that purpose is, but we know it’s not random and we know that weather is sent to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe and repentance.

The storms are not random, he says, they are on purpose—God’s purpose. They are intentional creations. Never mind that scores of people have been killed, hundreds of thousands left homeless, and many in these very moments enduring unimaginable fear, Kirk wants you to know that God did it to you—and well, you need to figure out why.

This is the Christian Right’s go-to move. For decades celebrity evangelists and Bible Belt pastors have appointed themselves sanctified meteorologists; telling us why a loving but angry God is pummeling His children with tsunamis, tornadoes, and floods. They blame the abortionists and the gays and the Democrats, for the Creator of the Universe dialing up some funnel clouds and tidal waves and tearing up the place—so you’ll want to repent from whatever it is you did that pissed him off. (I mean, sure millions of otherwise innocent people are being devastated in the process of punishing a small segment of the population, but hey God works in mysterious ways.)

Cameron’s variation on this theme is more subtle than some of his preacher friends but just as toxic. It places the burden on individual people to psychoanalyze God; to somehow discern what He is telling them specifically in weather events that wreak havoc across miles and for multitudes. Talk about an ego trip: figuring out why deadly storms causing billions of dollars of damage—is somehow about you.

A few years ago I was having a rough week, I was exhausted, and really wasn’t feeling like speaking on Sunday. (Yes, pastors sometimes pray for snow days too.) That Saturday evening we were hit with a powerful winter ice storm that shut the whole city down for the weekend. When I got the news that services were cancelled, for a split-second I exhaled an involuntary “Thank you!,” realizing almost immediately how ridiculous that was; that I was somehow subconsciously connecting the dots between this destructive weather event—and my personal fatigue. It was as if I was saying, “God, thanks for paralyzing the city, cutting power to thousands, and leaving everyone house bound so that I could have a day off!”

In his first Sunday preaching after the devastation in Houston following Hurricane Harvey, Pastor Joel Osteen said to his megachurch congregation which included many new refugees, “The reason it may seem like God is not waking up is not because he’s ignoring you, not because he’s uninterested, it’s because he knows you can handle it.”

So (Joel claims), God loves and respects these folk’s strength so much—he displaced them, destroyed their belongings and pets, and killed their neighbors. (A pat on the back or a new car would have been sufficient.) I’m not sure that’s a God I’m interested in and I know it isn’t a God that non-Christians will be compelled to seek: one who sounds like an abusive parent or partner: “I love you so I hurt you.”

A non-Christian friend commenting on Cameron’s video today said to me:, “So, according to Conservatives, this year God elected Trump, killed a girl in Charlottesville, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes—He sounds like a real a**hole.” My friend, like many people, sees people like Kirk Cameron or Jerry Falwell or Joel Osteen and is certain he wants no part of that kind of malignant religion.

Christians, for all sorts of reasons it’s really precarious business trying to use any painful or deadly events as a platform to preach—among them:

1) We really have no idea what God does or doesn’t do, and just how if at all, God works in weather patterns and mass shootings and widespread tragedy. It’s more than likely God has nothing directly to do with any of it, but in the absence of surety, we should choose silence.

2) People who are wounded and grieving and heartbroken need to be cared for and comforted and embraced—they don’t need any armchair theology about why this is a good thing, or how it’s a Divine personal message, or what God might be personally saying to them. It’s one thing for a victim to seek and speculate on such things for themselves, but something else for us to do it for them.

3) By trying to interpret natural disasters and terrible circumstances, we easily convert them into a sort of weaponized religious propaganda, we end up assigning to God all our fears and prejudices and hangups—we run the risk of believing and making other people believe, that God is as much of a jerk as we are.

I can barely figure out how my microwave works, let alone interpret how a horrific weather event is being wielded by God to teach you or me or gay couples a lesson—and I’d feel like a reckless fraud pretending I know what’s happening. I guess guys like Kirk Cameron and Joel Osteen and Pat Robertson know better, though I’m doubtful.

It’s ironic that Cameron refers to the book of Job. When Job loses everything and is stricken with grief, at first his friends show wisdom by simply sitting with him in his grief. Only later do they fall into the temptation of placing blame and playing God.

Maybe we who claim faith should refrain from pretending we understand how this world works when it comes to faith and pain and suffering.
Maybe we should admit the mystery, discomfort, and the tension that spirituality yields in painful, terrifying times.

Maybe when people are being terrorized by nature or by the inhumanity around them, instead of shouting sermons at them—we should shut up and simply try to be a loving, compassionate presence.
Maybe we should stop trying to make God into something as petty, hateful, judgmental, and cruel as we are.

If the God you’re following and preaching to people in their times of pain is an a-hole—it’s probably not God at all.

It’s probably just you.


216 thoughts on “If Your God is a Jerk—It Might Be You

  1. I don’t know if God is an a$$hole, but I’m 100% certain that Kirk Cameron and his goofy sister, Candace Cameron Bure, are. So is everyone cut from THEIR genre of sackcloth.

      • Because that’s a loving way to deal with a child who doesn’t do exactly as you wish. What makes you think you’re more reasonable than the people you’re castigating?

        • The loving way of dealing with s child does not include wounding or killing them. It does not include destroying all that they have materially, nor does it remove family members from the child through death/ destruction to teach the child a lesson. And what lesson would that be? You lied so I sent a tornado through your property? No. God says over and over that when unexplainable things happen, He is walking with you in the midst of dislocation and tragedy. You will find Him in the shelters, the feeding stations, the hospitals, the clothing bins, not bending natural laws to “punish” people with disasters in silence.

        • While I don’t agree with the idea of breaking with your child because they decided to adopt a new religion, it’s also not quite the same as disowning your child for being gay.

          Being gay is part of who you are at birth, like blue eyes or curly hair. Joining a religion is a conscious and deliberate choice.

  2. I sat outside today, alone in the raw wild prairie, surveying the damage to our home.(It was basically destroyed by tenants) .after being sick( really sick for 25 years) and the last straw was another person telling me to trust God. I have been praying and trusting God to the best of my ability for 40 years. In the last 5 years alone, I was pesticide poisoned, lost my home…have watched my brother suffer and die, my mother (my abuser) die, one of my longest and dearest friends die, 3 of my close friends die, my dog (who I raised from 8 weeks to 16 years) die, the new dog rejected me for 2 years until we found him another home, My husband is being treated for PTSD , our marriage is a deep challenge. We have been forced to move not once, not twice, but 3 times because of mold and pesticides. I have longed for some peace and Christians have offered not much more than words. I AM TIRED. I AM WEARY. I have found that life is nothing more than survival and being kicked by Christians while I suffered. I still cling to Jesus, I still talk to God and long for the Holy spirit to guide me (along with reading the word) But I frankly like Buddhist a LOT more as people. Christians are painful for me.

    • I don’t know you but I want you to know that I hear you, I see you, and your pain matters to me. I read your comment & I wanted to hug you…what I want you to know is this: you are very precious to our Father, your heart is pure…and He is so pleased with you. He sees a woman who has continually set her eyes on the face of Jesus & has chosen to continue to trust him even in the midst of all the pain, loss, grief.
      “For He hath known the way with me, He hath tried me — as gold I go forth” (Job 23:10)
      You are GOLD.👑

        • Your prayers won’t help her at all, except in a psychological way. There is no deity to give her what you pray for.

          And why shouldn’t she lose her faith? It might be the best thing that ever happened to her.

    • Life is a lot like a toilet and these are my collection of Life Truths on the subject.

      1) Shit happens and it is not a punishment.
      2) Sometimes a lot of shit happens and it probably has nothing to do with you and is not your fault.
      3) Shit doesn’t usually happen to the people who really deserve it.
      4) God isn’t causing shit to happen to you, he doesn’t have anything against you personally..
      5) Man’s own greedy self serving behaviors usually cause shit to happen, and usually to others.
      6) Sadly, sometimes people get caught in the flush zone and the shit just keeps coming
      7) Don’t spread your shit around.
      8) You can’t clean up your own shit with a broken arm.
      9) You can’t clean up anyone else’s shit either.
      10) Life is a slippery slop, filled with shit but keep on struggling to reach the rim.

      Faith is knowing this to be true and still rising up in the morning to try and carry on.

    • I can certainly empathize with you. John’s words are true–most of us will never understand the reasons for why things are the way they are. Most of the time we assign blame to God when He has absolutely nothing to do with the current state of our world, weather, or why we just burned the toast in our toaster oven. Unfortunately, a lot of us (even high profile pastors) like to speak our opinions on behalf of God when we have very little knowledge of who He is to begin with.

      God commanded two things through His son: Love the Lord your God (heart, mind, soul), and love one another. We still can’t seem to figure out either one of those. I know I still suck at it, and Christians can be some of the worst when it comes to tearing each other down.

      But please–keep trying, keep praying, keep having faith. Following Christ is no walk in the park, but don’t give up. As messed up as we are, we are all in this together. We can’t do it without you!

    • You said, “. I AM TIRED. I AM WEARY. I have found that life is nothing more than survival and being kicked by Christians while I suffered. I still cling to Jesus, I still talk to God and long for the Holy spirit to guide me (along with reading the word) But I frankly like Buddhist a LOT more as people. Christians are painful for me.”

      I too, still cling to Jesus, I still talk to God and long for the Holy Spirit to guide ME too! THAT is what being a follower of Jesus really means!

