The Common Good

God, a Tornado, and John Piper’s 'Satanic Theology'

Many of my liberal friends never call themselves “Christians.” Their hesitancy is usually a reaction against conservative Christians who, let’s face it, are an embarrassment to the name. You know what I’m talking about – those who make crazy claims like natural disasters occur because God is angry at homosexuals. And then there are those who use phrases like, “legitimate rape.

John Piper's Tweet
John Piper's Tweet

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Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

Influential pastor John Piper provides the latest example. While most of my friends on Facebook and Twitter lamented the devastation wrought by the Oklahoma City tornado, Piper decided to show off his biblical acumen with this tweet:

"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

Piper’s tweet is a bit ambiguous. His reference to Job doesn’t say that God caused the tornado, but Piper has historically claimed that God causes these types of disasters. In fact, this wouldn’t be the first time Piper has tweeted something so theologically insensitive. A few years ago Piper claimed God caused a tornado in Minnesota because God was angry at homosexuals. Piper’s god is a fickle Cosmic Jerk.

Job and the Satanic Principle of Accusation

Rachel Held Evans brilliantly points out the irony of Piper’s reference to Job in her article “The abusive theology of “deserved” tragedy.” She states:

“The great irony of Piper using the book of Job to support his theology is that the story of Job stands as an ancient indictment on those who would respond to tragedy by blaming the victim.That’s exactly what Job’s friends did, and the text is not kind to them for it, because Job is described as ‘blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’”

Adding to the irony of Piper’s reference to Job is that Satan is the Accuser. (See footnote “b” in this online Bible.) While it’s true that Satan only appears in the first two chapters of the book, Job’s “friends” take on the satanic principle of accusation. They imitate the satanic principle of blaming of the victim. Ironically, by blaming the victims of the Oklahoma tornado, Piper is acting satanically, imitating Satan’s accusations in the same way that Job’s friends did.

Bad Things Just Happen

John Piper calls himself a Christian, but I don’t think he knows Jesus. Whenever Jesus talks about natural disasters they are just that, natural disasters. He never blames anyone for them; instead he points to them as an opportunity to show God’s love. Jesus was once asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” He responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” Then the power of God worked through Jesus to stop the accusations and heal the man.

When people told Jesus that towers fell in Siloam and killed 18 people, Jesus asked, “Do you think they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?” He answered his rhetorical question by saying, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Repent of Satanic Theology

What does Jesus want us to repent of? Jesus challenged the age-old assumption that God causes bad things happen to bad people. That’s theologically satanic. Yet we love this assumption as long as tornados don’t bother us, because it makes us think we are better than those people over there! Jesus tells us to repent of such satanic theology. Bad things happen to everyone.

But the unfortunate truth is that there is a little bit of John Piper in all of us. Whenever something bad happens to someone, we want to know why. Why did he lose his job? Well, he must not have worked hard enough ... the way I do! Why did she get lung cancer? Well, she smoked too much … smoke just the right amount! All of these “answers” become addictive because they make us feel morally superior to the other person and give us excuses to not respond with loving compassion to our suffering neighbors.

We need to repent of blaming the victim so that we can respond to our neighbors’ suffering with compassion. And we need to repent of the idea that God is out to get people. God’s not against you or me or even John Piper. God doesn’t cause natural disasters. Bad things just happen so stop blaming God. God wants us to stop finding someone else to blame and to start working toward healing one another.

Adam Ericksen blogs at the Raven Foundation, where he uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, and pop culture. Follow Adam on Twitter @adamericksen.

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