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God's Purveyors of Hate

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Just prior to the Oklahoma City tornado disaster, NBA player Jason Collins came out of the closet. You know where this is going.

Fred Phelps Jr., the son of the Westboro Baptist Church's pastor, blamed the tornado's death and destruction on Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant who expressed his support for Collins.

Evidently one tweet was not enough to make his hate-filled point. So, two minutes later, Phelps chimed in again:

It was not made clear why God didn't aim his "wonderful wrath" at Collins, who lives in the Washington, D.C. area (Collins is a Wizard not a Thunder).

However, John McTernan, Christian preacher and blogger, clarified exactly why Oklahoma was selected: Oklahoma's Christians weren't praying fervently enough against homosexuals.

Oklahoma is supposed to be part of the Bible belt. How many churches were interceding before the Lord on Sunday about the open homosexuality in the streets of the state capital? I dare say almost none. I see this as judgment on the entire Christian church for not fearing God. How many of these massive destructive storms does God have to send before the church will see what is happening? Will it ever fear God and intercede and cry out to Him?

Got it: not enough prayers against homos.

However, it was not made clear why God was especially angry at homosexuality and not, say, greed, arrogance, the killing of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan, or lack of concern for the poor, the widow and the orphan.

One might think that since Jesus uttered not a single word against homosexuals (but had a lot to say about loving your enemy, loving your neighbor as yourself, and helping the poor and dispossessed) that those who hate in the name of God aren't Christians at all. Or, if they are, they fail to grasp what it most deeply means to be a follower of Jesus.

Even "respectable" and mainstream Christians are purveyors of hate. After the Oklahoma disaster, John Piper, popular Christian preacher and author, tweeted twice in rapid succession:

@JohnPiper: "Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead." Job 1:19

@JohnPiper: "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped." Job 1:20

After being accused of insensitivity, Piper took down the tweets. He would later tweet: Before we accept Piper's clarification of his cryptic tweets, let us examine some theological dots. Piper believes that God foreordains or predestines, causes even, every single event that happens on earth. God has, he writes, "absolute sovereign control of God over all things, including evil."

In 2009 a tornado hit the Minneapolis Convention Center and then broke the steeple of the Central Lutheran Church at precisely the time when the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America was holding its national convention in the Convention Center and was considering the issue of whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry. Piper contends that the tornado was God's "gentle but firm warning" to turn from the approval of sin. Piper's post-Oklahoma tweet, which he has not clarified, likely communicated Piper's belief in God's firm but this time not gentle warning to turn away from sin. Genuine love, Piper insists, must hate.

I leave it to the reader to connect the dots.

From Phelps to Piper, Christians who speak hatred on behalf of God outdo Jesus, who humbly professed ignorance of the reason for disasters. Jesus used the example of the Tower of Siloam, which collapsed and killed 18 people (Luke 13:1-5), to refute the claim that tragedies are divine judgment on human sin. He replied: "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?" Then he confounds those who arrogantly proclaim themselves privy to the divine mind. He instructs the questioners to look not at the sin of those who suffered but to look within, at their own heart of darkness.

Were Jesus here today, he might offer the same advice to Phelps and Piper and their ilk.