Truth in Advertising ALERT: As long time readers know, I remain a devout agnostic. The following is therefore offered as satire, not a representation of my personal beliefs.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
From the beginnings of biblical history to modern day, religious leaders of all faiths have used the words in Jeremiah 29:11 to push back against those who dare question why a just and compassionate God would create a world in which there is so much death and destruction from war, disease and hate. We are told to look at the big picture. Or without knowing pain, how can we fully appreciate the blessings that same God lays before us everyday.
Stories of moral cleansing from a great flood or plagues were understandable when civilization was more superstitious than knowledgeable. Sadly, in some circles, not much has changed in the five or six intervening millennia. Remember the flap over Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s declaration that 9/11 was “America’s chickens coming home to roost,” a result of years of human rights violations. Unfortunately, Pastor Wright did not have a monopoly on such rubbish. The late Jerry Falwell claimed the 9/11 attacks were divine retribution for abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyles and organizations like the ACLU and People for the American Way which were out to destroy our nation.
As suggested above, sometimes God’s wrath comes in the form of foreign invaders. Sometimes he simply partners with Mother Nature. Just ask televangelists John Hagee or Pat Robertson. During an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Hagee provided the following cause of Hurricane Katrina.
The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe…that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans
Robertson attributed the devastating earthquake in Haiti to the Haitians’ “pact with the devil.” And what was the genesis of this unholy alliance? According to Robertson, it was their desire for independence from France. In his words, “You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.” As comedian David Steinberg once said of his own father’s revulsion when it seemed to snow every December 25th, fulfilling Christians’ longing for a cliched White Christmas, “You have to admire prejudice like that.” [NOTE: Steinberg was born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada which would make a late December snowstorm the rule rather than the exception.]
The one thing missing from these modern day tales of divine intervention is any recognition of God’s grace. After the great flood, there was a promise of a new, better world symbolized by the rainbow over Mt. Ararat. The plagues in Egypt resulted in an end to the Israelites enslavement and return to their ancestral home, “a land of milk and honey.”
Which brings me to 2020 and the failure of faux Christians to notice that we are in the midst of an obvious example of how they profess God works in mysterious ways. And who better to tell this story than the late Flip Wilson’s alter ego Reverend Leroy of the Church of What’s Happening Now.
Can I hear an amen?
Brothers and sisters, in the words of Brother Bob Dylan, these are hard times. Many of you have lost friends and families to the coronavirus. Many of you are unemployed. And in these moments of sorry and need, you ask, “Why is God punishing me? What did I do to deserve this? Is this part of His divine plan?”
Brothers and Sisters, ask no more. For those who think the Lord has forsaken us, fear not. He continues to reveal himself as he always has. From the beginning of time, God has always given us the chance, as Brother Spike Lee said, to do the right thing. Only when we forsake his principles and the teachings of his son Jesus Christ does he step forward.
Remember Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac. Abraham thought it was a test of loyalty. If so, God would have let the sacrifice go forward. Instead, it was a test of free will, that Abraham need not obey an order, even one from the Almighty himself, when it was unjust. Only when Abraham failed that test did God appear in the form of two angels and told Abraham to back off, Jack.* Can you give me another amen?
If Pharaoh heeded Moses’ plea to “let my people go” after any of the first nine plagues, the first born Egyptian males would not have died. God always gives us the opportunity to do the right thing. He intervenes when we ignore that moment in time.
So if you ask, “Reverend Leroy, when did God give us a chance to avoid the coronavirus,” you need to first understand why it was necessary? What possible good has it accomplished? The answer, as they say in Motown, is in the timing.
God patiently watched as Americans elected a reality show con artist president of the United States. He did not intervene when Donald Trump openly denigrated large segments of God’s children–Latinos, Muslims and gays. He cried but did not act when Trump ordered babies separated from their mothers and put in cages. He waited for the cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment. He looked on as Senate Republicans ignored all the evidence and failed to remove him from office.
Only when it appeared Americans might give Trump four more years to further abuse his authority and power, did God decree, “Enough is enough! I must expose this dude for who he is.” And once again, God unleashed His wingman, the Angel of Death, not to punish the innocent, but to remind us we still have a choice. We can be self-centered and protect our own interests or we can follow the Lord and take the weak and needy into our hearts.
Can I get an amen? Amen.
The proof of the pudding will come in November. Though I doubt the possibility, imagine Trump loses in a landslide on election day and the coronavirus magically disappears without a vaccine or further mediation. Now that would be a miracle of biblical proportions that would convert the most skeptical into believers. A story that would no doubt be chronicled in “The Gospel According to Leroy,” a chapter of The Latest Testament.
And just for the record, as Reverend Leroy would say, “The devil made me write this post.”
*I first heard this interpretation of the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac from Rabbi Amy Perlin, the first female rabbi to found her own congregation.
For what it’s worth.