FIRES, DROUGHT AND SIN
I had been wondering if and when we might hear some religious speculation or declaration on the historic Australian fires and drought which currently are very dangerous and the worst on record. (Ten years ago the ever controversial Pastor Danny Nalliah made out that Victoria’s Black Saturday fires were a consequence of the state undoing its abortion laws).
Disaster of all kinds is a regular part of life in an imperfect (Christians might say “fallen”) world. But really exceptional disasters do present special questions and it is biblical enough to inquire if the appropriate collective response should be serious self-examination, repentance and/or re-dedication towards God. It’s more an OT idea than a NT one, but only because the OT is more embedded in a national history and consciousness; but that doesn’t mean the issue is totally unbiblical and Christians need never consider it.
What I hadn’t anticipated was that first into the field with a rather predictable reaction to events, would be that most controversial of battering rams, Israel Folau. He cruised in ahead of all and any churches to declare that legislating gay marriage and permitting the “murder” of abortion in NSW had brought down God’s judgement which, if there wasn’t repentance soon, would soon become more severe. (He incidentally ignored that as regards the fires, numbers had been started not by nature or “acts of God” but youthful delinquents!).
Public reaction to Folau was similarly predictable as also to the shortly following declaration of Sonshine Coast Baptist Church at Caloundra (on the affected Sunshine Coast). Its billboard cited 2 Chronicles 6:26 on a connection between national sin and drought. Public response was that these people didn’t get it about Christ or the bible. The Pentecostal (Hill Song version) Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, declared Folau to be “appallingly insensitive” and “unhelpful” – Hillsong always aims to be more helpful than theological and is not disposed to explore either life’s mysteries or tragedies. It’s the church of Justin Bieber.
IS THE TRUTH IN THE MIDDLE?
I am going to suggest that the truth in this sad and difficult matter could be, as in so many things in life, somewhere in between what’s getting so wildly declared.
So, no, I am not about to say that I believe God is punishing Australia for legislating gay marriage – the nation is anyway one of the last nations of the west to legislate for it, so what about all those other nations? Likewise NSW was one of the last strongholds of a strict abortion law, and while I don’t say abortion is a good thing, I’d agree with Jordan Peterson that it’s not good “but it’s not that simple”. Christians can’t and shouldn’t call all abortion “murder” and impose laws that not even all Christians are in agreement about.
All this said, it’s possible, and churches should have the discernment to at least allow the possibility, that through events God might actually be speaking to a highly secular, unbelieving, often corrupt, materialistic and violent Australia, nationally a classic example of those people “who forget God”.
In fact, Australia has so far dismissed the Christian legacy that scarcely one person in authority (including Hill Song Morrison) or media has the guts or loyalty to protest the horrors of persecution of Christians across much of Asia and Africa, choosing instead the soft PC option of women’s or gay or Muslim rights as though in sheer numbers and ferocity there could be much comparison. (If you doubt the assertion, here is one recent article taken at random: shorturl.at/f0467
When God’s word is neither proclaimed nor heard, God may use anyone or anything to declare it. When the Pharisees try to silence Jesus’ disciples he tells them he won’t because otherwise the stones would cry out (Luk 19:40). As I indicated earlier this year, Israel Folau under the influence of a strange, religion swapping father is a bit of an ill- informed nutter on many issues https://wp.me/p4kNWg-qT ); but if Folau can make Australia talk about divine judgment, it’s conceivable God might use him to say the unsayable and unpalatable truth. But what truth is that?
THE DARK SIDE OF GOD?
It is to misunderstand or misrepresent the Christian gospel to suggest that the perfect Creator will normally deal with imperfect humanity other than (to superficial view) negatively, i.e. apart from issues of judgement. The gospel, which modifies this situation, is precisely gospel (good news) in light of a Christ overcoming and mediating the automatic human separation from God who is seen as having basically withdrawn from his creation. ( This incidentally is a situation widely assumed in world myth to the point it seems to be some kind of collective memory and archetypal ). All the so-called punishments and judgements of God can be considered simply degrees of separation from God who, in the face of sin, increasingly abandons what basic protection is allowed to attach to nature and life .
If you doubt this point because you assume Jesus only ever says nice, comforting things, consider Jesus’ response to disasters like the tower of Siloam (Luk 13:14). It only makes full sense in the context of biblical assumptions about a well-nigh universal, death-invoking separation from God. “Do you think they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you but unless you repent , you will all perish as they did”. The point is everyone lives under a universal curse which makes for disasters and sweeps people away, and in the context of which the only proper response is an attitude of sufficient repentance to avoid worse. As Ps 50:22 has it:
“Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.”
Prayer, (which many never even try to practice, abstract meditation having taken its place for many), right beliefs and attitudes alone give the perfect God, so to speak, “excuse” to bring blessing or protection on the imperfect. God throws no thunderbolts like Zeus; God is simply absent – hell itself is the absence of God.
Finally I must say there is one further “prophetic”, speculative way of reading present conditions. True it’s again no great comfort to those suffering in the immediate (and I don’t say we shouldn’t be sympathetic to them as victims of a collective fate), but it would at least make Australia seem less singled out!
The possibility is that at the end of the (around 2100 year Piscean) era inaugurated around the time of Christ’s birth, what is happening is part of a more worldwide, gradual meltdown towards the birth pangs that through apocalyptic horrors like the Tribulation of Revelation the next era is birthed. Moreover, by singular irony, aspects of the whole gay issue have an unexpected connection to adequate understanding and interpretation of that possibility. It’s a connection that would be unimagined by Folau and his fans who should nonetheless for his and their sake try to absorb them. Apocalypse as a gay issue https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-4p