    • Hey Lynn, I just read your post and you moved me. I too have suffered for over 9 years of severe physical and emotional pain. I’m HIV + and can barely walk. I discovered my dead mother had lied for years about a will that never was and dealt with a mentally ill sister who threatened to shoot me with a gun. All the current issues get worse, but I too believe like a Buddhist. My Evangelical cousin who loved me when I was decorating her home for Christmas, believes in Conversion Therapy. What hypocrites! What ever happened to Christ Like? Hang in there. Don

  3. When something as devastating as Harvey, Irma, the Mexican earthquake happens, it is understandable to me that people seek a reason, something to grasp and hold onto. Ascribe the agency to God and, well, who can argue with God?

    Thing is, ascribing the agency to God is a cop out. It gets one off the hook for looking at what humans might have done. It is of no comfort to anyone, but maybe if we take responsibility for what we can, these sorts of catastrophes might be averted in the future. For instance, the catastrophic weather is most likely a result of human negligence and irresponsibility toward the planet.

    But when people have lost everything they need food, clothing, medical care, shelter, bathrooms, soap and water, basic human requirements. The comforts the rest of us take for granted.

    What is so hard to understand about that?

    Once upon a time in a sermon, I heard something that has stayed with me ever since and was a real turning point for me in my faith. The priest said that we tend to base our understanding of God on our fathers. If we have a good, loving father, we will see God as love. If we have another kind of father, our impression of God will be much like our human father.

    When people talk of a vengeful God, a God of wrath, I always wonder what kind of father did they have.

    • You touch on the human need to find rhyme or reason in tragedy. I’ve read that one of the hardest things for America to do was accept the Warren Commission ruling on the assassination of JFK, that it was the act of a lone gunman. People didn’t want to think our presidents and our country were vulnerable to something so small, flimsy and random. Some say that decision and consequential disbelief led to the civil unrest and institutional distrust of the later 1960s and ever since. I think the same psychology is at work with these self-appointed prophets and readers of what they claim to be God’s intentions. And why they manage to influence the thinking of some people.

      • Russ Klettke wrote, “I think the same psychology is at work with these self-appointed prophets and readers of what they claim to be God’s intentions. And why they manage to influence the thinking of some people.”

        Many of us humans are quite lazy people and are willing to allow others to do our thinking for us, especially if they do so in such a manner that it means we don’t have to do a thing or think for ourselves. So much less work to participate in our own brainwashing than it is to use any critical thinking skills.

        We see evidence of this in the various kneejerk reactions to reject what John P writes because it is much less effort to reject his words than it is to think about them. Because when we pause to think about them we might be forced to consider that maybe he is correct and this would force us to give up some of our most cherished shibboleths.

  4. I cannot add to that. Spot on and true. “If the God you’re following and preaching to people in their times of pain is an a-hole—it’s probably not God at all.

    It’s probably just you.”

    You put the Disgruntled D-List Actor in proper perspective.

  5. Thanks for such compassionate wisdom. I need to be reminded of this a lot because I tend to have a warped view myself and it is good to know that God is love and not about destruction and hate and devastation. Thank you, John!

  6. I forget who it was who said, “If this is the way God treats his friends, it’s no wonder why he doesn’t have many” or something to that affect.

    • I was always told that it was St. Teresa of Avila, having been either thrown by her horse or out of her buggy or somesuch and into the mud. “If this is the way You treat Your friends, it’s no wonder You have so few of them!” I would love to have that kind of relationship with God that I could talk to God that way, Lol!

  7. Though I can’t say it as beautifully as this, I’ve been saying basically the same thing. And for those who are telling us that the fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis are happening because God wants us to make him number one in our hearts, I would like to point out that they, once again, are confusing God with Donald Trump. Now, he’s the one who will do anything he can to get revenge against anyone who doesn’t idolize him.

  8. Bruce Gerencser, a former Christian fundamentalist pastor who is now an atheist, has an interesting perspective on this very subject that John Pavlovitz is addressing today in his main post. Bruce is an on-line friend of mine and one of the best reference sources in the United States on Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical beliefs and practices—particularly all the secret dirt that resides within the system that they try to hide from the American public. Bruce has 25 years of experience as a die-hard, central core IFB Baptist pastor of many churches. I am not suggesting that you become an atheist by referring you to this article—but as Bruce so often does—he provides unique insights into the craziness and paradoxes of the fundie mindset. You may read Bruce’s article by clicking on the following safe link:


  9. We should have known: God sent us a solar eclipse to warn us.

    All we have to do now is interpret what He is telling us. Is it gay marriage or the rejection of DACA?

  10. That text could also applied to all “religious” people that do horrible things to others “not in their religion” or in their opinion about any subject.
    I do not want to be a part of a religion, a faith, a sect, or a god(s) that would be so cruel, so merciless, so not compassionate and so unjust as they are.

  11. “A non-Christian friend commenting on Cameron’s video today said to me:, “So, according to Conservatives, this year God elected Trump, killed a girl in Charlottesville, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes—He sounds like a real a**hole.” My friend, like many people, sees people like Kirk Cameron or Jerry Falwell or Joel Osteen and is certain he wants no part of that kind of malignant religion.”

    I must say I find it fascinating that God is punishing us now that we have the so-called *Christian* in the White House and that He left us more or less alone when the Muslim heathen was running things.

  12. I think God is a kind and loving God but he is also a just God. When we ignor him this may be his way of getting our attention.
    If you read about the stories in the Old Testament you see that happening. We do not know why but I can say that no matter what happens to me, I know that God is with me all the way! We do not always see
    The why but it is always for our best if we have FAITH in God. He proved that by sending Jesus to save us from our sins.
    Remember it is not what we have on earth but what we put our faith in on earth.
    God bless you!

    • Have you ever thought that if God wants to get someone’s attention, he could just show up and talk to them rather than destroying a city with a hurricane? I guess that would be too easy and sensible for a God. Right? I very much doubt that these hurricanes have anything to do with God or him punishing anyone. We live in a universe that is both organized and random—and to put it bluntly—-in an universe like that—bad stuff just happens. There is no reason to go blaming God for it.

    • May I just point out that the Old Testament is pre-Christian text. If you are a Christian, the only teachings you should be concerned with and following are the Gospels, the 4 books that speak directly about Jesus’ life (and only those books – anything written after is “interpretation” of his intent). Comparing the loving god described by Jesus to the vengeful, jealous god in the Old Testament is like comparing him to Zeus. It is a totally different religion.

      • Eirodann.

        The OT is not ‘pre-faith’ . Christians are very concerned with the whole bible, from Genesis to Revelation as it is a picture of God’s pop. God is the same in all 66 books of the bible. The OT & NT are a continuum of FAITH. It’s not a different ‘religion’ . All Believers belong to God’s Family. From Noah to John, all believed in the same GOD. The God of the Bible, the Creator of the Universe, the Savior of Mankind. God has many characteristics…omnipotent, omniscient, powerful, judgmental, holy, jealous, wrathful, merciful, forgiving, loving…

      • That is actually not true, the whole OT is also for Christians and is the foreshadowing of Christ coming. We also learn about the character of God in the OT and NT.
        I started this article thinking I disagreed with him because we do have evidence in the past of God using storms, punishments, to draw his people close to him. However, I do agree with John that it os presumptuous of me to say I know why a certain thing happened (unless, like the prophets, God has revealed that to me).
        We are to love people and Christians don’t always do a great job. We are sinful people ourselves to. But Christ will never let you down and came that you could be in right relation with a loving (and just) God.
        Don’t turn your back on a perfect God because of his imperfect people.
        Ephesians 2:10 Romans 8:2 John 5:24
        Isaiah 29 and Daniel 7:13-14 are good places to read.
        My prayers are with all those suffering from so many hardships right now.

    • So God wanted to get the attention of everyone in Texas, Florida, Cuba, and the Caribbean? Or was this all for just Kirk Cameron’s benefit?

  13. KC: God has a plan. He has a reason for everything.
    Me: How do you know?
    KC: I just do.
    Me: You must have learned this somewhere, right?
    KC: My parents, other adults…you know
    Me: How did they learn?
    KC: Where is this going?
    Me: To the crossroads of Reason Street and Logic Avenue, dude
    KC: Gotta run

  14. You have a wonderful way of verbalizing things that I know in my heart but am unsure how to say. Thank you. Love your guts, my friend!

  15. EXCEPT THAT now I know that Trumps has so many premier properties in the the path of Irma….I’m beginning to believe!! So, if the RW Religious might accept Ann Coulter’s suggestion that Harvey in Huston is because of LGBT+ (then why attack such a Bible belt as Texas? – Why not San Francisco?) why shouldn’t we believe that Irma is a DIRECT attack on Donald Trump?

    • I might also add that Northern Florida, which is being beaten up by Hurricane Erma today is practically the anti-abortion/pro-life capital of the United States. I wonder who he is punishing there? Right. Nobody.

  16. I am tired of washed up childhood actors tell me god is sending weather because….fill in the reason… god does not send weather or anything else. Nature sends weather and it seems she is really pissed at how we are destroying our planet. Warmer seas bring bigger hurricanes, melting ice brings higher waters, oceans full of plastic bring dead fish and that has NOTHING TO DO WITH GOD. Man does not deserve to evolve any further we have done a piss poor job of caring for this planet and each other. We need to become extinct just like all other species who ran their usefulness.

    • And God pretty much promised not to punish his followers by flood ever again. So did he break his promise to the people of Houston, Jacksonville, the Keys, etc.?

      • Mary wrote, ” And God pretty much promised not to punish his followers by flood ever again. So did he break his promise to the people of Houston, Jacksonville, the Keys, etc.?”

        You got that right because God didn’t do this. We human beings have messed up the planet and too many conservatives refuse to believe in climate change.

        Every person has a choice: to remain part of the problem or to become part of the solution.

        Conservatives, so far, have proven they wish to remain as part of the problem and reject the solutions.

