This article is being written from the perspective of an outsider touring a portion of the recent tornado’s destructive path through Alabama. I drove through two of the lesser damaged cities near Birmingham and the level of destruction was in a word, amazing. The sad reality I felt while viewing the masses of twisted trees and metal was these places wouldn’t make the top ten list of damaged areas across Georgia and Alabama. This was truly one of the worst storms of all time in an area already infamous for being a tornado-zone. The upside of my trip was the sight of church and faith-based relief work in place in both areas. Denominational and church teams were involved in many visible ways. Such rapid and on-going response to people in crisis is one way to share the Gospel of Jesus with the public. This is also a proper demonstration of Christian theology: God doesn’t cause destructive storms but He works for good in the aftermath. The church responding to someone else's crisis is part of the good that God brings to the afflicted and damaged.
Sadly this isn’t a universally accepted view of theology. There are preachers and tons of Christians who place the blame for such storms on God. Growing up I heard this preached and discussed on many occasions. God sent that storm (or insert earthquake, flood, disease, etc.) due to the sin of the people. God was just gettin’ their attention! Thankfully this shallow and wholly inadequate theology (my view) did not stick and I have been able to see the God of the New Testament profiled in the person and teachings of Jesus. This is not a haughty statement of theological superiority. That too would be against the teachings of the New Testament (Romans 14); it is simply a confession of personal theology that does not inadvertently make God out to be a very bad deity.
Imagine your house was totally destroyed in a storm and you were left with nothing but a pile of rubble. How would you feel? Would you want to hear that God brought your loss due to sin or a lack of attention? Or, would you hope to feel the enveloping love of God while standing in the midst of personal tragedy? I’m guessing most everyone would chose the latter. So why do so many people move so quickly to blame God and sin? Well, it’s easy and convenient and very human to require a scapegoat or someone to blame. It’s also true that humans want a concrete handle on even the most abstract events of life. In the case of tornados it might be best to simply apply meteorological science available on the evening newscast: hot air and cold air banging together cause very bad storms.
And to those who are so quick to blame sin or the act of ignoring God for storm damage…why are our houses still standing?