Bishop: ‘Gays to blame for terrorism’
The Sunday Telegraph reports that the Rt Rev Graham Dow has proclaimed that the recent floods are ‘God's judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society’. It also reports that ‘one diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless’. The Bishop continues:
This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way… We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused… We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate.
He then gets to the meat of the matter:
In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want… The sexual orientation regulations (which give greater rights to gays) are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance.
Whilst expressing sympathy for those who have lost their homes and possessions, he said the problem with ‘environmental judgment is that it is indiscriminate’. Indeed, and so are car bombs and other terrorist activities. Cranmer would have rather more time for Bishop Dow if, like the Prince of Wales, he had bothered to visit the homeless and weep with those who weep, or had condescended to encourage the Salvation Army in their earthly ministry, instead of pontificating from the heavenlies.
Cranmer posted a response on Mr Dale’s thread on this matter, but it has been completely ignored by his flock (if they understood it). Mr Dale accused the Church of England of being ‘out of touch’ with modern Britain. It may, of course, be modern Britain that is out of touch with God. Never one to cast pearls before swine, Cranmer would like to make his detailed exegesis available to his communicants, not least because divine retribution is rather more complex than simple cause and effect, especially if exegetes take Job into account.
If God is omnipotent (acknowledged in 9:5-7, 8-10, 26:7-14, 12:7-10, 15-25), Job has no hope of establishing his innocence once God has decided to treat him as a sinner (9:20, 29-32), so that when Job speaks of God’s power, the emphasis is on God’s destructive force (9:22-24, 12:13-25). His understanding is therefore limited as God is viewed through the filter of suffering and thereby becomes an enemy (6:4, 16:6ff, 30:19ff), or a persecuting presence from whom respite is desperately sought (7:11-21). Such a hostile response to a deity or ‘fate’ is endemic in victims of trauma. Job is presented with a theological dilemma: If God is good, he cannot be omnipotent, and if he is omnipotent, he cannot be entirely good. We cannot conclude God only has limited control (42:2), because he controls even the satan (42:11). Job may question God’s goodness, but God rejects this (40:8).
It has to follow for Job that God’s unjust treatment of him was always a part of God’s secret plan (10:8-13), like the modern view of those suffering catastrophe that God playing some kind of divine chess game which he is foreordained to win. Job desires to somehow make sense of his trauma, but knows he has done nothing to ‘deserve’ such suffering. Christians have to wrestle with the question of how can we relate to God when the world he made does not make sense, for it often appears that the God of Job is not merely one whose thoughts and ways are simply higher than ours (Isa 55:9), but quite often grotesque and totally alien to them.
Cranmer recalls a song some years ago with the lyric: 'Why does it always rain on me?’ It was followed with the line: 'Is it because I lied when I was seventeen?’ – an expression of the pervasive belief in exact retribution (Prov 9:10-12), as prevalent in twenty-first century 'church’ culture as it was in Job’s. The principal plea of those traumatised is ‘Why me?’ or ‘What have I done to deserve this?’, and the easy and comforting answer is to believe that the suffering is deserved, and that some personal wickedness or ‘sin’ was its cause, because associated guilt places the catastrophe in a comprehensible universal order, namely that suffering is explicable in terms of punishment. Job shares the premise of his friends that because God is just, he rewards the righteous and punishes the guilty, which is why Job can make no sense of his own suffering (10:5-7). ‘I’ve been wronged!… There’s no justice’ (19:7), he cries.
It isn’t easy to square Ps 146 with Job 24:1-12, or Deut 30:15-20 with Eccl 8:14-9:4. The writer of Job clashes directly with the ideology of Proverbs. Proverbs seems to say, 'Here are the rules for life; try them and find that they will work.' Job and Ecclesiastes say, 'We did, and they don’t'. But Job isn’t necessarily a contradiction to Proverbs; more a modification or qualification.
Therein lies the depth and richness of Christian theology. Bishops would be wise to avoid reducing such complex issues to tabloid headlines.