In most fundamentalist Bible reading Churches, whenever there are major hurricanes, volcanoes, a day of tornadoes, earthquakes, storms, hail, drought, fire and frogs upon the land....it is God trying (does God have to try?) to tell us all something. We don't think that the God that can verbalize.... "I blasted you with blight and mildew [from too much rain]. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me,’ says the Lord" (Amos 4:9) could also say:
"Hello, I am God, I'm here in person because it's really important we have a talk. I want you to be happier than this so let's have a chat and I'd be happy to answer any and all questions you might have about why and how and when anytime. Now if you are a fundamentalist I will ask you let others who don't know all the answers be allowed to ask their questions first..."
But alas, God only threatens humans, and always does it through the minds, voices in the heads of, and observations of mortal humans who think they know. All that a Bible literalist can say is that God "could" do it that way, but he chooses not to. I say that something that important deserves clear and concise communication with humans and to definitely not leave us with so much doubt and confusion.
The same God who "spanked" nations and empires in centuries past is still very much in charge. He says, "For I am the Lord, I do not change" (Malachi 3:6) And as we will see, God is punishing us through various natural disasters. Even as our personal and national sins are increasing, so are floods, tornadoes, severe snowstorms and earthquakes. Thus, many of today’s so-called "acts of God" are, in fact, just that—the active intervention of Almighty God. And it is just beginning. Natural calamities are going to get much worse unless we as a nation repent and turn to the true God in heartfelt obedience. Roderick Meredith-Who Controls the Weather
On the other hand...
Weather, especially as observed by the superstitious and uneducated, either by choice or circumstances has always been the tool of the angry God of history who is "trying" to get mankind's attention before He simply has to destroy him once and for all. So much for the idea that after man's creation, "behold it was very good." The Deity needs to make up his mind about us or rethink His original design. It's not our fault! Perhaps we are the one proof of Unintelligent Design....
All through human history, the weather has puzzled humans. Lightning was the result of some activity of the gods. Zeus threw it around at his enemies and his voice was the thunder. Baal was the rain god to whom allegiance must be pledged or there would be drought. ...it is this superstitious use of natural cycles and phenomenon of weather that is still being used to beat and drive people fear- ridden into the arms of waiting churches and pastors who will motivate their loyalty with the same tirades of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who we know were mistaken not a few times
Listen very carefully. Weather is weather. One more time - Weather is weather. It's normal and natural. It is NOT a Deity doing its BEST to get in touch. That idea is simply leftover from a time when men did not understand the forces that governed their world and assigned them meaning that worked at that time, but is NOT the way to motivate sincere humans who have enough on their plate learning to coexist with what is.
Hurricanes always happen where they are prone to happen based on natural cycles and conditions generated by the planet. The SE United States has a coastal profile that shows how many millions of years this erosion has been going on - quite naturally and I dare say before humans ever spent a night in the SE United States. Back then, I suppose Cat. 5 Hurricanes were not tools the gods had thought of using to get the wildlife to come to their senses.
Volcanoes are very natural and are not tools of the gods. They just are the natural result of plate tectonics as are earthquakes. Unfortunately, when humans live on their slopes, or where plates shift, or where tornadoes form, or droughts are wont to occur, we have to find a reason other than the simple fact that we are living in harms way that for the most part does not visit us. I feel deeply for the suffering that all must be going through in New Orleans after this recent hurricane Katrina. But we also have to know that EVERYONE knew that if this ever happened... then this would happen!
When a city or house sits on the sand or in a bowl 20 feet below sea level, next to the sea, someday it will find itself in deep trouble as the normal forces on this planet play out their dance.
The citizens of Herculaneum at the foot of Vesuvius learned this the hard way as well. Today one can see the casts left of where humans died, in detail, covered by the ash that so quickly ended their lives. It's nice to live on the coast with beautiful beaches. It's nice to live at the foot of cone shaped mountains with incredibly fertile soil. It's nice to live in the Midwest United States and grow corn. It's nice to live in Southern California....ok, it used to be nice, or Hawaii, or in the Ring of Fire. But when the earth, which has it's own maintenance system does what it does, there is a chance humans might somewhere find themselves in harms way. It is just that simple. Reaching out to explain natural phenomenon, humans have always imagined the motives of the gods for bringing such things upon them and taking natural processes way too personally. We do this because humans have consciousness they have to work with. Consciousness makes us ask "why us?" Animals don't tend to wonder about such things at their level of consciousness.
