A natural disaster like a hurricane rolls in from the ocean and destroys a town, a city, floods a whole region. It used to be called an ‘Act of God’ because no one could prevent it-but nowadays, its called Disaster Relief and FEMA are called in with the expectation that the Government can make right what God has wrought. If that fails, we blame George Bush rather than God the Father. But George Bush didn’t create the storm.
A man made disaster like the BP Oil Spill spreads a murky slick across the Gulf of Mexico, and kills natural life and ruins the local bay industries. It used to be put down to Human Fallibility because humans who meddle with nature are always overstepping the limits of their knowledge or pushing natures’ tolerance. Nowadays, its called crisis management, and the expectation is that humans are not allowed to make mistakes this catastrophic anymore. The company must do public confession and penance, and together with the Government, we believers expect, no- we demand, that they make right what human pride and greed have made wrong.
A new President is elected on the promise of changing America. He pledged bi-partisanship and reform in energy, health and education, and sounded determined to overhaul the economy and turn it around. Enough Americans believed in the promise then, but now, two years in, the mood is that Obama is not the Messiah after all, because even though he has reformed health, education and finances, he has not saved the country. We still wait for the miracle, for the epiphanic moment when angels will write in clouds across the northern sky for all to see, “Mission Accomplished. Hallelujah.”
The ‘Glen Beck- Come back to God’ Tea Party are raging about Government invading every aspect of our private lives, but what might surprise them is that what has gone wrong is not the economy-stupid, but the theology. Once we believed in Providence, what George Washington called that ‘all powerful and inscrutable dispensation.” Now we expect the Government to play God, to provide, to be the final rainbow of hope after the flood, the drought, the fire and storm, the eternal evangelist of Good News when jobs die and houses are repossessed. We don’t blame God or ourselves anymore, we blame the Government. And hence, our politics has become drenched in a heresy that used to be called Pelagianism, that man is able to do it all without God.
Meanwhile, the mainstream Churches seems to have abdicated the field of common concern-no voices are raised or if they are, none are heard that say that perhaps our crisis is less of debt and inflation, and more of greed and hubris, where like the original Babel, we thought we could build our towers and condo’s to populate the heavens. And then, when it all seems to come crashing down, instead of Jonah convincing Niniveh to repent, we are all gearing up to vote these fakers out of office and demand they repay us what we lost. It was all their fault.
They did it for the banks and for the car companies, paid them our taxes to make up for their sins so that their debts could be forgiven, and it should be for us, just as we pray, “forgive us our debts as you forgave those who were indebted to us.” Though we don’t want to start another witch hunt, Christine O’Donnell not withstanding, someone needs to get on a pulpit here and there and start thundering that “Judgement is near.” We are trapped in the heresy of thinking God’s emissary on earth is not the Pope but the Government, and that Providence is now a matter of public policy, and being full of grace is when the GDP goes up by 4%. Where is Saint Augustine when you need him.
When November 2nd rolls around, we should all be praying: ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’, and realise that its God we are talking to, not the Government. Amen.