  17. You are the person who is making me find God again. You and one other lovely Christian person I know who writes like you. Thank you. I couldn’t wrap my head around a God that was so capricious as to deliberately choose to punish millions for something that some says is a sin.

  18. From a Christian perspective ( I once was one) it could be that He is trying to show us how we are not caring for the Earth as He has told us to….

    Now, from a non-Christian perspective (I am Pagan now) and using the same logic that these evangelicals do, the Goddess Gaia is pissed off at how Humankind has been treating Her planet and is showing us just how powerful She is and how puny we are when the seas rise and the winds howl. The bigger storms, the terrible fires, the fracking caused earthquakes…..the droughts and floods….the new illness and the old ones resurfacing….these are warnings from Her….to change our consumerist ways….. To care for the Earth, Her body and our only home. To care for one another better and for all living things.

  19. Kirk is Right On
    If he God Did Not spare his own son, Made Provision for mans sin, rebellion, wrong way of thinking, and still loved Mankind , Do you think He will just look the other way
    NO Way
    Preaching the Love , Discipline, Handy work of God is what your supposed to do.
    Tell all of his glory, His forgiveness, His longing to get YOU,
    His lost Sheep Back on the Right Path.
    God Judges Mankind and is always trying to get their attention.
    All the evil of this world is a result of Mankind and his Sin. Rebellion, Hatred for God and the Fact
    Man does not put God 1st or even ask for his intervention until all hell breaks out and he or they are in distress.
    God Lets man and nature , natural elements of the earth Go until mankind ask for him and Cry’s out for God, and is willing to go to their knees to find out why.
    God is a jealous God ,
    Hates Sin,
    Hates Rebellion
    And Loves Mankind,
    Womankind, Children
    But Make no mistake
    He is Just , Disciplined, and always either loving and rewarding or Spanking and disciplining
    YOU , ME , All people who dont know, respect, FEAR , Cry out to .
    That is Why
    Repent , Turn To God , Ask For forgiveness of YOUR sin. NOT others , YOUR accountable for YOUR own actions, thoughts, ways, views, things you do. NOT someone else.
    Dont Blame God, Dont Forget God the Try to Blame the one YOU do not know.
    Man tends to try to ignore, get rid of , keep God at a distance so he, she, them can do thier own sin.
    Then when judgement comes they all want to blame God.
    Well Take responsibility for YOU

    • “God Lets man and nature , natural elements of the earth Go until mankind ask for him and Cry’s out for God, and is willing to go to their knees to find out why.”

      Congratulations, Christopher—your God’s an a**shole.

      • And I have to say Justice is an $$ hole
        If discipline and judgement for sin, rebellion, wrong doing is this.
        Then I love God, Jesus Christ and NO one Else
        My God is the Eternal God who Judges Sin, Rebellion, and all who by their actions Hate God, and Do their own thing.
        Make NO mistake , He is Forgiving, Loving, Just
        But Disciplines ALL who Call on His Name and are His own.
        The Heart of man, all man , anyone is desperately wicked and must be disciplined or else they are selfish, self centered, self righteous , all about them. all about their way, their ,wim, dream, concept of who he is.
        God Loves Humility, Meekness, selfless acts of obedience to HIM. with NO other God or thing to replace or take his place.

        • This implies that everyone on earth is judged and then either punished or rewarded right here on earth. Clearly that isn’t the case. Some very, very bad people live seemingly very blessed lives, and some very good people have lives full of struggles from start to finish.

    • “God Lets man and nature , natural elements of the earth Go until mankind ask for him and Cry’s out for God, and is willing to go to their knees to find out why.”

      Congratulations, Christopher—your God’s an a**hole.

      • Then what is YOUR god, Mr. P? Why isn’t he stepping in and making everything nice and easy for all of us? With what pejorative should we label “your” god for not giving us all good times from cradle to grave? (Or come to think of it, why does he let us die at all? Maybe in pondering that one there’s an answer that makes sense).

        • JC:

          Mr P thinks if Progressive Athiest-Christians can just get Bernie elected then all will fall into place.

          Is it just me, or is it truly shocking to see Mr JP call God an “_____”. wow. unbelievable. [dear Christopher Freeman, God hears your loving prayers and faithful pronouncements. ]

          • Ms Marshall, he was very precise in what he said and you have misquoted him in your quest to hound him to the ends of the earth.

            Aren’t there folks somewhere that you should be out helping to save?

      • John I agree with your theology and have read a great deal of your writings. Is it possible to use inclusive language for God? God is not a he nor a she. Many can not conceive of God being addressed other than masculine. Bet you could be persuasive. Keep writing and opening the eyes of the close minded.

        • Ever read the book “The Shack”? I have and to this day is my favorite book. I appreciate how the author stretches the imagination of what God looks like and how God responds to our humanness. Whenever someone tries to evangelize me I think back to the days when America was young and even during the crusades or Constantine. Churches were far and few between. People relied on nothing more than their pasture or prairielands or a special place in the woods to meet God or a secret hidden tunnel. As Matthew says “where two or more are gathered there I will be also. ” To me that is church and the relationship shared between the two or more is just the tip of the iceberg of what God looks like. We use Scifi to set the rules of what life should or could look like. We tend to want to personify God much the same way we want to personify intelligent life from outerspace. In our human capacities we limit ourselves to only what we can explain.

          When I was in my late 20s I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. My husband and I had been trying to start our family and the cancer put a definitive end to biological function. I was hurting in so many ways and feeling very broken and lost. Searching for comfort I reached out to our local church only to find the doors locked – literally and metaphorically. What good does it do to have a “church” if we are locked out when in need. Or limit our perception of what God looks like or who God saves? When my husband and I attempted to find council, he was told to divorce me because I no longer could fulfill my wifely duties of “procreating” and that the church would not only grant the divorce but also an annulment. I was being locked out of church because of who I was -a female. I can’t even begin to fathom how a man would feel if he were told anything even close to what women have been told. Inclusive language matters because God matters. And Gove loves all creation. Preachers like the christian right tend to sing a good song but fail in their actions. Christianity (inclusive of all its branches) is not the only faith tradition guilty of such limitations. Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, et al also emasculate God and limit where God resides and who God takes care of. Every faith tradition believes in and practices the belief of a “chosen few” limiting and reducing the power of God by the power of man/humanness.

    • Hey Christopher-
      What is God’s punishment for not knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re”? I’m worried you just caused a hailstorm somewhere.

  20. I love your posts. Thanks so much for speaking for all us on the other side. The one of common sense and living the life of what Jesus was about.

  21. The God I follow is Mercy, Grace, Love and yes, for those who reject Him, Justice. But it ain’t over till it’s over. You can repent on your deathbed. My God is bigger than Kirk Cameron’s. God does not send storms to teach us, train us, nor rebuke us. Instead, through our suffering – which happens since we are NOT gods but lesser creations, we can have HOPE. I see the unity of people coming together to help one another, rescue one another and share with one another in times of crisis. This is rare in times of plenty, security, and prosperity. Thanks for writing this.

        • I find it interesting that people continue to try to draw parallels between these current storms and the occasional “wrath of God” type situations discussed in the Bible. It seems that when God was getting ready to throw down a big one in scriptures, He actually told people ahead of time, and very specifically, first (Noah, for example – given plenty of time to build a boat and preach repentance). Of course there are those that don’t believe, but when the flood actually comes, no one is left wondering why, or who sent it.
          But my best thinking is this: most of the time, weather is just weather…hurricanes have happened throughout history, and people who live near ocean coasts sometimes have to deal with them. Tornados have been happening for centuries, and certain places are simply more prone to them. Surely no one would suggest that Kansas has worse sinners because they have more tornados? Earthquakes have been around forever, and shifting tectonic plates are nothing new. Frankly I think it’s an amazing gift from God that we have so much more ability to predict and prepare for these things before they happen (earthquake resistant buildings, doppler radar that lets us prepare for incoming storms many days ahead of time). I’m betting that if God were to smite us, there wouldn’t be any question about why or where it came from. In the meantime, maybe let’s just get busy helping those affected, even if the best help you have to offer is simply shutting up about how you think God might be punishing them.

  22. Well John, it probably is just “us” or as you put it “just you”, however the issue always goes directly to religion, all religions because they all use God as their whipping post and their savior.
    But worst of all are the “so called christians”, they who have the tools to know better double down on stupid!
    But, is it any wonder! Of course not. Except the wonder of people who fall for that magic god who can do evil and good at the same time, a god who saves and condemns in one breath, a god who is so magical as to please us when we pray ‘right’ and hurts us when we fail to obey the “church or preacher’s rules’.
    Here is the deal; preacher’s have for melliena spread the magic by interpreting bible verses to their advantage and the congregants disadvantage. Just a Ernest Holmes said long ago – “I believe that theology in its generally accepted form is simply a collection of opinions propounded by certain religionist; opinions which have been accepted, believed in and have changed from time to time. Often they have been proclaimed as revelations of God”.
    If I believed in such a frantic god I would soon realize that is was easy for ‘him’ (he is a male god isn’t he,) one who can screw you and love you at the same time??? – easy when there were just the (2) people ‘he’ first manufactured – that wasn’t creation but made of common elements – yes?
    Anyway I’ve sidetracked; it was easy to control just (2) people except when is wasn’t 🙂 but now with 7 billion people to kill, do favors for, toss a ball game, make it rain on the just but not on the unjust across the road – that god must be going crazy trying to keep it all straight, – oh, oh screwed up here, killed more than intended there, stopped a birth here and let too many be born over there, rats, I’m loosing control, I won’t be able to handle it much longer, better kill ’em all soon and start over again as I’ve done many times in the past. Boo Hoo, I’m just a bad incompetent god, I should be damned but ha, ha I’m in charge and I can do any damned thing I want so screw you humanity. 🙂 🙂

  23. John, honestly, I think that if God is sending us any message it is this, “People are dying and need to know I love them and sent my Son to save them.” It isn’t judgment, it’s a wake up call to live a life for others!

