Evangelicals fall into three camps when it comes to the recent spate of hurricanes, tropical storms, and flooding. One camp says these weather events are retribution from God over homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, or _________________ (fill in blank with latest “sin” Evangelicals are offended by). The second camp sees these events as tests of their faith; that God is ready and willing to perform miraculous works if they will but storm the throne room of Heaven with their prayers. A smattering of Evangelicals, deeply immersed in the teachings of John Calvin, believe that God is the divine weatherman; that recent weather events are manufactured and controlled by God — according to his sovereign — often secret — purpose and plan. I recently wrote a post on this third camp titled, Hurricane Harvey: Where is God When the Flood Waters Rise?.
Today, I want to write about the second camp: Evangelicals who see hurricanes, flooding, and other cataclysmic events as tests of their faith; that God desires to hear and answer their prayers, if and when enough Christians, in one accord, pray for him to come to their rescue. Presently, social media is flooded with hurricane levels of praying. Some of these praying Evangelicals believe that since Hurricane Irma was not as bad as weathermen thought it would be, this is proof that God heard and answered their prayers.
Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, recently wrote a post titled These People Think Their Prayers Had an Impact on Hurricane Irma. Hemant shared social media screen shots to illustrate his post:
These Christians, along with countless other praying believers, think that their prayers reached a certain numerical threshold upon which God answered their prayers; that if they will only keep praying and encourage other people to pray, the sheer number of their prayers will reach the “stop hurricane in its tracks” level. Evidently, God is a busy man. If Christians want him to stop what he is doing and answer their prayers, there better be a lot of praying going on. This is the Evangelical version of the government petition website established by President Barack Obama. If a petition reached a signature threshold, the government would respond to the petition. So it is with God and prayers.
The number of prayers required for God to answer must be quite high. I am certain that tens of millions of devout, Jesus-loving, church-going, sin-hating Evangelicals prayed for God to turn aside hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Based on damage reports coming out of Texas, it is evident that Evangelicals must not have prayed enough prayers for God to stop his vacation early and deliver Houstonians and other Texans from Harvey’s murderous rampage. However, according to the aforementioned praying Christians, the “you are a winner” level was met and God reduced Irma from a category 5 storm to a category 2. Evidently, not enough Christians prayed, so God refused to stop Irma in her tracks. God did — thanks to his tender mercies, love, and kindness — however, turn down the wind, lessening the carnage wrought upon Florida. Or so Christians say, anyway.
A friend of mine on Facebook by the name of Bonnie has several Christian friends who resolutely and infallibly believe that the prayers of God’s chosen ones led to a better storm outcome in Florida than in Texas. Trying to point out the absurdity of their comments falls on deaf ears. No amount of skepticism, reason, and science moves them. These prayer warriors know what they know, and facts will not move them off the notion that prayer can and does change things. They are certain that God not only listens to their prayers, but he also, when so inclined, answers them.
I learned long ago that people who believe in supernatural magic — a God-man who lives in heaven and is capable of hearing millions of prayers at the same time, will, on rare occasions answer Christian prayers — cannot be reached with reason, facts, and logic. Convinced that they can manipulate the material world though uttering words to the ceiling or saying silent words in their minds, these worshipers of the one true God are impervious to arguments and data that challenge their worldview. These believers in the prayer-answering God will continue to pray because it is the only way they can make sense of the world. They want to and must believe that their lives have meaning and purpose; that the Christian God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives; that this God is their Father and he is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Using the recent carnage in Texas and Florida as a focal point, ask yourselves, is God acting like a loving, caring Father? Is God acting in ways that would lead people to think that he is your BFF? Some readers might ask, How can we know what God can and can’t do or what God did or didn’t do during the recent weather events? This question, from an Evangelical perspective, is quite easy to answer. God is the Creator, the first-cause of EVERYTHING. The Christian God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He is the sovereign Lord over the heavens and the earth. Nothing happens that is not according to his divine purpose and plan. Whether he actively decrees things or passively allows them to happen, God is in full control of what happens. He has the absolute power to stop or change events such as hurricanes Harvey and Irma. If people are maimed and killed, it is because God commanded it or allowed it to happen. The thoughts and ways of this God — Jesus is his name — are above ours, and as the Apostle Paul stated in the book of Romans, we are not to question what he does or doesn’t do. In other words, God is always right, regardless whether a hurricane kills zero people or three thousand. Simply put, God is God, shut the hell up.
I am grateful that Irma turned out not to be as deadly and destructive as it could have been. The weather is an unpredictable beast. Weathermen trained in meteorological science and predictive methodology do what they can to warn us when bad weather is headed our way. Sometimes, they miss the mark; other times they are spot on. Either way, prudent people pay attention to weather reports. I am always amused at Evangelical hypocrisy when it comes to “trusting” God during severe weather events. If God is as caring and powerful as Christians say he is, then why don’t praying believers hunker down and pray out the storm? Surely the God who promised to never leave or forsake Christians would be right there with them as the winds blow and the flood water rise. While a handful of Evangelicals will foolishly put their God to the test, most of them wisely and prudently flee to safer and higher ground. Their behavior in times of calamity reveals that Evangelicals talk and pray a good line, but when push comes to hurricane, they will do all they can to keep from being killed. When forced to ride out severe weather, many Christians will make sure their pantries are stocked, water bottles are filled, and that they have the necessary supplies to successfully weather whatever comes their way. Again, why not trust God to meet their every need — as Elijah did at Brook Cherith when God sent ravens daily to bring the prophet bread and meat (I Kings 17)?
Try as they might to paint themselves as benighted beings who live on some sort of supernatural plane of existence, Christians are, in every way, quite human. Much like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines they condemn and deem sinful vermin, Evangelicals like houses, lands, and property, love their families, and they want, to quote the venerable Spock, to Live Long and Prosper. Doing so requires, not prayer, but human decision and action. Nothing fails like prayer, and all the anecdotal stories in the world won’t change this fact. Prayers might provide comfort to those inclined to believe that God exists, but I suspect, for many Christians, praying is an exercise they know is futile and changes nothing. They pray because the Bible commands them to and their upbringing demands it, but deep down they doubt the value and efficacy of praying.