New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin thinks recent catastrophic weather is a message from God. During a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally yesterday, the Mayor said, "As we think about rebuilding New Orleans, surely God is mad at America. He's sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane.”
Nagin also interpreted God’s purported view of African Americans, noting, "But surely he's upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves. We're not taking care of our women. And we're not taking care of our children." Mayor Nagin’s comments caused enough reaction that he apologized today.
Mayor Nagin has worked hard under extreme pressure. He’s clearly blessed with certain leadership skills, and I would not question his heart for the people or the city of New Orleans. But you never know quite what he’s going to say, including borderline race-based commentary accusing the Federal government of ignoring the city simply because many of its residents are Black. In yesterday’s comments, he also said God wanted New Orleans to be a “chocolate city” once again, reinforcing what some consider a racist view of the city and its future. Hopefully, he’s discovered that kind of rhetoric doesn’t work very well or attract many followers.
Is God at work in this world? Of course he is. Is he sovereign over everything, including good and evil—and for that matter the weather? Yes he is. Is God out of touch with what’s happening in America in 2005-2006? No he is not. Can we read the Bible and learn something about God’s character, his will, and his pattern of relationships with human beings, nations, and history? Yes.
Can we, then, experience, read, or watch breaking news and know for certain that God is accomplishing some specific divine intent? No we cannot. God does not give us that kind of information.
The doxology of Romans 11:33-34 says it best: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
Mayor Nagin has every right to his opinion, and I am glad he is seemingly interested in what God is doing. But I don’t think the Mayor has a hotline to God that allows him to make the claims that he did. I disagree with the Mayor’s statements, even as I’ll try to understand something of the stress under which he made them. Still, we generally have the right to expect more from our leaders. Anyone can make a mistake, but measured, well considered responses ought to characterize the Mayor’s public pronouncements.
God may indeed be displeased with America. He may be concerned about families without faithful fathers—White or Black. We should examine what God says about the faiths of nations and families. But we should avoid speaking ex cathedra, even if we are an over-wrought politician.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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