  24. This is dead-on perfect. This attitude, that “I can know why God did this terrible thing to all these other people to teach you a lesson,” is an important part of why I left the evangelical movement 35 years ago, and why I can never trust it with anything, at all, period. One of the older definitions of terrorism is “those acts of war and violence in which the victim and the target are intentionally separate.” [Turner, Terrorism and Democracy, 1990] If your god will punish other people for your misdeeds, then you worship a terrorist, and that is exactly what I see the evangelical movement promoting: worship of a terrorist. I can see no good whatsoever coming from them, but the danger they represent is terrifying.

  25. 2) “People who are wounded and grieving and heartbroken need to be cared for and comforted and embraced.” Nature is why why we have these horrific events. In the natural world, things happen for a scientific reason. God expects us to care for one another when these things happen.

  26. Mr. Pavlovitz…while I appreciate your desire to rescue the faith from certain people who misrepresent the Lord, I wonder if, in your zeal, you might be doing the same. Mr. Cameron’s pontificating may be sanctimonious, but it does make the opposite true. The doctor who treats cancer by bombarding your body with chemo is not being an a-hole. Yes, he is inflicting pain upon you, but it is to treat your disease. I experienced this first-hand in South Africa after tearing the muscle in my calf. The doctor I saw did something an American doctor would never do: He put his thumbs directly into the edema and pressed as hard as he could. I cannot tell you how much it hurt, but when I got up from the table I could walk much, much more comfortably and it healed much faster. It is not outside of the realm of possibility that God, in his love, would do the same and yet bear no ill will towards humanity.

    I quite honestly share your revulsion with many of America’s pastoral elite, but of late I see a tendency among others to move to a faith of pure silliness in reaction to the harshness of others. Lamentations tells us that God “does not willingly grieve or afflict the sons of men.” The word wilingly in the original Hebrew is “b’lev” meaning “from the heart.” Like the doctor who hurts us to heal us, there is no ill intent. The doctor in South Africa was quite a nice man; he explained very carefully what he would do and why and I am very thankful he did, as it was harder in the short-run, but much better in the long-haul. We moderns are like pampered children swatting at the doctor because we dont understand that the vacination, though it stings, is good for us.

    Thank you for your time and God bless you.

    • This analogy simply doesn’t hold up. If God were using disasters as tools to heal and inoculate the spiritually sick, they’d only be happening to bad people – children, believers and innocents wouldn’t be affected. A doctor gives chemo to a person who actually HAS cancer, not to his wife, child or neighbor. Your particular doctor used his thumb in YOUR wound – he didn’t grab a random guy off the street and do it to him instead.
      It’s interesting to me how often people wonder, when something bad happens, what the people (even the good people) it affects did to deserve it. Rarely do you see the opposite, it which something good happens to someone who’s not a very good person, and people contemplate what that good deeds that person did to deserve good fortune.
      Rain falls alike on both the just and the wicked – our response to it reveals who we are.

      • Christopher, I think you may have misunderstood my point. In this life, God certainly SPIRITUALLY protects those who call on His name, but He doesn’t necessarily take away physical challenges , afflictions or difficulties from our lives when we call on Him. If that were so, no believers would ever suffer in this world, and no evil person would ever prosper. This life doesn’t work that way, and we often must walk in faith despite afflictions of all kinds. But that doesn’t mean God is throwing down afflictions, trying to show us we have done something wrong or trying to “get our attention.” Crappy things happen to believers ALL THE TIME (disease, cancer, death in family, etc). Viewing every difficulty in our lives as a warning from God would mean He’s doing an awful lot of smiting to people who already love Him.

  27. Hi, John
    You say God is powerful. And that he’s good. CAN he control the weather? If he can, and he’s good, as you say—why did he let Harvey bring about suffering in the Houston area, and why is he letting Irma do the same in the Caribbean and in Florida?

    I watched Kirk Cameron’s video. From what I can tell, he’s saying this: A) According to scripture, God uses his power over everything—including hurricanes—for two reasons: too punish and/or to water the earth. And B) Everything God does is for the purposes of displaying his power AND control over everything, including us, to show that he is God and we are not.

    Cameron believes that God requires something of us. You believe that he does not. We all agree that he loves us. Everything else in your words is based on your outrage that Cameron and other Christians would dare even consider or offer the possibility that God uses his power to remind us that he requires something of us.

    How does this make God or Cameron or anyone else an a**hole?

    Consider this:
    If God is God, did he make everything? If so, does he not have the power and right to control everything?
    If God is good, as you say, wouldn’t he know what best for us?
    If God is God, is he not perfect? If God is love, would he not want us to know his mind? Would he not find a way to make known his thoughts and love toward us?
    If your answer is no to any of these questions, God is NOT God. How can he be? And if God is not God, what’s the point?

    Do you not see that your argument is not with Kirk Cameron or Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen? It’s with the argument that God is who he says he is and that he wants something from us.

    • Patrick. thanks for your input.

      JP doesn’t believe Jesus when he said, ‘Satan rules this World and for a little while, I allow it’. This world is full of violence, starvation, war, disease, conflict, bigotry, slavery, poverty, hate, and yes, earthquakes, floods, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes, lightening…etc. And you just may step off the curb and get hit by a bus.

      This world sucks. JPs teaching that it’s up to us to “bring in the Kingdom of God “, is a lie of the devil. [That untruth appeals to our arrogance, not our humility. ]

      Jesus, the Creator offers eternal Salvation. A new Earth full of his light, with no suffering. Jesus says, ‘Will you turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God?”

    • Your God klled a bunch of innocent peopke this last cpouple of weeks, then. He doesn’t sound like an A-hole; he sounds like a serial murderer. Of course the bible is rife with divine genocide and ethnic cleansing. So no surprise.

    • Patrick,

      Simply change the nouns in your arguments here to be a human father and a son that he physically beats on a regular occasion to “teach him a lesson.” Does that help you to understand it any better?

      In other words, you are saying because the man is the Father he has the power and the right to control everything? If you were to say about this person that “everything he does is to display his power and control over everything” then yes, I would say that man is a complete a**hole.

  28. You don’t have to know ‘why’ bad things happen to understand God is sovereign over all things. Reading passages in Job or Isaiah teach us about God’s soverignty so that our faith is rooted in the one who truly controls it all. His promises give us hope where worldy answers cannot.
    I think it is unfair to lump Kirk into the same bucket as Osteen or Robertson, especially when all Kirk did was point us to what scripture says on the matter of natural disasters.
    You have taken many Christian themse out of context and then tried to discredit them with your sarcasm.
    I agree it is disingenuous to use these events as a platform. Your attempt to link Kirks comments with those who make a mockery of true biblical Christianity demonstrates your lack of biblical knowledge and or decision to ignore foundational doctrine.

  29. My point exactly. No god, jerk free! I encourage you to become jerk free and you will have less hate and frustration Get rid of god – no jetk

  30. But there is no mystery about hurricanes. The physics are really simple. We don’t live in a magic universe. God has nothing to do with any of it.

  31. You didn’t watch the video did you? Cameron didn’t blame anyone. He simply said what the Bible says and that apparently bothers you. Maybe you need to go find a different religion if you don’t believe the Bible?

    • drs83. you are correct. plus, pastor John has found another religion — “Universalism”. All gods are equal. All paths lead to ‘god’. Jesus is one of many avatars . All religions are true. [JP may bristle at this, but he won’t deny it.]

      • No. Most probably, John does not engage you on all these accusations you throw his way because, like me, he thinks you are off the edge of reality and bat-dung crazy—just like most other fundies I have ever known—and the reason is your ignorance and shallowness—both of which have been held as fundie virtues for the past 100 years. I am not trying to be mean to you—just telling it like it is. You know what Harry Truman said: “Sometimes I tell people the truth, and to them it just sounds like Hell.”

        • Charles wrote “Most probably, John does not engage you on all these accusations you throw his way .”

          I think the reason John P doesn’t answer leslie m’s accusations is because they are off-topic red herrings designed to lead the conversation in a direction that has nothing to do with John’s original topic and also because he, as is with so many of us, are repelled by leslie m’s commitment to passive-aggressive language.

          I disagree with Charles’ assessment of leslie m’s mental condition as she does a great many good works, as St Benedict details in chapter 4 of his Rule. Her heart is generous, it’s her theology and politics that are problematic for me.

          But so what? This is an open table, we have many differing opinions and I am certain my politics and theology are as equally problematic for Leslie m and othes.

    • ” He simply said what the Bible says ”

      Where does the Bible says that catastrophic weather is always a message from God? Chapter and verse, please.

    • No. He said what his brain thinks the Bible says. Another person’s brain may read the same thing in the Bible and understand it differently. The Christian faith is not about believing in the Bible. It is about believing in Jesus.

      • Your Jesus says a woman may hire someone to kill her unborn child and my Jesus says it’s the unjust killing of a human being who deserves to live.

        So how do we know which one is the real Jesus or what he’s telling us?

  32. I am not very familiar with the theology of Kirk Cameron, but it rather seems the writer here has an ax to grind. Maybe it’s not ironic at all that Cameron quotes Job. Maybe it’s intentional and he’s not at all ignorant. Why would you assume him to be?

    As one who, myself, believes in an omnipotent Creator, I also cannot believe that everything is random. The quote from K.C. is not in any way saying that only those in need of repentance are caught up in this tragedy, but that we should all recognize our humility (human frailty), be in awe of His power and keep hearts of repentance.

