Readers of this blog may remember my mention of Christian extremist Ron Boehme in this post I did last month on Tiger Woods. Boehme is representative of the kind of religious person we atheists like to rail against, the fervent Biblical literalist who views everything through the prism of a cosmic war between the forces of good (of which he believes he is a member) and the forces of evil (which includes those of us who are atheists).
Boehme ended up on my radar screen a few years ago when he was running for the Washington state legislature as a (well, you probably guessed it) Republican. I checked out his campaign web site, where he stated that atheists and secularists were the enemy of America or something along those lines. So, I e-mailed him and expressed my displeasure at him for categorically declaring such a thing. He replied to me, calling on me to be "civil." I laughed at that, because according to his campaign web site, I am an enemy of America, and yet he had the gall to allege incivility on my part. He never replied to my follow up reply, and to my knowledge, he did not win the election. But he apparently saw fit to put me on his e-mail list and I have since found myself receiving his e-mail sermons that are part of his "Revive America Project."
For the most part I find myself glancing briefly at them and then deleting them. But today's post caught my attention. Titled "Pondering The Haiti Earthquake--and Other 'Natural Disasters'." Note the "scare quotes" around Natural Disasters.
In a nutshell, with the emphasis on "nut", Boehme regurgitates what the infamous Pat Robertson said on his 700 Club program last month and defends Robertson's remarks. Below are excerpts of what he wrote.
"The politically correct (secular) view of the Haiti quake was that God was not involved in the calamity--only (maybe) in the relief efforts. How do they know? Why was there such a strong aversion to even considering that God could be a part of this natural disaster?
Here's the obvious reason: Secularists want to convince the world that there is no God--that they are the ultimate authorities and their forms of human government, including humanitarian relief, are the main things that should be trusted and appreciated. The atheistic interpretation of reality instructs people that there is no God, no such thing as sin and thus no sins to be repented of."
Wow! So, if I read Boehme right, he wants us to think that God murdered or permitted the death of over 200,000 Haitians. Therefore, we must cringe in fear lest the same thing happen to us.
"How do [we] know?" he asks, that the earthquake was not caused by God. Well, how are we supposed to be able to tell the difference between an earthquake resulting from God's wrath and an earthquake that just, well, happens? Are only earthquakes that kill people a sign of God's anger? If that is the case, then God must really hate poor, dark-skinned people, because rich countries can afford to build structures that are more resistant to earthquakes.
As for Pat Robertson, Boehme belches, "Pat Robertson was not saying as fact that the earthquake was God's judgment. He was just trying to understand the disproportionate aspects of suffering that have visited the Haiti portion of the island of Hispaniola. Could there be some spiritual reasons? Fair question if you believe in God, Satan, blessings and curses."
Well, you could try reading a little about the history of Haiti to understand the "disproportionate aspects of suffering" that have affected the people of Haiti. One cannot dismiss, for example, that Haiti had to agree to pay France 90 million gold francs in recognition of its independence in order to lift an embargo imposed on it by France, Britain and the United States. That the United States should treat Haiti in such a way shows a large measure of ingratitude because Haiti's successful revolt against Napoleon resulted in Napoleon offering to sell the entire Louisiana Purchase to the United States at a bargain price. In order to pay the onerous fee imposed on it, Haitian governments had to take out high interest loans and the debt was not paid until 1947.
That Haiti has been plagued by corrupt governments throughout much of it's recent history is no secret, though one need not invoke God or Satan in this. Many countries have had to endure kleptocratic regimes. What adds to Haiti's misery is that it is geographically situated in an area that is subject to frequent devastating hurricanes and tropical storms, as well as being located near an earthquake fault zone. Throw poverty into the mix, and you have a country that lacks the wealth to build sturdy structures that can withstand natural disasters.
"What are some of the possible realities behind natural disasters and environmental catastrophes that we experience on earth, including Haiti? I can think of four possibilities or combinations or them:
GOD: The Bible is clear that the God of the Universe uses weather and physical events on earth to reveal truth and draw people to change their lives."
Uh, yeah, right. Because the Bible says so.
"SATAN: The Bible also records that the devil, Lucifer or Satan, has some delegated powers to bring physical calamities upon people."
Okay, so maybe God outsourced the Haiti earthquake to Satan.
"NATURE: many of the physical disasters and calamities we face might not be the direct hand of God or Satan, but simply the fruits of a fallen and imperfect world that are allowed by the Creator."
Well, as I mentioned in my post "The Canyons of Mars", Jupiter's moon Io is the most volcanically active body in our Solar System. The last time I checked, there were no Satan worshippers or flaming homosexuals living there.
"HUMAN SIN: This possiblity involves God but stresses man's part in the curse of creation. None of this scenario is God's fault. It's the direct result of man's sin."
But how can you tell. Is there some kind of "Sin-O-Meter" where one can measure the magnitude of human sin until it reaches a point where acts of rape, gay anal sex, and murder attain a critical mass to cause an earthquake or a tornado?
"So why was there a devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 13, 2010? We don't know for sure, but it clearly could have been an act of God, or influenced by Satan, or simply involved fallen creation, and/or was a direct result of a curse because of people's sins."
Or, it is simply a matter of geologic forces acting as they have done for hundreds of millions of years. You conveniently left that one out, Ronny.
"It would be helpful for us, and the people of Haiti who were devastated by the earthquake, to seek the face of God for the reasons for their misfortune. In response to their repentance and faith, God just might use this terrible tragedy to break an awful and unusual curse on a nation and for the first time, establish it in righteousness, increased safety (better buildings), godliness and prosperity."
Notice the arrogance there. The earthquake must somehow be the fault of the people of Haiti. No recognition anywhere by Boehme of the role of France's brutal system of slavery, the crippling debts imposed on Haiti, the isolation imposed on her by the United States, which feared that the successful slave revolt in Haiti would spark similar revolts in the slaveholding regions of the southern American states, among other things. In the binary worldview of Boehme and his ilk, Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake solely for ths sins of its people.
For people like Boehme, their human egocentric worldview requires that natural disasters be viewed as some kind of validation of their Christian faith. "Oh, those poor, wretched souls of Haiti got what was coming to them because they practice Voudou. If only they would accept the salvation of Christ, which we conveniently have done, they won't have such problems anymore."
Reading Boehme's bile made me recall something from an introductory book on Geology I read last year. In 1902, a volcano erupted on the Caribbean island of Martinique. The pyroclastic flow unleashed by the eruption caused the death of some 29,000 people in the island's capital of St. Pierre. One of the only survivors was a prisoner who was locked in a windowless cell. Do the likes of Boehme and Pat Robertson have any thoughts as to what the people of Martinique might have been doing to bring down divine wrath on them. Or how about the Mt. Saint Helens eruption in Boehme's home state of Washington in 1980 that killed 57 people. Maybe it was God's way of telling Ron Boehme to not be such a douchebag and Boehme just didn't get the message.