If we’ve learned anything from the last 30 years or so of televangelism, God is responsible for nothing. The responsibility for all of the world’s tragedies lie squarely in the laps of gays, non-Christians, people who have sex, abortion, feminism and birth control. But what happens if a tragedy strikes at the geographical heart of evangelical Christianity?
On Monday night, a horrific tornado, measuring as much as a two miles wide and 22 miles long, devastated a suburb of Oklahoma City, OK. Its wreckage imagines the worst of war-torn countries. At this point, 15 adults and nine children have been confirmed dead.
While Americans are setting aside party politics and lending a hand where a hand is needed, televangelist, Pat Robertson, has consistently done what he does best – point fingers.
A couple of years ago when asked why God lets tornado happen, Robertson’s answer was that God created weather patterns (or something like that) and that the blame should be placed on the people that chose to live in the weather’s way. If only there was a follow-up question asking where, exactly, people were immune from weather and natural disasters. He also said that Jesus would have stopped the tornado if only people had prayed enough.
“If enough people were praying He would’ve intervened, you could pray, Jesus stilled the storm, you can still storms.”]
Here’s the video:
This story caught my eye because there is a debate happening on my Facebook page about the power of prayer. Prayer, in my opinion, is a healthy way to help a person deal with stress. It’s like meditation. However, as a method of disaster prevention, not so much. You can be sure that many if not most of history’s slaves prayed on a daily basis. You can be equally sure about the victims of the Holocaust. No amount of prayer helped save them from the tragedies that befell them. Prayer may have helped them stay positive, though.
Sometimes, however, prayer comes with a certain amount of bullying – as demonstrated by Pat Robertson. If bad things happen, the story goes, blame yourself. God is never at fault. You weren’t righteous enough to prevent tragedy and if you were righteous enough, then surely your neighbors brought the wrath upon you. But it even goes beyond that. “I’ll pray for you” can be used as a weapon. It is often the last word in an argument. It signals disapproval and it signals self-righteousness.
Prayer without expectation can be beneficial. So can an hour of quiet time or an intense session of exercise. For that matter, a good book (as opposed to THE Good Book) can help me navigate the world ahead. Just don’t expect the seas to part because of it. That only happened once, despite thousands of years’ worth of prayer since.
No one has the right to tell someone not to pray, but the flip side of that is that no one has the right to tell me that God will punish me for not praying. If you believe in the big guy in the sky, then you should believe that he will hear your prayers, regardless of my opinion about them, and that his wrath toward me is solely up to him.
As for the people in Oklahoma, I will be giving blood today and I have already donated money. You can as well. Here’s a link. Pray if you like, but please accompany it with action.
|Wendy Gittleson grew up in a political family. Her passion is for social justice and fairness. She lives in a union household. In her rare downtime, you’ll find her hiking or exploring the shoreline with her dogs. Follow her on her Facebook page, on her Facebook blog page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson|