In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria ravishing the United States and Caribbean, we’ve seen a number of pastors revert to what has become a very disturbing tradition–claiming that these and other natural disasters are the result of sin. Never mind that whenever they spew this bilge and word gets out about it, they get busted in the chops, and hard. After all, in most cases they’re preaching to the choir.
One of the worst offenders in this has been Rick Joyner. Earlier this month, he declared the massive flooding that Harvey brought to Houston was rooted in “sin and wickedness.” Specifically, legalized abortion and marriage equality. He believes that Harvey was one of a number of “judgments” we’ll face until we turn back to God.
Needless to say, the criticism came in hard and fast–including from Joyner’s own daughter, environmental activist Anna Jane Joyner. She has made it her life’s work to awaken Christians to the reality of climate change, and was dumbfounded that her father seemed to ignore the evidence that Harvey turned into a monster in part due to spending so much time over territory with warmer water and high humidity.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like her dad got the hint. On Thursday, Joyner took to Facebook to double down on his view that the recent spate of natural disasters is tied to sin. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Joyner’s latest spiel started out well. He touched on Proverbs 24:16 (“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again…”). He said that God is pleased when we get up and “press on.” While it may look hard to believe God accepts you if you fall, Joyner urged his viewers to “trust in the cross” and know it was “enough payment” for our sins. Real ministry, he says, is based on the cross, since Jesus is our righteousness. He added that when we try to add to it, or think God will strike us down when we fail, it’s actually “an affront to the cross.”
But about four minutes in, Joyner started going off the rails. He claimed that while this country has “never been a perfect nation,” it has fallen to the point of calling something evil when God calls it good, and calling something good when God calls it evil–the “ultimate depravity” identified in Isaiah 1-5. As a result, dozens of people, and the nation in general, has turned to “perversions and delusions and separations from God.”
From where Joyner is sitting, this fall can be precisely dated.
“I think you can measure the meltdown of morality, integrity, the increasing dysfunction of our government and governments, and just about so many other things that are going on now to the time when we basically started saying, ‘God, get out of our life. We don’t want you in our public places, we don’t want you mentioned in our books, in our histories. We don’t want anyone to use your name or pray in your name. We just want you out of here.'”
This is a new twist on standard religious right agitprop. For years, the religious right has peddled the idea that the nation went off the rails with a series of landmark Supreme Court decisions that declared it was unconstitutional to require prayer and Bible reading in public schools. As Joyner sees it, the bill is coming due in the form of crazy weather.
“It’s amazing–hurricanes strike us, earthquakes, everything else. And everyone’s first response is, ‘Where is God when this happens? Well, we told him to leave. That’s where he is.”
Joyner likened this to how God doesn’t come into his own church unless he’s invited–so likewise, when we ask God to leave, he left starting in the 1960s. He believes the restoration will only come when we invite God back in. Um, Rick? You forget that Matthew 18:20 says that where two or more are gathered in God’s name, he’s there.
While there is never a good time for this sort of bilge, Joyner’s rant came as the full extent of the devastation Maria brought to Puerto Rico became clear. The island’s infrastructure has been left in a shambles; notably, the entire island is without power, and several residents may not get power back for months. To add insult to injury, the flooding caused a reservoir in northwestern Puerto Rico to swell, bringing a nearby dam to the brink of failure. Some 70,000 people in the area have been warned to evacuate.
I showed this latest screed to Anna Jane on Facebook Messenger. She wasn’t all that surprised, saying that it had become “the story of my life” in recent years. She’d just talked with her father earlier in the day, and “he was so pleasant.” Seeing this screed from 24 hours earlier struck her as a “mindf**k.”
Anna Jane later told me on the phone that she doesn’t think her father is evil–just blind. Hopefully Joyner is willing to open his eyes, and soon. This sort of talk isn’t helping.
(featured image courtesy Joyner’s Facebook)