We know this and I suspect you know this too, but our superstitious natures combined with believing the Bible speakers must be really really speaking for a real God who does such things, gets in the way of our common sense and vastly improved understanding of such things. We still can't let the facts of what humans know in 2005 AD override the sacred texts of thousands of years gone by. In our heads we know that science has shown us a better way to view things, but in our hearts we just can't let go of the Act of God attitude.
Volcanoes were the homes of the gods for most of human history. Volcanoes are impressive. And we are so very small in relation to them. Earthquakes were the shaking of the earth by the gods. Hail was the throwing of rocks at mankind by the gods. Droughts, quite normal on the planet in their cycles, come and go, but in most of human thinking were the gods way of getting even or pounding humanity into obedient submission. I suspect the priesthood has something to do with the interpretation of events even then.
The assigning of a wrong theological meaning to a natural event for the way the planet works, is a serious mistake in our fundamentalist society. It misleads and frightens people into behaviors that are not helpful and beliefs that are not true.
I'm reminded of some of the biting humor of Sam Kineston who noted that people in the Sudan, starving and standing in nothing but blowing sand did not need food and water...they needed luggage....they needed to mooooooooooooove! as he would yell.
I would also be more impressed with the "Ten Plagues" of the Exodus story were they not common phenomenon to the region. If you have ever been to the Middle East, plagues of flies, frogs, lice, cattle diseases and such are part of normal daily life at times. Water to blood, not so much, but that's another story. And of course killing firstborn was a way of life in one sacrificial form or another in that day and time. Nothing really all that special.
Now if one is to be really impressive let them be:
1. The plague of Polar Bears
2. The plague of Eastern Diamondback Rattle Snakes
3. The plague of angry Kangaroos and Dingoes
4. The plague of LA Smog
5. The plague of biting Chimps
6. The plague of South American Capybara
7. The plague of South Carolina Humidity
8. The plague of being forced to listen to a sermon in LCG, PCG, RCG, okay even WCG, but I suspect that sermon would be very nicey nicey!
9. The plague of a Buffalo, NY Blizzard
10. The plague of ..... ummmm, well you make one up...
Making religious plagues out of common local phenomenon is not very plaguey. It's just more dramatic every day stuff and the things the locals are aware of in their small world.
Through the pages of the Bible we are told that God will bless those who obey Him, with rain in due season and abundant harvests and peace in the land (Lev. 26:3-6, Deut. 28:12). In fact, we’re told that because of obedience to God, our blessings will actually “overtake” us (Deut. 28:1-2). Conversely, we are told that if we disobey God, he will negatively affect the weather; withholding rain (Zech. 14:16-17) and even His “tender mercies” – which can include his protection (Ps. 40:11). God promises to punish the world and the wicked for their evil -- even shaking the heavens (Isa. 13:13). From the writings of King David, we understand that God will chasten or correct those that He loves. David requested that God “remove” His plague (or punishment) from him (Ps. 39:10). Ibid
Yes, this is true, the Bible does say these things. But they are not really true just because the bible says so and this is where the fighting starts in the minds of most. We simply have a terrible time getting past the idea that ideas about why things are as they are, or have occurred as they have occurred as seen through the eyes of people from past ages, uneducated in how things really work on the planet and long dead, are wrong.
We forget that the same book calls a bat a bird (Lev. 11:13-19, and yes, I know the apologetics) and tells us the sun functions from "it's rising in the East until it's setting in the West," is simply wrong. (Ever notice how all "unclean" animals are middle eastern animals or simply those known to the locals? They left a lot of things off the list I might not choose to eat on other parts of the planet, had they known there were other people and parts of the planet.)
Of course these things appear to be so, but the authors had no clue that a bat was a mammal and not a bird and I guess he never looked. I suspect had they ever seen one, a flying squirrel, or snakes that glide from tree to tree, might also have made the bird list. And, of course, they had no clue the earth rotated, or the planet was not the center of the solar system. This little scientific correction would cost some their lives.
So here we have the "God loves us so much he has to spank us when we go astray" mind virus. It is a mantra we simply say when we aren't thinking. A repeat of a meme that has been pumped into our being when bad things happen to people.
So from the Bible we learn weather is ....
A. Not natural but attention getters from the Deity.
B. Inflicted upon mankind because God loves us so much yet can't take the time to personally chat with us without all the drama. God has few counseling tools at his disposal so simply throws tantrums to get our attention.
