Lately, whenever a natural disaster occurs, you can almost take it to the bank that some unhinged pastor is going to suggest that it happened because we somehow angered God. Earlier this week, a far-right pastor suggested the rash of wildfires in California are a sign that God is punishing the Golden State for its permissive culture.
In a column for BarbWire, the religious right blog run Liberty Council Action vice president Matt Barber, pastor Frank Whitney wondered if California had earned a “deserved judgment” in the form of these wildfires. To his mind, the answer was yes.
Whitney argued that with these wildfires, the Almighty was rendering his verdict for a legacy of laws that supposedly don’t please him. Not just the obvious ones, like civil rights protections for the LGBT community (or as Whitney puts it, “the promotion of sodomy”) or the “redefinition of marriage.” As far as Whitney is concerned, California has been in God’s bad books since 1969, when then-governor Ronald Reagan signed a law legalizing no-fault divorce. Whitney claimed that with this law, California became “the first state in the union to directly attack and undermine God’s holy institution of marriage.”
Whitney also thinks God is angry at California’s role in the pornography industry, which is centered in the San Fernando Valley. He also cited numerous instances of transgender people demanding “special privileges”–including a recently-passed law that calls for $1,000 fines for intentionally misgendering someone.
This article appears to be an extended version of a sermon Whitney recently preached at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Pasadena, Maryland. Watch here.
In both the sermon and the article, Whitney had the gall to talk about the abject suffering that these fires have brought to the people. For instance, a number of bodies in Sonoma County have been reduced to “ash and bones.” A woman in Mendocino County was so badly burned that both of her legs had to be amputated below the knee. Her family actually had to abandon their car while fleeing their home because it caught on fire.
This isn’t the first time that Whitney has spat in the faces of victims. You may recall that earlier this summer, he suggested that Ariana Grande bore some responsibility for the horrific bomb attack at her concert in Manchester. Why? She’d supposedly been practicing “every form of immorality” after rejecting Christianity and supposedly selling herself to the devil. Therefore, she may have been as bad or even worse than the terrorists who carried out the attack. That comes very close to blaming the parents for letting their kids attend that concert.
But this screed is just as bad, if not worse. Talking about what innocent people have suffered, then suggesting that it was brought about because of sin? Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up as an evangelical, but in all my years of sifting through religious right lunacy, this disconnect is hard to understand.
Riddle me this, Frank. Are you willing to tell Californians who have had to endure these fires that they happened because God is punishing their state? And are you willing to do so to their faces? If not, sir, here’s some advice–just shut up! You should be offering words of comfort to them, not hellfire and brimstone.
(featured image courtesy Dan Everett, available under a Creative Commons-BY license)