It’s encouraging, in a way, to find that the
The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., plans to stage protests at funerals of victims of the 35W bridge collapse to state that God made the bridge fall because he hates America, and especially Minnesota, because of its tolerance of homosexuality.
… In a press release issued the day after the bridge collapse, the church called for protests at the funerals and outlined its feelings about the relationship between God’s plan and the sins of Minneapolis and Minnesota, which it calls the “land of the Sodomite damned.”
Reached at the church, Shirley Phelps Roper, who is both the daughter of the pastor and one of the attorneys for the church, said that America, and Minnesota especially, have alienated God by its tolerance for homosexuality, and that the bridge collapse was an act of God’s vengeance. She said:
“The bridge stood in place by the word of God and it fell by the word of God…Each of these little events is just a harbinger of the coming destruction of this American experiment. We are delivering the final call of the doomed nation.”
Minnesota? Tolerant? This in state where conservatives are opposing a bill that would grant same-sex couples the right to hospital visitation? I guess that makes sense. After all, that means a bill was introduced to grant hospital visitation to same-sex couples.
So, perhaps blaming the bridge collapse on “God’s wrath” (because the people of Minnesota should be putting fags in the hospital, not letting them visit each other in the hospital) isn’t so far-fetched. It may not even be all that extreme. Not everyone who thinks that way is a wild-eye, sign-waving, slogan-screaming maniac. PZ Myers linked to this take on the bridge collapse, from a guy who crossed the bridge on his way to church and crossed it on his way out of town the day before it collapsed.
Jesus implies that those who brought him this news thought he would say that those who died, deserved to die, and that those who didn’t die did not deserve to die. That is not what he said. He said, everyone deserves to die. And if you and I don’t repent, we too will perish. This is a stunning response. It only makes sense from a view of reality
that is radically oriented on God.
All of us have sinned against God, not just against man. This is an outrage ten thousand times worse than the collapse of the 35W bridge. That any human is breathing at this minute on this planet is sheer mercy from God. God makes the sun rise and the rain fall on those who do not treasure him above all else. He causes the heart to beat and the lungs to work for millions of people who deserve his wrath. This is a view of reality that desperately needs to be taught in our churches, so that we are prepared for the calamities of the world.
As PZ points out, you perish whether you repent or not. Maybe not because you happened to cross an unstable bridge. But what’s interesting is that the writer invokes reality in the middle of a viewpoint that seems utterly divorced from it. He acknowledges, but quickly veers away from logical explanations for the collapse; related to ongoing repairs and strains on the bridge. But he stops short of saying God knocked the bridge down or allowed it to collapse. Because it doesn’t matter why the bridge collapsed.
It doesn’t matter because dying on the 35W as it collapses is better than any of the victims deserved; better, in fact, than any of us deserves. The same can be applied to everything from perishing in the floodwaters of Katrina, being wiped off the face of the earth by the force of a tsunami, or perishing in the flames of 9/11. In fact, the same can be said for living in grinding poverty, or suffering just about any illness (without access to health care, of course). Just about any condition can be categorized under the “better than he/she/they/we deserve” heading, because we are all — each and every human being on the face of the earth — so bereft of any inherent goodness, worth, or value of our own that we deserve nothing less than destruction. Slow, fast, etc., doesn’t matter because nothing can be so horrific as to be wholly undeserved.
It’s an extension of the notion of original sin, or even the more Calvinist notion of total depravity. We are so innately bad that we deserve whatever we get. And that’s applied by believers to themselves, including the author of the post above. What might the rest of us, who have not embraced that same faith deserve?
The writer also mentioned mercy. What manner of mercy does this kind of belief inspire? What manner of policy?