As Barack Obama reminded us, “In the Blue States we worship an awesome God.” But sometimes it’s hard to figure out what sort of deity or demon the political leaders of the Red States bow down to.
Take, for example Jeb Bush’s comment about Hurricane Charley.
To which I can only say, “Huh?”
Theological language is always a little bit tricky, which is what gives the via negativa its attraction: it’s always safer to say what the Nameless is not. But even by theological standards, Jeb’s comment is hard to parse. Does he really worship a Moloch who kills a bunch of people every once in a while just to show Who’s Boss?
It’s one thing to accept the storm damage as a lesson: if the Governor had said “This just shows us how fallible human beings are; man proposes but God disposes,” there would have been nothing extraordinary or objectionable about it. In Jewish liturgy, horrible things are treated as otherwise unexplained facts about “the world which He has made according to His will.” To say (with Leibniz and Dr. Pangloss) that what happened might be, or even must be, in some way unknown to us, part of a Divine Plan conveys the same thought.
But in the very same breath the Governor uses to express humility in the face of the failure of computer models to guess which way the hurricane would head, he seems to express confidence that he, Jeb Bush (whether by direct inspiration or by the power vested in him by the people of Florida), knows why the hurricane was sent to wreak such havoc, and that what he knows is that it was an intentional act of — well, can you think of a better word for it than “terrorism”? — on the part of an omnipotent and (allegedly) beneficent Deity.
How does he know? And why does he worship such a cruel god? Does he think cruelty is the basic expression of power?
Perhaps we now know where the “shock and awe” doctrine came from.
Update A good friend I saw today — a Christian preacher — commented: “Whatever God Jeb Bush worships, he doesn’t worship the One of whom the Bible says “God was not in the whirlwind.”