The Truth, Mainly - 08/16/1993

Midwestern floods the result of a Devine Temper Tantrum?
by Leon Satterfield

Out here in Paradise Regained, the prettiest building site in the Colorado Rockies, it's hard to imagine a Cranky Creator. Each day, morning is breaking like the first morning, and Black-Headed Grosbeak sings like the first bird. The air is cool and crisp, and—a significant measure of Edenic bliss—the crackers never get soggy.

Whatever is responsible for all this is clearly a genial force—maybe even the "Powerful Goodness" Ben Franklin addressed his daily prayers to.

So it comes as a shock to hear that the recent floods in the Midwest are the result of a Divine Temper Tantrum at the wickedness there.

We hear on public radio that a storekeeper in Missouri was flooded out, according to some of his neighbors, because he sells lottery tickets.

A letter to the editor says the bad weather came about because "the Lord is mourning for us and the bad ways we are living." The writer's minister says so too.

And Randall Terry, chief honcho of Operation Rescue, tells a Denver audience that we've become a "moral cesspool" and the floods (along with hurricanes, droughts, L.A. riots, and AIDS) are "the judgment of God." To forestall further punishment, he suggests that we become "lunatic zealots for God."

They're his words, not mine.

It's very strange. We were in Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas in June and the people there seemed decent enough then. For a while I figured we got out just before they turned wicked. But as recently as last week, we were visited by people from Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa, and they still seemed decent enough.

At least as decent as people here in the Colorado Rockies who are daily rewarded with lovely weather and beautiful scenery. Pondering that apparent injustice led me to the following epiphany:

God's bad temper didn't cause the floods. It was the weather system that got stuck over the Midwest. The weather system didn't care very much about the morality of the people it dumped all that rain on. And even if it cared a lot, weather systems have a hard time fine-tuning meteorological rewards and punishments since good people and bad people often live on the same block.

And before I could catch my breath, that blinding insight led to another:

When we see an annoyed God as the cause of floods, we're cosmically projecting our own irritation that not everyone is like us. To justify our crankiness about that, we create a cranky God in our own cranky image.

It may not be a very respectful way to treat the Deity, but it's awfully tempting to imagine that what gives us conniption fits also gives God conniption fits.

It's fun to give in to the temptation. Here's some of my lunatic zealotry for God:

The floods in Iowa were clearly a result of the state's refusal to pass an Equal Rights Amendment last fall. Pat Robertson said the proposal was part of "a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians." Silly sexist arguments like that are an abomination against God and She punishes states that are taken in by them.

Illinois was inundated because God has a memory like an elephant and is still vexed over the way Mayor Daley's goons beat up the protesters outside the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Wisconsinites got water in their basements because God is still miffed that they elected Joe McCarthy to the Senate. Missouri is trying to get mud out of its TVs because Sen. Danforth championed Clarence Thomas' nomination to the Supreme Court.

Kansas went under because back in 1941, in the southwest corner of the state, a first-grade girl prettier than anyone except Shirley Temple laughed out loud at the soggy little accident I had in my overalls just before I went to the blackboard. God hates it when that happens.

And the windstorm in Lincoln last month? God is mightily offended that we continue to ignore Divine Instructions to acquire a professional baseball team and call it the Lincoln Meadowlarks.

Because back when God was still male, He took great interest in sports and there's still a carryover effect. The hurricane in Miami last year, for example, was the delayed payoff for the '83 Orange Bowl. George Steinbrenner is God's way of getting even with the Big Apple for keeping the Yankees and letting the Giants and Dodgers go to California.

See? It's easy. Any of us can pretend that Powerful Goodness is as bummed out with the awful state of things as we are. Especially if our outrage is directed at those who don't share our petulant piety.


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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