C. You ain't seen nothing yet, so stay tuned to our literature and presiding evangelist.
D. Proof positive that, once again, Jesus is almost ready to return in YOUR lifetime.
E. Don't try to explain it and don't ask questions about "why does the Deity treat us this way" because He's in world of think all his own and you are never going to get a straight answer in your lifetime. This is simply a human conclusion when, as conscious human beings, we tend to need to find reasons beyond "you were just in the wrong place when natural phenomenon occurred." It is not, in fact, the truth of how life works. It's difficult to say..."I guess I should not have built my house upon the sand."
F. But don't worry. It's all part of a big plan and it's all going to work out just fine and we'll all live happily ever after once we get with the program, which I just happen to have for you, come join our happy throng and bring a 10% down payment - to bless our work.
You'll learn that it's mostly God, but sometimes Satan who controls the weather though the little stuff is just weather. Oh no, how do we tell the difference? I also have wondered if a Cat. 3 storm is from God to teach us a lesson, or does He only speak through Cat 4 and 5? Or if a volcano erupts in a remote area, is that just for fun, or is it considered a near miss? How many have to die in a natural cycle drought before it's not just a drought but a warning. When it rains again and life goes on as before, is it because the Deity gave up on trying to change their evil ways and said "oh heck, let it rain, I've go to go bash some Europeans into obedience because I love them."?
Ok, what's the point? I fully understand those who adopt the idea that "God said it, I believe it, that does it for me." That is how we have been so deeply programmed. We shudder to even think that anything in the Bible might simply not be accurate or true or relevant. We can't wrap our minds around the idea that Ezekiel or the prophets were just humans, perhaps fairly normal, perhaps traumatized by the collapse of their temple worship cult, perhaps a bit daft or clinically unbalanced or not really inspired by some Deity of the day. It feels blasphemous to even consider the idea that prophecy is not really prophecy and or that what might be has no relevance to us today. I fully understand the reaction to taking a different view and challenging the mind virus that is such a part of our theological mindset. I simply believe that humans, who struggle to give meaning to every event in life on this planet, often assign it the wrong meaning and do as much harm to the human spirit and mind as natural phenomenon can do to us when we get in the way.
I also have grown to take exception with those who fill their coffers, pad their nests and boast their own egos with fear tactics that they have long since stopped realizing they are doing. It becomes such a habit to motivate the faithful with the "signs of the times" that one gets locked into doing it every time bad things happen to basically good people. Within HOURS of a natural disaster, meaning from the gods is assigned to the event and the conclusions are sent out post haste to motivate the faithful. After all, timing is everything in religious motivation techniques.
So... Who Controls the Weather? I guess it depends on what one needs to believe to better bring order to their world. That has always been the case in all of human history. No rain=God is mad at us. Rain=God is happy with us. Sunshine and cool breezes=God is happy with us. Cat 4 or better hurricane=Uh oh, God is mad at us and this is a spanking, you ain't seen nothing yet, Jesus is coming soon, write for our free booklets, join our church, now your are protected and see it all works out nicely.
There is a Buddhist proverb that seems to sum up nicely what one tends to learn in the course of a normal life.
When I was young, mountains were just mountains, rivers were just rivers and trees were just trees.
But then I was told that mountains are not JUST mountains, and rivers are not JUST rivers, and trees are not JUST trees.
But now that I am older,
I know, that mountains are just mountains, rivers are just rivers and trees are just trees...
And I know it bites at our core sometimes with all the background we have had in Bible prophecy, the tribulation, vials, plagues, trumpets and the scenarios of the Second Coming, but in fact, and whether or not we understand it...weather is just weather. We live on a planet with natural meteorological and geological process that sometimes put our puny selves in harms way.
May we all find a way to extend comfort and help to those who need it and are in pain and afraid for their own futures. And may those so inclined to assign meaningless meanings to motivate the faithful, please stop and think for a change. Whether you understand or whether you do not - understand Weather.
Dennis Diehl is a former pastor of 26 years who has outgrown the box of conventional religion and fundamentalist theolgy. Dennis' goal is to get Christians and people to think about the ideas that they have been brought up with to their harm and to reexamine them in the light of common sense and sound judgement.
Ideas have consequences and most of the worlds difficulties are due to wrong ideas for which we are dearly paying. Dennis owns a therapeutic massage practice in Greenville, South Carolina.