In these times of American hyper-partisanship, even the response to an act of God like hurricane Katrina is revealing.
The disaster, which devastated the extremely red states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, brought no snide claims of “divine retribution” from the voices of the left. No one declared that a just God wrought vengeance upon the South for its sins of slavery, succession, civil war, Jim Crow or more recently, its coronation of George W. Bush. Instead, the liberal blogosphere, led by sites like DailyKos, urged readers to come to the aid of their fellow Americans, providing news updates, offers of shelter for refugees and support for the Red Cross.
Contrast that reaction to the compassionate conservative response of the radical right to acts of God – and man. Time and after time, the mouthpieces of the American Taliban that now have the ear of the President and the wallet of the Republican Party praised the wrath of an angry God that smited their enemies for a laundry list of sins and perversions.
The Robertsons, Falwells and Buchanans of the world differ only in degree, and not kind, from the likes of the Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Phelps has held anti-gay protests all over the country, most notably at the 1998 funeral of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. Phelps latest abomination is to lead demonstrations at the funerals of U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Phelps and his congregants (mostly family members) contend that American soldiers are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God for protecting a country that harbors gays. At their funerals, they offer shouts “God hates fags” and “God hates you” at the mourners.
All of which raises the question: where was Pat Robertson during hurricane Katrina? The same man who prayed to God to kill American Supreme Court justices has also claimed that his power of prayer altered the course of hurricane Gloria in 1985, sparing his headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
So while those on the left offer compassion, assistance and prayers for their neighbors impacted by the natural disaster that was Katrina, the reactionary right continues to use divine retribution as just another tool in its arsenal. All involved would do well to reflect on Abraham Lincoln’s words of caution to North and South from his second inaugural:
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other…The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.
I often hear people say there is no difference between politicians of the left or the right, or that the right is somehow more “moral” than those on the left, or that people who espouse religion lack values somehow.
This is what makes us different. This is what makes us not more moral, not more special, not having better values, but, perhaps – more compassionate, more caring, more loving. We understand that humans have foibles and flaws. We know the world is not always kind. But we don’t blame God, or claim he’s “on our side”. We look for the best possible outcome of whatever situation we find ourselves in – not for ourselves alone, but for everyone involved.
This is what makes us different. That we care, not only for ourselves, our position, our “side” — but for everyone.