The American Family Association's Web site runs an item that includes this:
Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina — but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.
The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" — an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week — God's judgment would be felt.
"New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion — it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there — and now we're going to start over again."
I've seen other similar statements online; and of course similar statements were made about 9/11 (the Falwell-Robertson abortion-made-God-mad item), AIDS being God's punishment on gays, and the like.
If this is so, then wouldn't it follow that God must really dislike poor people? After all, poor people generally bear the brunt of most natural disasters: It's harder for them to evacuate; they are less likely to have insurance; their assets are less likely to be diversified, so the economic damage is more likely to be severe for them; they are closer to the poverty line, so even small losses may harm them more than larger losses harm rich people; and so on. If you live in a poor country, you're much more likely to suffer from disasters than if you live in a rich country. If you're poor in any country, you're much more likely to suffer from disasters than if you're rich.
The same is in considerable measure true for wars, at least since World War II: Tragic as 9/11 was, the loss of life in America was far less than the loss of life in Rwanda, Uganda, Cambodia, and who knows how many other poor countries in recent decades. And it's true for AIDS and most other diseases: Rich gays in the U.S. are much more likely to survive AIDS than poor people — gay or straight, promiscuous or monogamous but infected by nonmongamous spouses or in other ways — in Africa or Asia.
So, which is it: Does God dislike poor people? Or might it be that disasters, wars, and diseases are actually not God's punishment for sin?
(Disclaimer for those who tend to read into posts things that the author hasn't written into them: I am not condemning all religious people, all Christian people, or even all people who believe that all things are sent by God; I am condemning those who argue that disasters, wars, and diseases are sent by God as punishment. Further disclaimer for the same people: I post this not because I think a majority of any particular religious group take these views, but because I think that a substantial number of people — even if only a small percentage of all people — believe such things, and these views deserve condemnation even if they are not majority beliefs within any religious group.)