    You spend many paragraphs putting other words in His mouth. Why are you so easily provoked?

    The rain, as the Bible reminds us, falls on the just and the unjust.
    I am sure Mr. Cameron is familiar with that portion of the word, too.

    • The rain it raineth on the just
      And also on the unjust fella;
      But chiefly on the just, because
      The unjust hath the just’s umbrella.
      — Charles Bowen

    • John, I have read many of your blogs and I appreciate the time and effort you put in to articulate your feelings and beliefs. However, I come away from them not so much challenged as I do discouraged. Where are your words of hope and edification? Everything of yours I read seems full of attack and humiliation toward the evangelical believer. Can’t we work together? We all have differing views and outlooks, but why be so pessimistic and blaming toward those who don’t hold your opinion?

      • Hello Shar. It’s tricky, isn’t it? People like John and me are worried about the negative effect that fundamentalists’ public words often have on the unchurched and on seekers. We would like to be less judgmental and more tolerant than they are, but we also want to disavow the unattractive face of Christianity that they often present. Any suggestions on how to do this positively?

        • You don’t need to continually be tearing down others who believe differently than you do. It’s so negative. What do you have to offer and that is attractive (except to tell me that I’m ok doing whatever sins I’m doing and that it would be bigoted to say otherwise. That doesn’t really help me).

          • Hello Joe.

            I try to offer a rational, consistent, honest, realistic, mature, balanced, open-minded, and compassionate approach to the Christian faith; and one that does not put unnecessary stumbling-blocks in the way of the unchurched and seekers, by emphasizing controversial, divisive, or hard-to-believe doctrines (even if I happen to think they’re true).

            As for “telling you whatever sins you’re doing are OK”, I would say that, just because someone else’s obvious sin may be particularly offensive to me, it doesn’t follow that I’m the right person to correct them: in fact, I may be the very worst person to do that. It’s probably better that I try to lead them gently to faith, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict them in time.

            In my youth, I devoured books on systematic theology, and had “answers” to all the questions. However, as time went on, and I continued to think about these things, I became disillusioned with those simple answers. “Dis-illusion-ment”, as in the casting aside of illusions, is a good thing. These days, I’m much more willing to say “I don’t know” to many of the hard questions of life. In fact, I have a list of 50 Awkward Questions relating to faith that I still don’t have answers to.

            So, when I come across Christians who are still in the phase I was in some 40 years ago, I may try to gently challenge them, but only if I think their faith can stand it: Don’t put a stumbling-block in the way of the weaker brother, and all that. Of course, it’s also possible I could learn something from them, too.

            As for the “negativity”. Yes John P. is pretty negative about some opinions he comes across, and it’s hard to separate those opinions from the proponents of those opinions. And then you come across as rather negative about John, and about people who condone sin, and people who call other people bigots. And in just saying that, I’m automatically being negative about you. It’s hard to express any opinion without, at least implicitly, being negative about other opinions. But overall, I’d like to present more of what God is For, than what he’s Against.

      • “Where are your words of hope and edification? Everything of yours I read seems full of attack and humiliation toward the evangelical believer. Can’t we work together? We all have differing views and outlooks, but why be so pessimistic and blaming toward those who don’t hold your opinion?”

        When someone views people with whom you disagree as evil, hateful bigots, instead of seeing them as decent folks who have differing opinions, it’s not really possible to speak/write edifying words. It’s even less likely that you will be able to work with them and find common ground.

        People who approach issues in this way don’t seem interested in discussing areas where we can find some commonality — they are only interested in smearing people’s character.

        • Here’s the thing, Jeff. Some of the people with whom I disagree are just “decent folks who have differing opinions,” and I work hard to find common ground with them because it is sometimes possible to do so. But others really are “evil, hateful bigots,” who have no desire or intention of even questioning their evil, hateful, bigoted ways, let alone possibly changing them. I have no interest in getting along with, working with, or finding common ground with such people because they are toxic. I either avoid them like the plague they are or, when I’m feeling bold, I call them out for their views.

          I suspect Mr. Pavlovitz’s feelings are similar. He says things that, in his opinion, need to be said.

          • Yes, sometimes “negative” things need to be said. Jesus did some of that, even against religious people.

            Against the Pharisees: Matthew 23:27: “How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but are full of bones and decaying corpses on the inside”.

            Also, against the Pharisees: Matthew 15:14: “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

            Against the money changers: Matthew 21:13: “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

  33. Is it a coincidence that both Texas and Florida voted Trump? Is God punishing Trump voters for their sins against God and country by voting for the Orange demon? Is Mar-a-Lago is in the direct path of Irma because it’s a modern day Sodom?
    Is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to speculate. 😘

  34. I don’t believe these storms are “the hand of God” or because of His judgement, or because of electing Trump (as Jennifer Lawerence said) or because of supporting gays & abortion. God does not punish.
    As followers of Christ we are called to discern the times, we are called to rightly divide the Word, we are called to make righteous judgement. I find it interesting that the majority of Christians will either say “these storms are God’s judgement” OR “these storms have nothing to do with God and are not judgement”…..but neither group will ever mention the spiritual principle of sowing & reaping….they will not look at the deep truth of what America has sown for decades….evil wars that have killed millions of innocent people in sovereign nations, wiping out homes & infrastructure.😔While God doesn’t punish…he does allow the seeds of what an individual OR nation has sown to bring a harvest…a harvest for good OR destruction. I do see these storms as the harvest of the many evil seeds America has sown –of evil wars & genocide….it is no coincidence the names of these hurricanes are of WAR….Harvey (blazing battle)….Irma (goddess of War)….and sadly the majority of so called “prophets” do not see the simple truth of what these storms are really about.
    Many Christians view the spiritual principle of sowing/reaping only for finances…it’s a principle in all areas of life -in individuals AND nations.
    Those who have not sown seeds of war (in their own thoughts-approval & support of war, & have been grieved at refugees fleeing from the savagery of war) will reap the harvest of Mercy….their lives & property will be protected.
    I long for the day when America will turn her spears into pruning hooks & will learn war NO MORE.
    My prayer is for the protection of innocent ones, for grace & strength to rebuild over the upcoming months.
    So be it.

  35. This reminds me of a time when someone in my family insisted that God sank the Titanic because some engineer had made a comment in the press that “Not even God himself could sink this ship.” She was so happy and self-satisfied about it.

    Like God is some sociopath or narcissist that says, “Oh, yeah, asshole? Well, I’ll see your arrogant comment and I’ll raise you the long and drawn out, torturous, and terrifying deaths of more than 1,500 people–the vast majority of them poor and looking for a better life, and a good chunk of them small children. How do ya like me now?”

    But it wasn’t even the fact that she really believed it I found to be the most troubling–it was how much unadulterated glee she seemed to take in it. :/

    • Exactly. First, the story isn’t even true: see http://www.snopes.com/history/titanic/unsinkable.asp .

      I’ve heard the same thing about John Lennon, “We’re more famous than Jesus”, then getting killed; Haille Selassie calling himself “The Lion of Judah” (Christ’s title) and being assassinated; The Jews saying of Jesus ‘His blood be upon our heads and our childrens’ heads” and the Holocaust (2000 years later). Or even, “If you need a car”, don’t pray for ‘wheels’ or you may end up in a wheelchair.”

      What an appalling image of God they must have!

  36. I struggled to free myself from a Baptist upbringing of beliefs centered around “spankings from Heaven” to keep us from going “astray” from time to time. If we are to believe in the New Testament church, Jesus bore our sins on the cross. We have been redeemed by His stripes on the way to Calvary. There is no longer need for sacrificial lambs, doves or fatted calves or the slaughter of people and animals in horrific storms. The price has been paid. Are we given free will choices to make decisions in our lives which sometimes have negative impact, yes we are. However, the God I choose to worship is no grand puppet master and we are not marionettes dancing by his strings. And as for bad things happening to good people, I don’t blame God, for it rains on both the Just and Unjust, in my humble opinion. The forces of Nature follow the laws of Nature and the destructive Nature of Man. I say, thank you God for loving me unconditionally through it all. You have not abandoned me.

  37. 14 weeks ago, my youngest brother suffered an attack of a rare neurological disease called ADEM. The disease ravaged the neuropathways of his brain. He is currently confined to a hospital bed, awake, conscious, but unable to talk, actively control his body, or respond to commands. He is 28 years old. The father of three young children. His situation is terrible and devastating.
    He has an amazing medical team but they can’t tell us how extensive his recovery will be, nor can they tell us long it will take.
    Why this happened to him, we don’t know. God knows. We do know that God is a loving God and that he will turn this to his good and to our good. It may take time for us to fully see this but we see glimpses of God’s goodness now: In the love and kindness of a church community that is ensuring every aspect of my brother and his family’s financial, personal, and spiritual needs are being taken care of; in the amazing strength, perseverance, faith and optimism God has worked in my sister-in-law; in the small kindnesses of strangers; in the fact that God spared his life.
    Living through this very raw and personal tragedy I read John’s post with interest. I was struck with how he got things both so right and so wrong at the same time.
    Like him, I’ve never understood the marriage of social Darwinism and conservatism in American evangelicalism. The gospel of Jesus Christ is incompatible with social Darwinism. God is a loving and caring God. When Christ walked this earth he showed special care and love for the poor, the ill, and the outcasts. John is right, God is a God of love.
    It is wrong, however, to then conclude that God has nothing to do with disaster and calamity and suffering. Throughout the Bible God reveals that he does. The books of Revelation and Daniel speak of the end times and of the suffering that will take place then. Christ, himself warns in the gospels of the immense suffering that will take place in these times as well. The book of Job shows that God allows this suffering to take place and in the book of Revelation he reveals that at times he orders these events.
    I agree with John that attributing disasters to specific pet issues, or to use these to trumpet disagreement with specific policies or actions or events is misguided and foolish. But again, that does not mean that God does not have a reason for such events: God made clear to Adam that the moment he ate from the forbidden fruit he would die. Adam did not die instantly, but he did bring death into a perfect creation. All suffering today is a consequence of that action. Why does God allow this suffering? Because in suffering we are drawn closer to God if we seek our comfort and dependence in him;
    because it reminds us that we were not created for death, but for life; because he loves us and wants us to turn to him.
    If you think that that makes God and a** hole, it likely means you haven’t studied his gospel closely enough, and that you don’t understand him well enough. How often haven’t teenagers thought that their dads were a**holes who didn’t love them simply because dad was disciplining them or placing restrictions on them only to realize later in life (perhaps when raising their own children), that dad was acting in love.

