Having written my previous blog on the idea that natural events are caused by personal sin, I had another string of thoughts that I must put out there.
Bishop Brian claims it is murder (e.g. Cain and Abel), homosexuality, and other such sins that directly caused the event. Often abortion is also singled out in such ‘prophetic oracles.’ Let’s just assume for a moment that the honorable bishop is correct, and God is smiting New Zealand for these sins.
The first question that comes to mind is why this place of all places? According to GeoNet the quake hit fifteen km north-east of Culverden. I suppose on the rationale of the bishop we are to suppose that the people of Waiau and Culverden are really bad sinners. As God supposedly chose this place, they must be guilty of more of this than other New Zealanders? Their sins have purportedly made the earth there heavy, and it is spewing up.
Now, in 2013 Culverden was a country town of 428. North-east is Waiau, very close to the epicentre, which had 261 people in the 2013 census. If God is upset with our sins, why here? Are the folk of Waiau or Culverden worse sinners than others in NZ? Taking Jesus’ question in Luke 13:2-5 see previous blog), are these 700 or so people worse sinners than say, people from Albany, Auckland (where I live)? I would have thought a good volcanic eruption in Auckland might be closer to the money (if his assumption is true).
I see in Culverden there are other retailers, a Four Square Shop, Farmlands, a motel, PGG Wrightson. There are also the Culverden Tearooms (a scene of carnal pleasure?), a Challenge Petrol Shop, a domain, a silversmith, and a school. There is a pub. Aha, is this the scene of the debauchery that led to the earthquake? Or is it the Culverden Indoor Bowling Club where it is all going on? I see there is a police station in Culverden, perhaps a harbinger of the rampant crime pervading the town. I looked around the Canterbury police statistics, but didn't earth up much on Culverden. Ah, but then there is also a Catholic Church there and the Amaru Cooperating Church, which is listed in the Presbyterian Church’s of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Of course, these are traditional churches—can they be taken seriously?
Getting real; two churches, one pub, mmmm, worse sinners? Absolutely not. I can hear Jesus’ answer to his own rhetorical question in Luke 13—no, they are not worse sinners. Rather, he said watch yourself, me and Bishop Brian included.
What about Waiau? Here there is even less going on. There is a motor camp, a school, a foodmarket, a café, a lodge, a hall and library, a few other spots, and houses. As the epicenter of the earthquake, one wonders what the heck may have been going on in these places? Are the folk of these small South Island Towns living horrendous lives of sin under those roofs? Somehow, I think not any more than those in the areas Destiny Churches are found are doing so.
Then there is the second question of what sins Brian highlights. He and others who espouse such a theology and interpretation of the world seem focused on sexual sins (especially homosexuality) and abortion. Now, I am pro-life and find abortion deeply grieving. I also have a pretty conventional Christian view of sexuality. However, for the life of me, I can’t understand why these particular sins are singled out above others.
Where sex is concerned, what about the enormous range of other sexual sins that are going on around the place? I myself lived in a de facto relationship in my early 20s before becoming a Christian. We lived in Pakuranga-Howick, Auckland, why were we not smote? I sure deserved it with this line of thinking.
While Jesus did speak on sexual immorality, he spoke more about sins concerning money and greed than anything else? Way more! Luke’s Gospel is almost a manifesto against greed! So, what about the sins of rampant materialism, consumption, greed, and the acquisition of enormous wealth at the expense of others? This could include those who preach a false prosperity gospel that God makes us wealthy if we are generous and obedient, especially with tithes and offerings. It could include those who have become rich through their ministries? Paul warns Timothy of such people in 1 Tim 6 where he states that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil! Is the real problem materialism? The problem with this is that would mean the good folk of Waiau and Culverden are hoarding their wealth at the expense of others to a degree greater than the rest of the nation. Mmmmm. Hardly likely.
What about hypocrisy? Jesus spoke on that a lot, heaps in fact. When talking on hypocrisy it was almost always the religious leaders in his sights. Could it be the hypocrisy of religious leaders that caused the terrible events in Canterbury? Then again, with no church buildings in Waiau (I may be wrong on this but couldn't see one on google earth), that is hardly likely either. Or are the clergy of Culverden to blame? Like, like most small towns, the believers can’t afford clergy, so that idea can be put to bed. What about other sins of arrogance and pride? What about social injustices like racism, sexism, and mistreating others because they are different? Like homosexuals for example. You don’t find Jesus targeting them at all! When he targeted people it was always religious leaders for their hypocrisy and legalistic self-righteousness! Religious leaders be warned!
The truth is that the whole assumption that these earthquakes is due to the sins of these poor folk is utterly repulsive and unfair. It is to be repudiated as repugnant. Is it acceptable for supposed theologically astute church leader to make such claims? It is theologically wrong and it is downright mean. Even if God does smite people in this way, the claims just don’t add up. Why the heck these little towns? Why the heck these particular sins?
I prefer Jesus’ approach—we are all sinners and we all need God’s mercy and salvation. When he came, he didn’t come to smite us but to befriend us and welcome us into a different world. Where there was suffering, he didn't preach wrath, he reached out in love. He fed them. He healed them. He welcomed them. He didn't accumulate wealth, he divested it. He foresaw a world that does no condemn but invites people into relationship with a God who identifies with people in their suffering. So, seriously? Come on!