Is the coronavirus pandemic an “act of God” as some claimed HIV/AIDS, Hurricane Katrina, the Black Death, and the Mt. Vesuvius eruption were?
So far, I haven’t heard anyone say so. But then, Jerry Falwell is dead. The pope knows better. And the doddering Pat Robertson has “underlying conditions.” He could be next. He’s sweatin’ Bibles.
Back in the day, when I was an apologist for theism, the categorical claim “act of God” made me bristle. What’s up with that? Does God only wreak havoc? Why are only floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and pestilences “acts of God”? What about a gorgeous day? Can’t that be an “act of God”?
Surely God needs a better PR department, I thought. Where were the Mad Men when God needed them?!
I heard of an Australian fisherman who lost his boat to a lightning strike. It wasn’t a leisure boat. It was his livelihood.
The insurance company refused payment since the strike was an “act of God.” The fisherman sued the church hierarchy. After all, they claimed to be God’s representatives on earth.
The case went to court.
For thousands of years, God was the only explanation for every unknown. And for just as long, God was the only hope of mitigation. Many looked to God for deliverance from pandemics and pestilences. Now most of us look to science for explanations and mitigation.
Still, I’m not ruling God out of this pandemic. Not quite yet.
Let’s say this pandemic is an “act of God” like “the plagues of Egypt.” Who, then, would be the blustery, belligerent, bully Pharaoh, who thinks he’s all powerful and all knowing, holding sway over the world? Who needs to be humbled?
I’m pretty sure it’s not Tom Hanks.
See Paula’s photograph on the home page.
Could this pandemic be considered the one where the chickens come home to roost? Or maybe the one where it’s time to pay the piper? Or maybe it’s biology’s method of thinning the herd?
We all love our plane trips, boat rides, exotic vacas…..and we all hope the planet’s environment doesn’t suffer too much, but what the hell? We deserve these diversions!
However, no matter if God is at fault or we goof-ball humans blundered again, everyone please wash your hands and talk via FaceTime to the grands for awhile.
And thank you for this post.
Another great post, Randy. Theodicy is a rich discussion topic. I love this: Why are only floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and pestilences “acts of God”? What about a gorgeous day? Can’t that be an “act of God”?”
You would think after all this time Yahweh would have honed his wrath skill set. His self-anointed one out of Liberty University points the finger at North Korea and germ warfare, Jim Bakker is backing a “silver” solution cure for a price, and someone is suggesting that the hills and hollers of West Virginia will help keep the infection rate down, as we are historically an isolated, clannish folk by nature. I think we should go with the “too early to call” pending testing more than 38 some people in West Virginia, at this writing. I am going with Elvis Costello on this one: “Blame it on Cain, Oh-oh, oh, please don’t blame it on me, It’s nobody’s fault, But it just seems to be his turn.”
Perhaps WV has been spared the virus because the beautiful mountains, hollers, and the pure country folk are already an act of god. In every crisis there is the saddest person in the world and the happiest person. I’m still contemplating the latter. God knows the insurance execs are meeting full-time trying to find ways to escape paying for any of this crisis and finding a scapegoat.
I have always thought of religion in its worst form as an act of zoomorphism. Unspecified reverence is a little better. Pick up a leaf and god lives under it. We are so arrogant to believe we understand. No insult or negativity intended.
If we think of God as the “Guy in the sky”, it doesn’t make sense to blame the pandemic on Him. However, if (as I believe), God is in everything and through everything maybe, just maybe, this is Spirit making a sorely needed course correction. We are having to stop just about all we do and take a look. The earth is getting a break!
I dunno about God as such, but I do believe there are organizing principles or themes in the Cosmos. Physicists talk about the strong force, the weak force, electromagnetism, and gravity–and still search, I believe, for a unified theory to cover all of them. My candidate for the great overarching principle or theme would be irony. Irony puts humans in their place. As a down-home example, we’ve been told these past few days to wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands and we’d gain some control over our exposure to COVID-19. Therefore, late yesterday afternoon, here in Shepherdstown, the water went out.
Back when I was an “apologist for theism” and asked why God did this or that it was in times of shock or grief, seldom in times of joy or celebration. It is hard for theological thinking to get beyond our anthropcentric biases. God is just like us only bigger – more good or more bad. I look for God in the results, not the cause.
Society is so willing to place the blame somewhere else. Perhaps this is God reaching out saying that we really do need a United Nations approach to our world as it shrinks smaller and smaller. As Robin Williamson said in his song, “What rubs you, rubs me.”