    • David. wow. thank you for sharing your personal story & your brother’s hardship. i can hear extreme humility in your voice, and wisdom. –both of which can be an outcome of suffering –an outcome that God is pleased with. my heart goes out to you & your brother. peace. – LGM.

    • Death existed on Earth hundreds of millions of years before Adam or Eve (who are fictional figures in a holy parable). Your brother is not sick so God can make lemonade out of it. Your brother is sick because he lives in an imperfect universe that is partially organized and partially random—where shit just happens to people regardless of whether they are good or bad.

      • @Johnpavlovitz, what does it say about your theology when your most ardent supporters are either avowed atheists or people totally lacking in knowledge of who God is? Charles, one day you too will meet God face to face, I hope for you that before then you have learned to recognize his complete sovereignty over all creation (which includes you).

        • That’s rich coming from someone who professes to know God, or rather can claim to know what God looks like and then criticizes others for believing God is different or as you put it “ardent supporters are lacking any knowledge of who God is”. God’s manifestations are different for different people. To assume that your definition of who God is as being the “only” definition is limiting God and your theory or convictions become just as human and arrogant and ignorant and yes, “lacking” as any other. God uses whom he/she chooses in the fashion God chooses. No one person, save Jesus, has seen God or fully knows God. Not even you.

        • David wrote, “what does it say about your theology when your most ardent supporters are either avowed atheists or people totally lacking in knowledge of who God is? ”

          While I agree with you that there are some atheist here who provide a perspective I might not have thought of, I wonder where you get the impression that the rest of us are “people totally lacking in knowledge of who God is.”

          My first question is who among us is totally knowledgable about who God is. How could be possibly ever be? God is infinite, we are not.

          My second thought is that as much of God as the finite human brain could ever hope to understand is God’s revelation of God in the Incarnation.

          My third thought is to wonder if you are completely convinced that your understand of God is 100 accurate without any room for you to be in error? I say that because from my POV as a finite, limited, albeit well-educated person, I don’t know anyone who perfectly understands anything, let alone God.

          Many of us here write from the POV of our personal experiences. My personal experiences can’t help but be different from those of everyone else. Thus my personal experience of God is unique to me, albeit with some points of commonality with the experiences of others.

        • David, I’m a big fan of Jon’s, and I’m a recently retired United Methodist pastor who gave 38 years of service to the Church and the Kingdom in response to a call to ministry I felt from God 47 years ago, just 6 months after I first came to know God in Christ when a senior in high school. So, it is possible for someone with a passionate, lifelong faith to like and agree with what Jon says. Maybe that’s because I love God not only with all my heart but also with all my mind. You see, I not only love Jesus, but I’m also smart and well educated (MDiv from Duke and PhD from Rice University). All of this is because I have an open heart and an open mind (i.e. liberal and progressive), I’m not afraid of new ideas, and I too believe that there is “stuff that needs to be said.” AND, I’m not alone.

          So, maybe you need to revise your thinking.

          • Perhaps my comment was too strong. Many of the posts in support of John’s thinking reflect that these supporters know of God, but then even the demons know God, and tremble (James 2:19). James makes clear that knowledge without faith amounts to little.

            So many of the posts I read in favor of John’s perspective on God suffer from the same flaw as John’s own thinking: they construct their own God on their own terms (you call these new ideas), not on the terms that God gives to us.

            So many of these supporters ignore massive sections of the Bible, one even suggested that only the gospels are relevant, the rest are pre-christian or other’s interpretations of Christ’s word. Peter addresses such heresy directly in 2 Peter 1: 16-21: “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

            The moment we deny that the full Bible is the inspired word of God, we give ourselves permission to define God on our own terms. In doing this we are no different than ancient Greeks, Babylonian’s, Norse, . . . (the list goes on). Worse yet, doing so also is a denial of Christ himself, who throughout his ministry on earth pointed to the prophesies of the Old Testament as pointing to him and as revealing the nature of God (John 5).

            Accepting all of the Bible as God’s inspired word, means accepting that through this word he reveals himself to us. We are called to take him at his word and to try understand what of himself he reveals to us. This is not always easy because God as he reveals himself to us makes us uncomfortable.

            To pretend, for example, that God is only a God of love who has no hand in disasters and pain diminishes him and it denies his character. In his own words, when he gives Israel the 10 Commandments God states, “I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting iniquity of the fathers on their children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” These words make us uncomfortable. Similarly, in John 9 Jesus reveals that he came into the world for judgement. This too makes us uncomfortable. How could the God of love come into the world for judgement?

            I’m impressed that you have an MDiv and PhD; my father has an MDiv and I have a PhD (though in a different field) so I know well the intense study that it takes to be where you are. But do remember, the Pharisees were the most learned and knowledgeable biblical scholars of Christ’s time, and yet he continually chastised them for their lack of faith and their lack of knowledge of God. They too constructed their own idea of God, they layered their own ideas onto scripture and Christ condemned them for it. Having an open mind and willingness to search for new ideas is wonderful, but more important than that is being faithful to understanding God as he has revealed himself in his word.

            Perhaps you need to revise your thinking 🙂

          • Kieth, it always amazes me how liberal Christians are positivist with respect to their view of the natural sciences but constructivist with respect to their view of God. Entirely backwards and clear evidence of misplaced faith.

          • What he said. Also David. Calvinism is one of the most screwed up corners of American Christianity. I you were raised in that despicable system of belief and thought, I would like to suggest kindly that you expand your spiritual horizons into the far greater realm of Christianity as a much larger traditional whole.

        • Look David. I know that you desperately need to find some sort of meaning in your brother’s death—the idea that it serves as an important and necessary gear in some larger purpose or plan—and that plan would not have been achieved if your brother had been allowed to stay alive. However, I think you will find that most other people in the world Christian community would not buy so easily into your Calvinist daydreams. I think the death of your brother or any nominally normal and “innocent” person is evil. I refuse to believe that God is the author of evil, and if you will recall from scripture, God considers death to be one of his enemies whose ultimate fate is also death. God’s gift to YOU was your brother’s life and the influence he had on you and your life. I suspect that God no more wanted your brother to die than you did. Once again, we live in a universe where shit just happens randomly or by virtue of some evil or default. There is no sense or comfort to me in blaming God for it.

          • My brother is still very much alive Charles — if you read scripture as closely as you read posts, I can see why you are having so much trouble understanding God.
            You should read the story of Joseph, specifically his commentary to his brothers when he finally reveals himself to them — it is a beautiful testament to how God uses all events in life including those intended for evil for his plan and purpose, and ultimately for our good. Paul explains the same truth in Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

            You may refuse to believe that God allows evil to happen, that he even uses evil to achieve his own purposes, or that sometimes God even orders catastrophes on the earth. Your refusal doesn’t change who God is or what he has revealed about himself, it just means you refuse to acknowledge him for who he reveals himself to be.

            • Wow, Charles, that is easily the most nasty, vindictive comment someone has ever posted to me. Tonight my four year old nephew prayed that for his birthday in five days his dad would come home, at the same time you are taunting me that he might yet die.

              You are easily the most despicable, mean-spirited person I’ve ever conversed with.

              I pray that God does not visit upon you the same measure of goodwill and grace that you wish upon others. Your meanspirited nature says everything I need to know about your theology and the God you’ve constructed for/of yourself.

  38. Pingback: Open Thread – 9/10/2017 – Politics Plus

  39. —I. Love. YOU. ( I’m your newest stalker…Oops, I mean, Fan.

    Okay, God doesn’t send the hurricanes, but he allows them to come…
    cuz we are all assholes.

    Perhaps, we can still save ourselves.

    I hope so!

    Kim From MN.

  40. I’m not sure where many of you learned the definition of what it means to be or is required to be a genuine Christian but there is very little evidence of being In Christ based on these comments. Have any of you read the bible?
    God is sovereign over the entire universe: Ps 103:19; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11
    God is sovereign over all of nature: Ps 135:6-7; Mt 5:45; 6:25-30
    God is sovereign over angels & Satan: Ps 103:20-21; Job 1:12
    God is sovereign over nations: Ps 47:7-9; Dan 2:20-21; 4:34-35
    God is sovereign over human beings: 1 Sam 2:6-7; Gal 1:15-16
    God is sovereign over animals: Ps 104:21-30; 1 Ki 17:4-6
    God is sovereign over “accidents”: Pr 16:33; Jon 1:7; Mt 10:29
    God is sovereign over free acts of men: Ex 3:21; 12:25-36; Ez 7:27
    God is sovereign over sinful acts of men and Satan: 2 Sam 24:1; 1 Chr 21:1; Gen 45:5; 50:20

    etc etc…

  41. “I’d feel like a reckless fraud pretending I know what’s happening. I guess guys like Kirk Cameron and Joel Osteen and Pat Robertson know better, though I’m doubtful.”

