God and Natural Disasters

As Japlightningan vibrates in the wake of more aftershocks following the March earthquake and tsunami, a new study by the Religion News Service reveals that 51 percent of American evangelicals believe that "God sometimes punishes nations for the sins of some of its citizens."

The poll, which surveyed 1,008 people in the days following the earthquake and tsunami, indicated that although not all Americans think that God uses disasters to punish nations, a majority believe that He has control over the natural world.

In spite of evangelicals' private beliefs that God controls natural disasters—and may even punish nations for their sins—they are often quick to disavow those who attempt to connect specific sins with specific disasters.

In 2009, Baptist pastor John Piper was questioned for suggesting a connection between a lightning strike on the steeple of a Lutheran church in downtown Minneapolis and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's vote—blocks away on the same day—in favor of homosexual behavior.

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In 2010, Pat Robertson was criticized for connecting the earthquake in Haiti to that nation's history of voodoo spiritism.

In recent weeks, prophetic minister Cindy Jacobs raised the ire of bloggers and pundits for suggesting that the increase in global natural disasters may have connections to President Barack Obama's December repeal of the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy that barred open homosexuals from serving in the military.

Neither of these perspectives seem to diminish Americans' willingness to give to programs that alleviate suffering in affected areas. The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted that in the five days following the disaster, $64 million was raised for relief efforts in Japan. And much of this was raised by religious organizations—ostensibly from some of the same generous evangelicals who believe God uses natural disasters to judge nations. {jcomments on}

— Religion News Service, The Chronicle of Philanthropy

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