Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No, God was not punishing Obama

Emerging from hibernation to address an issue of vital national importance...

Within minutes of the exceptional east coast earthquake, the net was buzzing with claims that it was God's way of punishing Obama for some disfavored policy or other. Most of these were probably in jest, but not all of them, it would seem.

We heard the same nonsense about Katrina. All the rebuttals apply, but more so. The idea doesn't make sense if you think about it for longer than it takes to send a tweet. It amounts to "Big earthquake near Washington - what more proof do you need?"

So for these misguided souls and others who may be misguided by them, I give you...

Why the earthquake was not a divine punishment of Obama:

If God wanted to punish Obama, why did the earthquake hit Washington (well, about 80 miles south of Washington) just when he was in Martha's Vineyard? Did He forget to check the president's official schedule? Or maybe God's aim is way off?

If God wanted to punish Obama, why did the earthquake hit when he was on vacation? Was he being punished for playing golf? Why didn't it hit while he was delivering a policy address, or at least busy at work in the Oval Office?

If God wanted to punish Obama, why did the earthquake cause so little damage and so few injuries? Was this some kind of warning shot? Does God even do shots across the bow? Some punishment, huh?

And then of course there's the whole ambiguity thing. Exactly what policy is God supposed to be punishing? His stance on Israel? Abortion? Gay marriage? Corporate taxes? The debt ceiling deal? What would motivate God to mete out a vague, unspecified "punishment" which didn't even hit the president, or virtually anyone else? For that matter, how do we even know this punishment was aimed at Obama, as opposed to Congress, the Supreme Court, the D.C. city council, or even Fred from Alexandria on line 1?

At this point, sensible people realize they've drawn an unsupported conclusion and admit their error. Others, though, will try to engage in sophistry to explain why in fact it does make sense to interpret this as a form of divine retribution against the president. The quake could actually be felt on Martha's Vineyard, they'll say. Washington clearly symbolized the president. And Washington was hit hard, even if not directly. What else could a historically-strong earthquake represent but divine displeasure? etc., etc.

But press them on how they can know their interpretation to be correct when none of the details are quite right, and they may explain that it's close enough - we can't expect to understand precisely how God works in this world.

Exactly. We don't understand how God works in this world. So stop claiming that you do. Especially when it doesn't make sense!