    They don’t know better. They are just so accustomed to being reckless frauds, they don’t even recognize it anymore.

  42. It’s Kirk Cameron’s flippancy that bothered me, it was inappropriate during a time when people may see their homes and lives destroyed.

  43. Tremendously unfair treatment of a short tweet on God’s sovereignty – and this is stereotyping with quite a broad brush to boot. Is it only “conservatives” who assert that God’s sovereignty and God’s love intersect in suffering? Many hospice and hospital chaplains and pastors who walk with the suffering each day would echo his sentiments. For that matter, I would echo them myself based on my own journey with suffering. Where is God in the pain, the illness, the loss, the storm? Ask that “conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist, right-winger” Mr. Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. He saw a news report on a natural disaster when he was a kid. He asked his mom, “But mother, how could this happen?
    Where is God?” She said, “Look for the helpers. You can see God at work when you see the helpers.”

  44. All this hazardous weather has me wondering, NOT what is God trying to say to the US, but what does God want me to do about it. We talk about loving God and loving the world, but its all words unless we can express our love by reaching out to those in need.
    Although I live in Canada, I do have friends in many of those affected cities. I’d like to hear some positive suggestions as to what I can do to help. Anyone got any ideas?

  45. “When he (God) puts his power on display, it’s never without reason.”

    Gee, Kirk, where does the Bible say THAT?

    Mine says it rains on the just and the unjust.

    Have you noticed that so many fundamentalists say “The Bible The Bible The Bible” – and then just make stuff up that comes from God-knows-where? It’s like they never actually read the Bible, but just IMAGINE that it says whatever goes along with them.

  46. “When he (God) puts his power on display, it’s never without reason. There’s a purpose. And we may not always understand what that purpose is, but we know it’s not random and we know that weather is sent to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe and repentance.”

    Oh, I know this one!

    God sent these storms to show us how the seas are warming from climate change. Warmer seas + increased moisture in the environment = bigger storms. Just like those smart scientists predicted! Now, perhaps, God wants us to do something about it…

  47. Kirk is probably 100% correct. Since TX and FL inflicted the orange clown upon this country, they need to be punished. In all likelihood Oklahoma (OK) will have 1000-year tornadoes, Lake Michigan will freeze over and glaciers will cover WI and MI, and OH will experience the most powerful earthquake since records began, causing statewide damage that extends to IN, KY, and PA. And who thought god works in mysterious ways.

  48. It’s so easy to blame God whenever we don’t feel like taking responsibility. It isn’t God that’s destroying all the forests causing earth’s temperatures to rise, causing ice shelves to melt and break away etc. I find it interesting that the powers that be do not invite God in on their decision making (to encompass His love, compassion, unconditional love and understanding, that is) they only give Him credit (or blame) for the outcome.

  49. A friend put it well here…God is not counting men’s sins against them 2 Cor 5, and God is NOT using weather to punish or judge anyone, period. Jesus rebuked typhoon like storms and did not bring them or cause them. It is hurricane season and it rains on the just and the unjust, when James and John wanted Jesus to call on the elements to destroy a few cities who didn’t receive Jesus, He rebukes them. Anyone saying that it is the judgement of God are functioning from a wrong covenant and are bringing confusion to the body of Christ.

  50. Your God is too small, John. He has told us, “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” He IS in control. His ways are so much higher than our ways. We cannot know what he is thinking. For you to say he does not control the weather makes it sound like you think you know more than him. Deaths that happen seem horrible to us, but he has the “big picture” and understands why things must happen as they do. The Bible tells us he disciplines those he loves. We don’t know that an act of nature is sent specifically for us, but He cares for us and can speak to us through it. We can ask Him, “What do you want me to see or do during this time?”

    • Boy, that covers the bases, doesn’t it? It’s pretty ironclad: shit happens, there’s a mysterious plan behind it. Don’t try to understand much less question God in his wisdom for wiping out that school full of kids with a [tornado, flood, crazed gunman, toxic waste, etc.]. And by no means are you expected to use your God-given brains to try to prevent the conditions that would allow a tornado, flood, crazed gunman or toxic waste. Instead, blame it on the behaviors of people you don’t like. Because that makes sense to anyone willing to accept “mystery” as the root cause.

  51. “When he (God) puts his power on display, it’s never without reason. There’s a purpose. And we may not always understand what that purpose is, but we know it’s not random and we know that weather is sent to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe and repentance.”

    So, I see this a little differently than you do. I do think there can be value in confronting tragedy by looking inward with humility, awe and repentance. This kind of self-searching, even when the tragedy is not self-inflicted, can be healing and strengthening. It directs the person to try to be forward looking, searching inside for strength to heal and move on. Using the language of an “intentional” and “purposeful” God is a specific existential view that seeks to make these tragedies have objective meaning. Where those of us who ascribe meaning as emergent from our behaviors and choices view this as cruel, many people need meaning to be something objective and external, and so this formulation can be grounding for them.

    Such a sentiment goes very wrong, however, when it is directed to entire communities or societies. To say to an individual “God has a purpose here, and it’s up to you to discern that purpose so you can grow from it,” can be productive to a receptive person. But it is entirely meaningless spoken into a microphone. The undifferentiated mob cannot look inward for strength, so when spoken to that mob the statement can only mean a laying of blame and an implied or express judgment of causation. Blame is not profitable, and the discernment of some kind of non-empirical causation is tenuous at best and fraudulent in most cases.

    • Don’t let the Calvinists hear you say that. They will have you know that your every fart was planned and exactly scheduled from the foundation of time. You don’t even eat your own food. God programmed your dinner this evening at the foundation of time. The great thing about Calvinism is that it makes God the author of both good and evil—and if anything happens (like maybe you murder someone tonight)—it is all God’s fault.

  52. Pingback: Where Is God? – Every Day Simple

  53. Once I stopped trying to “read” every single little event, word, action, etc., for “God’s will for my life,” everything got a lot calmer and easier. I don’t have to try to figure out everything, from why hurricanes happen to why did this one word pop up three times today, oh my gosh, it must be a sign from God! Trying to “read” what God’s trying to tell me has brought me down some really strange, wrong paths for my life.

    I agree with what you’ve written, and I’m glad that you did – though there was a time when I was convinced that God was bringing judgement onto the nation through weather patterns (remember, Katrina was judgement for us supporting Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza). Now, I don’t – how can I? It gets too confusing: God created the storm, which is going to kill people and destroy lives, but God cares for each of his people, so will save them, but may not save them, but the storm is his doing anyhow… Best to leave it alone. I have a friend who worked herself sick praying for safety for her family in Tampa. What do you say to that? Your family will be safe because you prayed? If your family drowns, it was God’s will all along? Again, best to leave it alone.

    Also, Kirk Cameron lost credibility for me when he included historically inaccurate facts in his movie Monumental. A little research could’ve gone a long way…but it wouldn’t have played into his narrative.

  54. Set your thoughts , not on the storm, but on the love that rules the storm. By Charles E. Cowan . Came across this and thought it fitting. I too took the time to listen what Kirk Cameron had to say and it did not resemble your version. Why are you so set out to divide and promote hate, could your god be the father of all lies?

  55. John, I read your article on FB this morning (I have two close acquaintances who follow you, and I sometimes read your posts through them). I would have loved to have “liked” your article, because so much of what you say is good. But, unfortunately, I cannot “like” many of your articles, because the good that they contain is countered for me by the harsh judgment your pronounce on the very ones you are finding judgmental. I know you have a heart for fighting for the “underdogs.” My mother taught her daughters to stick up for the underdog, and it is a lesson I will never forget. But in fighting for the underdog, do you have to take such a destructive stance towards people (persons, maybe I should say, because they are each real individuals with hearts and feelings and beliefs, just like the underdogs) that you disagree with? Your words can do real damage to real people, be they believers or non-believers. And I even wonder if your non-Christian friends think our God is a “jerk God” even more because you paint His people, flawed, but not all bad, either, as such utter jerks. I believe the people you mentioned, just in today’s article, have some ideas I disagree with, but some valuable to offer the Kingdom of God, too. Be that as it may – I, too, have a tendency to “love me some smack” when I post about things I feel strongly about. But, usually, I feel STRONGLY led to go back, edit out “smack” or vitriol, or just any offensiveness in general, and add in the love. Sometimes I get to do it before many people have read it, sometimes I have to add an addendum or a private message, or whatever. But the point is, the POINT, whatever it is, is not to “do harm” – but to help. “Big dogs” are “people,” too ;-)! Okay, out of character here, but I just wanted to say that (not a “big dog” at all). If I could (and I am), I would ask you to please not tear down others in your posts. It is not necessary to harm another, no matter how much harm you think they are doing, to state your case. “Just the facts, Ma’am” – plus some emotion, sure, but you don’t have to make it personal. We’re not here to be on personal vendetta missions, to take down all the people we believe are the problem. When I posted one of my posts on the hurricanes, which I only wrote in response to those same types of Christian posts that would blame people for the catastrophe coming upon them, I felt good about, because I edited as I wrote, listening closely to God WHILE I wrote this time, instead of afterwards. But then, after I posted it, I heard God gently telling me that to “judge the judgers” made me just like them. Oops. Don’t wanna’ be the Judge of the Judgers. That’s God’s job. So – and my tone here really is calm and not harsh, cuz you never know for sure how it’s gonna’ come out on “paper” – I am just asking you, again, to please seek the good of all who read your thoughts – including those you may disagree with. Less name-calling and more loving. Thanks for “listening.”

