On April 10, 1912, a ship set sail from Southampton, England, headed to New York. Titanic was the largest ship of its kind and was declared unsinkable. In fact, a White Star employee said, “God Himself could not sink this ship.” As Titanic made her way through the calm waters of the Atlantic on the evening of April 14, an unassuming iceberg was napping beneath a blanket of darkness. It was misty and still when the unsinkable ship and the unassuming iceberg crossed paths. Within 3 hours, over 1500 men, women, and children were dead.
How could something like this have happened? Some people say God did it, or, more precisely, he allowed it. Yes, Titanic was going too fast for the conditions. Yes, poor judgment on more than one occasion was exercised, and, yes, these things together contributed to the disaster, but God, in his righteous indignation, allowed the incredible series of errors to unfold for one reason and one reason only: It was said that he could not sink the ship. He decided that he could show them better than he could tell them. God: 1. Titanic: 0.
I know that not everyone believes that a divine hand led to Titanic’s fate, but replace the sinking of the Titanic with the Ebola and AIDS pandemics, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, or the 2004 tsunami. In each of these natural disasters, Christian leaders took to their pulpits to declare them judgements of God.
Last year, Catholic Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia, Liberia, implied that Ebola might be a punishment from God because of homosexuality. After he made these statements, attacks on the LGBT community in Liberia increased. And here in the US last October, televangelist John Hagee blamed President Obama and his policies on Israel for Ebola arriving on our shores. It doesn’t seem to matter that those killed or affected by these tragedies are not the guilty parties. One of my own friends blamed a string of tornadoes ripping through the Midwest on the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage. Yet not one of the victims who lost life or property had anything to do with the SCOTUS’ decision (and I’m well aware that many Christians answer this by claiming that no one is innocent; everyone is a sinner worthy of death at God’s whim). I’m just saying, if God uses a flood to judge America for abortion, then drowning babies seems, to me, not only hypocritical but also ironically counterproductive.
If, indeed, there were a thin-skinned God who took offense to the claim, why not go after the person who made it? Why slaughter 1500 people who had nothing to do with it? Or better yet, why not sink the ship while it was berthed? To snap the unsinkable ship in two and send it to the briny deep before it even set sail would’ve been much more impressive.
Even though we now know about germ theory and virology, even though we know that catastrophic earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes happened before the earth was even populated, way before there was a single person who needed to be pimp slapped, even though we can predict weather patterns and cosmic events, people will still get in their pulpits and use these occasions to spread divisiveness and punitive unrest. And for every leader who perpetuates the belief of an angry, vengeful God, there are plenty who are willing to grab their torches and pitchforks and give their God all the help he needs. Ignorance: 1. Love: 0.