I always say that Christian culture is stranger than fiction. You simply can’t make this stuff up. The above caption sums it all up. I saw a few other minister’s quotations of Scripture that, at best, have no place in a disaster like Oklahoma’s and, at worst, downright abusive. Of course, all this is done with good intention so that “the raw realism of Job’s losses will point us all to his God “compassionate and merciful. James 5:11”. Yes, this is a direct quote off Piper’s Facebook page. HOW do you pastorally link the gigantic loss that had hit these folks with God’s compassion and mercy? How? James 5.11 has nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, to do with natural disasters. One of my blogger friends call this the true abuse of the Lord’s name because when you use the Lord’s name, you do something to the recipient.
Many of my friends are saying that I’m too picky on exegesis. Well, here’s where bad exegesis can lead pastorally. It leads to re-victimization of people who have lost everything, including family members. It leads to a holy huddle that looks more like a joke than a witness to the world. How do you ask a parent who has lost a son or daughter in this disaster to link the disaster to God’s compassion? Wait! Don’t answer that. It was a rhetorical question. IF you do, please say it to the faces of the people who lost loved ones and not debate it theologically here. I’ve done both academic and pastoral works. I wouldn’t dare to make some of the announcements these people are making.
My gut reaction is not merely anger. I also feel puzzled. Whenever something bad happens, someone always hopes that Westboro Baptist would not protest. Yes, those extremists are annoying pests in the guise of Christian clothing. However, to a lesser degree, I feel puzzled about evangelical Christian logic. Yes, evangelical Christian logic can be a kind of special logic. I listen with disbelief at times when people start moralizing about disasters and terrorist attacks (not only on Americans but worldwide). It goes something like this. These people must have done something to draw divine wrath. Evangelical Christians are especially prone to make such broad announcements “for God” against the more liberal areas (e.g. Boston) where people hold to a different moral standard. At this moment, I haven’t heard any evangelical Christian pronounced any curse against Oklahoma simply because Oklahoma is in the conservative Bible Belt. I’m glad to see that. What I’m saying is that we’re very selective in how and to whom we curse in the name of God. I did see one curse being uttered by an evangelical Christian overseas who was unfamiliar with the Bible Belt though. This is the problem. It is easy to moralize and curse when you are ignorant. It is easy to select when your blinders are on.
This is the truth. Life is complex. Suffering is difficult. No amount of theologizing or moralizing can explain suffering. Therefore, we may as well stop trying. The best way to evangelize sometimes is to keep our mouths shut and keep our hands and feet moving. I urge everyone to just pray for people in Oklahoma and many other places where chaos reigns. No moralizing is welcome at the moment.