Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dear Uncle Jim

Dear Uncle Jim,

Dad read your recent letter and I believe he is sending a note to you soon. Don't worry about us getting involved in any "New Age" garbage. The whole movement that calls itself that is nothing but nonsense from start to finish.

But we must be on guard against any form of superstitious thinking. The Tuesday earthquake that hit the San Francisco area is an example. As soon as we heard the news, we said, "Well, it finally happened, the Big One hit", even though scientists now say this wasn't the big one, but still a very large quake. You see, everybody knows that large earthquakes in California are inevitable because of geological conditions here. San Francisco sits over the San Andreas fault and so will always be vulnerable to periodic quakes. Two of the earth's great moving plates, the North American and the Pacific, meet along the coast of California. They are constantly moving at a rate of about two inches a year. All the plates on earth are moving. So earthquakes are a natural phenomenon, like wind and rain and hurricanes.

When enough friction develops and the pressure builds to a certain level, the earth snaps and gives way and you get a sudden large movement along a fault line, causing an earthquake (they say in the great 1906 quake-an 8.3, more than thirty times as powerful as the one on Tuesday-the movement on the fault was 20 feet).

I write the above not because I think you ignorant of facts like these, but just so I can lead to the following.

When something bad like this big earthquake happens, some Christians fall into a disturbing habit. They say it's the judgment of God on sinful humans. God's giving us a warning of some sort, and He chose this particular time, place and event to make His point. Of course no notion could be more absurd, but Christians continue to make such statements.

The day after, Wednesday, I decided to watch the 700 Club to see what Pat Robertson had to say. I was about 90% sure he'd claim God's divine wrath had been provoked and the Almighty had expressed His anger by shaking the ground and causing buildings and freeways to collapse and crush people, including children and pregnant women (there actually was a pregnant woman who was on the double deck highway 880 when it collapsed-she survived but she lost the baby). Since Robertson is always making idiotic and outrageous statements, I wasn't too surprised by his comments. He said God was trying to tell us something and he went through a list of America's sins that included adultery, homosexuality and abortion.

"God's simply saying," informed Pat, "that if you go on slaughtering millions of children by abortion, I'm gonna start slaughtering some of you." This is incredible. What kind of a God is Robertson presenting to us here? Of course, to someone with the intellectual capacity of a turnip, Pat's version of reality makes complete logical sense. After all, isn't San Francisco our most sinful city (with the possible exception of Las Vegas) with all those gays and lesbians prancing down the streets celebrating their perversion?

But wait a minute, Pat, what's going on here? I thought God was for protecting the unborn and against "murdering" them by abortion. Yet, to get His message across, He "slaughters" (Rev. Robertson's word) an unborn child in its mother's womb (the woman on the collapsed freeway). If we take Pat seriously (can anybody really do that?), should we say "Hey God, get your act together. You're message isn't coming through clear. Do you want Americans to have more abortions?" Or maybe God should say, "Hey, Pat, shut your mouth, you don't speak for me?"

In areas that experience large earthquakes, such earthquakes can be expected to occur at regular intervals, with major quakes occurring about every 100 to 200 years. So even had this bay area quake been the big one (and it wasn't) the pressure would inexorably begin to build again and another disaster of the same magnitude would someday be inevitable. So how is God involved? After all, we call these things natural disasters, not supernatural disasters.

Suppose Robertson's 700 Club is so successful that millions are converted to his strange (he hasn't preformed his very strange "word of knowledge" act in awhile I notice- "there's a woman in Cincinnati with a swollen knee cap, God's healing that right now") brand of Christianity. Or even worse, the Christian Reconstructionists have their way and the Constitution is thrown out in favor of a right-wing theocracy based on Old Testament law and Calvinist theology. In their vision, the culture has been completely transformed and everything in society is "Christ centered". What need of earthquakes then, if they are a form of chastisement from God?

The people have repented and the Church controls the world. When an earthquake strikes Born-Again San Francisco in the year 2089, will the Pat Robertson types still say it's God's judgment because of wickedness? Or will they, finally and rightly, admit that earthquakes and other natural disasters are a natural and normal and inevitable part of the way things are. No different from windy days where power lines are sometimes blown down, or the fact that you'll probably catch at least one cold virus this winter, or that you'll develop cavities in your teeth if you eat too much candy and don't brush (and maybe develop them even if your abstain from sugary treats and do brush).

One more short word before I leave this subject. Here is part of a newspaper report on the quake:

Six-year-old Julio was discovered, whimpering, among the devastated cars on Route 880. His feet were crushed under the rubble. For hours, rescuers attempted to pull the child from the cruel embrace of the bridge. But what they thought was movement was just his clothing slipping from his body. The firemen and the doctors knew what they had to do. The boy's leg would have to be amputated on the spot. As surgeon James Betts climbed the ladder to the stricken child, he was told that the boy's dead mother was in the way. He would have to cut through her body to reach him. And he did it.

Unlike Pat Robertson and other Christians who think like him, I do not believe any God would deliberately cause something to happen that would result in a horror like that.

Well, that's all for now Uncle Jim. I'll write again soon.

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