Discussing the weather should be a safe topic, but some Christians can find a way to make even the weather controversial.
This week the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is deciding whether or not to allow non-celibate gays and lesbians to serve as clergy and lay leaders in their churches. As they prepared to vote in Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon, an apparent tornado struck the city, damaging a nearby Lutheran church steeple, as well as the City Center where they were meeting.
From these events, Calvinist pastor John Piper, citing several Bible verses concludes, “The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction.” Like Pat Robertson and others before him, Piper suggests that God sends us warnings through natural disasters such as tornados.
I don’t even know where to begin with this one, but I’ll try. Putting aside any opinions about the whole sexuality debate, I have a major disagreement with this idea that God would use a tornado to influence the vote at a denominational meeting.
A few thoughts:
- Were there any people whose homes were damaged who may have been conservative Christians like Piper? If God micromanages the universe down to this level, one might expect better aim.
- How do we know the tornado wasn’t a warning to those who were going to vote against the inclusion of gays and lesbians?
- If God uses tornados for this sort of thing, why wasn’t there one at a similar meeting the Episcopal Church had last month? For that matter, why do tornados seem occur in areas of the country where people are more likely to be Evangelical Christians? We rarely see them in "liberal strongholds" like NY, California, or Europe.
- If God is in the business of sending tornados to influence voting, why wasn’t one sent to warn the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, or German voters in the presidential election of 1932? I think we would all agree the outcome of those votes led to an evils far worse than the claimed evil of gay clergy - at least, I hope we do.
- If the vote was such an offense to God, why not just show up and tell us so?
Okay, the above questions are somewhat facetious. But I can't help it. In 2009, to be suggesting that God sends tornados as a warning strikes me as primitive and superstitious. It only furthers the notion of the church being irrelevant and out of touch with science. Lest you accuse me of being too Modernist in my logic above, keep in mind that the Modern Era is responsible for the computer in front of you. Does anyone else see the irony of proposing such pre-modern notions over hi-tech media like blogs, Facebook and Twitter?
If Christians revert to interpreting events as nebulous and random as the weather for signs from God, I fear we are going down a path far more dangerous than any having to do with sexuality. On the other hand, how do we speak about God's will without making meteorological claims? While it's easy to criticize Piper, what do we do with all those weather-related stories from the Bible?