    • You do not understand the concept of Biblical judgement. Biblical judgement is not about having a negative opinion about something and expressing it. Biblical judgement is combining that negative opinion with a prescribed punishment—-a.k.a. in the western civilization world as appointing yourself judge, jury, and executioner—and then doing the execution yourself. By your definition of judgement, people who express a love for chocolate ice-cream over vanilla would all go to Hell.

  56. John,
    You’re a good man. When I say that I really do mean YOU are inherently good. The same goes for many of your followers and fans. A LOT of kind people.

    But let’s be honest. With the exception of a few key phrases, the God of Abraham is NOT even remotely moral.

    And the depth of your god’s depravity is summed up in John 3:16. There is nothing moral about forcing good people like you to endorse the murder of an innocent – then add insult to injury by demanding we celebrate that murder via ritualized cannibalism.

    So as harsh as it sounds – it’s not you – it’s your god. And no amount of apologetic acrobats or equivocation will ever justify good people claiming loyalty to inhumane and primitive nonsense that fills the Old and New Testament.

    I am being sincere, and as kind as I can be when I say that you – and your fans – are ALL more kind, and more honest than the god of the Bible. You deserve better.

    Peace, brother
    And smile – there is no Hell

  57. Pingback: making life among the idols – Peace through Justice

  58. Articles like these happen when we paint with a broad brush squeezing all conservatives and Christians under one umbrella of “this is what they all believe”. I listen to a Christian blogger/speaker/broadcaster who speaks in a lot of churches. He called on everyone to pray that God in his Mercy would turn the storm another way and protect people in its path. Now an example of that can be found in the scripture where Jesus commands the storm to cease. A great book to read is “If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat”. A specific example author highlights is to think about what happened when Jesus commanded the storm to stop. To those who were in the boat with Jesus they saw a miracle. They saw Jesus walk towards them on thwater then command the storm to stop. Storm stopped. But to those standing along the shore they may have only seen a storm start and stop. Begin and end. Makes for a great perspective. Cheers!

  59. * hurricanes happen during hurricane season in hurricane prone areas, *
    *tornadoes happen in tornado prone areas during appropriate weather conditions”
    *earthquakes occur along fault lines*

    Y’all: it’s GOD, he’s mad about butt sex

    (Shakes head)

  60. At least if you’re gonna be dumb and asscribe telephone-functional agency to the hurricanes, maybe you should think “God” is punishing us for being reliant on fossil fuels and not recycling.

  61. The God I serve (as a mainline Christian) does NOT cause pain and suffering. Suffering is caused by random evil (such as storms or illness) or by the acts of other people. God does not use weather to punish us or send us a message. I know people look for reasons that things happen but there simply is not an easy answer.
    God is, however, with us during these difficult times. Good can come out of an evil situation (such as the rescuers of many people and other reaching out to help). To say that someone knows WHY God did something is ridiculous. God is too big for any one person to understand – even if they’re a politician, pundit, or actor.

  62. Weaponized religious propaganda … hmm … add political to this cocktail and you have your favorite poison, which you drain to the dregs daily and exhort others to do the same. I don’t detect a micron of militant aggression from your target, Kirk Cameron, but can hear the sound and fury of your attack from worlds away.

    • That’s rich Patrick—to hear a fundie like you accuse someone of being religiously militant when your corner of the church invented religious militancy in the United States back around 1910.

  63. This thread is fascinating. Addressing the what seems to be the core point of contention her, “Who or what is God?”, please allow me to tell you the old saying is true: there are no atheists in foxholes.

  64. “I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.”
    Ezekiel 9:11

    No meaning behind bad things. Crap happens. It happens to all of us. But I do believe that human-caused climate change is making storms & natural disasters worse.

  65. There is plenty of loony to be seen on both sides of the theological-political aisle. A certain Hollywood actress suggested that Hurricane Harvey was the rage of Mother Nature against Texas voting for Trump. A Florida professor wrote that it was “instant karma.” A Huffington Post contributor insinuated that the flooding of Texas oil refineries was a “sign.” Those who attribute malevolent, godlike intent to “karma” or “Mother Nature” are just the flip side of the coin that believes God is punishing or humbling us via natural disasters.

  66. There are a lot of “maybe”s in this post, but the author forgot an important one: “Maybe we should listen to scientists and experts who continue to predict these events with greater accuracy all the time, who warn us about potential consequences, and who attempt to teach us how we can avert disaster in the future.”

    This is not a zero sum debate from which only God or mystery and uncertainty prevails.

  67. “Dismissing Ignorance in Our Leaders Is a Mistake” By Joe Kay 9-21-2017

    “The wrath-of-God preachers are at it again.

    “They’re saying hurricanes Harvey and Irma were divine retribution for treating gay people as equals. It’s tempting to simply ignore their ignorance, but that would be a mistake.

    “It’s important to pay attention to not only the preachers of wrath, but also to the people in the pews internalizing the message. If we want to have meaningful conversations with them, we need to understand how they’re shaped by what they’re hearing.

    “Not everyone hears the same message in the same words, but there are common threads to what they’re being taught from the pulpit and social media platforms.

    “In an interview with The New York Times, evangelical author Timothy Keller said Jesus’ teachings are “not the main point” of Christianity. When evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress was asked whether the country’s leader should live by Jesus’ values expressed in the beatitudes, he said, “absolutely not.”

    “It seems that the message people in the pews are hearing is deliberately divorced from Jesus’ values. Being a disciple no longer means sitting at Jesus’ feet, hearing his passionate, God-filled words, and trying to live them.

    “Instead, many churchgoers are hearing that America is God’s chosen nation and people like them are God’s chosen people — especially white, wealthy, straight males. Power, privilege, and wealth are signs of God’s favor; poverty and illness are the residue of moral failure.

    “They’re hearing that Jesus’ death and resurrection matter, but not his life. They’re told that his “social teachings” are optional and can be ignored. Their preachers prefer to quote Old Testament texts and a few of Paul’s lines instead of Jesus’ words.

    “They’re told that diversity is evil and the government is doing the devil’s work when it proscribes equality and puts other beliefs on even footing with theirs. They’re hearing preachers call to protect white, Christian primacy.

    “They’re also hearing Donald Trump described in messianic terms, someone sent by God to preserve their supremacy. He’s equated to an Old Testament warrior king, which is preferred over Jesus’ model of the humble servant leader.

    “They’re told that Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices who chip away at decades of civil rights advances that have diminished white, Christian dominance. Their holy grail is a “religious liberty law” that would allow them to turn away from the counter whomever they wish and force others to the back of the social bus.

    “None of this is surprising or new. In my lifetime, many of those same churches preached that racial integration is an abomination, that a Catholic shouldn’t be president, that black people, women, and gay people must never be viewed as equals. Preachers warned from the same pulpits that God will send disasters to our shores if any of those things happened.

    “How do we respond?

    “First, we remember that everyone comes up short on following Jesus’ teachings. We need to remove the plank from our own eye a little more. Every religion has adherents who think they alone have the truth and their way is the only way.

    “We need to remember Jesus’ message — we can only change others’ hearts to the extent we’ve allowed God to help us change our own.

    “Second, we follow Jesus’ example and call out religious leaders who promote something other than God’s values of love, compassion, inclusion, and healing. Religious leaders in Jesus’ time weren’t all that different from many today, and he challenged them passionately and prophetically.

    “I’m guessing that Jesus knew he wasn’t going to change the religious leaders’ minds and hearts, but he knew the crowds were paying attention to their interactions. He wanted them to know that God is very different than what was portrayed.

    “Jesus challenged and invited people not only through his powerful words, but through his passionate life. He not only taught a different message, he also lived by values that were far different from those of the religious leaders — the ones he accused of missing the whole point of the scriptures.

    “We must go and do the same. We may not reach the preachers in the pulpit, but some in the pews are listening.

    Joe Kay, Joe Kay is the associate minister at Nexus United Church of Christ, Butler County, Ohio. He also writes a weekly blog at https://joekay617.wordpress.com. His email address is listed on the blog, in case you care to contact him directly.

  68. On the head as usual, I sent a copy of the link to this page to my student. As text for her sister, a preachers widow who just cannot leave off preaching about hell and damnation for all nonbelievers, which is of course, her Pagan sister in this case. And being a total putz about the whole thing while she is at it.

    ( my student has always said that a lot of the old testament, read like God was 5 year old with temper issues, in your standard King James version, which is what made her start questioning the whole thing. )

    Unless of course you read original versions, which I have. They paint quite a different picture. However.. be that as it may…

    How the religion is currently practiced.. well …( it is kind of like the white washed fairy tales that Disney and others are so good at… but what they present is a lie.

    If they put them out AS they were written, they would have to bill them as horror stories.. the OG “fairy” tales were some often gruesome stuff ) My point being, that how a thing is presented, in life, in print, or film, or in this case, in person often has nothing to DO with the reality of the topic in question.

    And if your a class A jerk while your at it.. well, lets just say you should not really be surprised when people tune you out and reject the “religion” you supposedly represent.

  69. Seems like the Church should (I should, we should) be more concerned for the people in the path of the pain and suffering. We should do more to help them *before,* in and through the natural disasters (even persecutions and wars) that are sure to continue. Sounds like a better plan than easing our consciences and excusing the mess by blaming the victims

  70. Claiming that a loving and benevolent God would pummel His children with tsunamis, tornadoes, and floods as punishment for “the abortionists and the gays and the Democrats” is about as logical as claiming that you have a loving and caring father because he pummels your mom, burns down your friends house and beat you because you got an “F” on a math test or stayed out 5 minutes past curfew or forgot take out the trash.

    See how crazy and a-hole-ish that sounds?

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