9/18/07

Senator Chambers sues God for violent weather

Senator Ernie Chambers filed a suit against God in Douglas County District Court last week for rhetorical reasons—to make a point about another lawsuit he considers inappropriate.

According to the article in the Lincoln Journal Star, Chambers says that “God has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents, inspired fear and caused ‘widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants.’” He charges that God is guilty of “fearsome floods ... horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes.”

The Bible certainly makes claims of God’s management of the weather. The Psalmist sings of God’s weather-controlling power. “He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down hail like crumbs—who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow” (Psalm 147:16-18, NRSV).

But I’m not sure what to make of this passage. Does it mean that God directs every drop and degree, or is it a poetic description of a God who normally allows His design to take its natural course? I’m guessing the latter.

Of course, God certainly can dictate the weather any time he chooses. Examples can be found in scripture of God appointing events such as hailstorms and droughts.

As I type this Tuesday afternoon, I can hear the rain hit the roof above me, creating a roar that builds and subsides. Sun and rain are blessings, usually. Jesus talked about how God blesses both evil and good people. “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45, NRSV).

So, today I will thank God for the rain, but I won’t blame Him if there’s a flood.

I will pray for rain during a drought, but not blame God when it hasn’t rained in months (though I might complain that he hasn’t yet answered my prayer for rain!).

That’s the paradox of faith. We believe that God is good, even when the weather is violent. Even when our circumstances turn disastrous, we trust that God is trustworthy.

Some want to know if the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia was a judgment from God. Was Katrina a divine punishment for the Big Easy’s immorality? I doubt it, and here’s why.

If it had been punishment from God, He would have raised up a prophet to warn the people to repent, so they could avoid the disaster. “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, NRSV).

But there was no prophet. So I’m left to assume that these natural disasters just happened. They’re part of life in this beautiful but imperfect planet.

Senator Chambers seeks a permanent injunction against God. As for me, I’m going to follow the example of the prophet Habakkuk.

“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines, though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18, NRSV).