Okay, East Coast, it’s official: God’s put you on his geographical poop list. Now, don’t fret about this; it happens to most geographical locations at one point or another. Now, there’s no exact science to figuring out which areas of the world God hates the most—though you’re not quite at Toledo’s level yet—however, I do think that Tuesday’s earthquake suggests that God’s current hatred for you—as in, the Northeast corridor between Richmond and Boston—is slightly greater than his hatred for say, whatever current spot of ground Vladimir Putin is standing on. And trust me, God has never liked Putin’s “current location”.
You might be thinking, “uh, it was only a little earthquake.” And yes, it was a rather small quake, a ground shaker that people from places like California and Alaska refer to as insignificant, almost enjoyable, like getting butterfly kisses from God. That said, for those living on the East Coast, in places like DC, New York City, or Mineral, Virginia, areas that haven’t experienced a quake of that magnitude since the 19th Century, a 5.8 quake is definitely big enough for you to consider it a wakeup call, a sign from Heaven, or a kick in the spiritual backside. If that doesn’t scare you, perhaps you might see it as a foreshadowing of what it would be like if Gov. Rick Perry became president. Whether you view it as one nation shaking under God or Rick Perry, the mental picture is scary.
Now, for those of you who are atheists or Episcopalians and already discounting the whole “God’s wakeup call” theory as hogwash, you might consider the fact that this small earthquake happened during the same week that Hurricane Irene is expected to make landfall and get all Sodom-and-Gomorrahish on you and on the same exact day that Barbra Streisand’s new record released nationwide. Call me crazy, but three natural disasters in one week doesn’t just happen for no reason.
Now, I realize that most of you reading this are hardcore crunchy blue staters that, when vacationing in Europe, sometimes forget and tell people you’re from—eh?—Canada. So duh, I’m assuming that most of you are godless and have no idea that sometimes God speaks Hurricane. But that’s okay; we all have our talents. I’m no good at preparing seafood or accessorizing the color black, which makes us even. It’s not your fault that you haven’t learned how to over-spiritualize weather patterns, fault lines, and Streisand’s career. I’m here to help, to offer some insight on how you—even if you’re from Massachusetts and haven’t thought about Gahd since Christmas, 1972—can become a bit fear-filled and confessional while facing the wrath of God this weekend via Irene.
1) Think Biblical: In order to fully grasp how God might show up in the details of this week’s disasters, you must first embrace biblical thinking. How do we Christians do this? By imagining that we’re Moses or Elijah or heck, even Jesus. Since Moses found God in a burning bush and Elijah called to God to bring fire down from Heaven, and Jesus calmed raging stormy seas with the flip of his hand, it should come as no surprise how easy it is for us to visualize God using a cold front or the jet stream to maneuver his ways into our ways. This probably also explain why you’re born-again aunt always updates her Facebook status to “Watching the power of God” during thunderstorms. Once you’re in character, consider the fact that you now believe that God created the heavens and the earth, and thus, it only makes sense that he would occasionally use the heavens and the earth to encourage us to do good things or perhaps Republican things once in a while.
2) Think Spiritual: While many Christians claim to see God in all of life’s nooks and crannies—you know, they claim to smell him in a rose or taste him while eating a plum. I suggest you start smaller by looking for God in the really big events, ie, after Irene blows through, walk around and look for oddly placed crosses. If a cross from a local church ends up destroying your rhododendron plant, that could be a sign. Or if you find a couple of 2X4s in the shape of a cross atop a pile of rubble, that’s definitely sign. God loves using 2X4s. You might consider taking a picture of that and send it into your local news station. And who knows? Maybe Irene will bless you with a backyard etching of the face of Jesus or Mary or a face loosely based on the face of Jesus or Mary. We never know how God will speak to us, so we tend to keep an open mind.
3) Look for God’s Message: Since we read hundreds of accounts in the Bible of people believing that God spoke or acted or showcased his talent via nature’s more uglier moments, anytime God sends or allows or doesn’t stop natural disasters from showing up at our doorsteps, we expect a message! In most cases, there’s always some sort of message attached, literal or otherwise. It’s like getting a bouquet of flowers or an envelope dusted with anthrax, it doesn’t just happen. There’s almost always a fully spiritual explanation. So look for God’s message. I think experiencing an earthquake is like getting a text message from God when my phone is on vibrate. But it’s important to remember that the earthquake isn’t the actual message, it’s just a signal to let us know that you’ve received a new message. It’s essential that we check our messages. Have you checked Tuesday’s message from God?
4) Share the Message: God’s messages are meant to be shared! So, once you discover what God’s trying to say to you through Tuesday’s earthquake or this weekend’s hurricane, make sure you tell people about it. Now, depending on whose theological persuasion you listen to, God’s message might need to be interpreted (which is “Christian” for deciphered) because sometimes God’s messages come to us more heavily coded than the Book of Ezekiel. Still, a message exists. So find it. Decipher it. And then Tweet it!
5) Believe in God’s Mercy: Now listen, it’s absolutely imperative that you believe that God is merciful, no matter what the devastation or how FEMA responds. God. Is. Merciful! (Repeat that two times.) With that in mind, if you don’t figure out the message the first time, know that God won’t leave you uninformed. God always keeps attaching the message again and again to whatever natural disaster happens to slip through his hands and onto your part of the world. So don’t worry! Keep your mind focused on God’s mercy. A pastor I knew in college always said: God’s mercies are new every morning and occasionally they get measured on the Richter Scale. He was a Calvinist.
6) Self reflect: No natural disaster is complete without self reflection. It’s never easy for me to believe that I might be partially to blame for God sending natural disasters. It might be an easier stretch for you to believe that. But whether difficult or easy, it’s a necessary evil. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask: Are you the Jonah of this week’s story? Are YOU the reason God is pissed off and sending everybody from Atlanta to Detroit a text message? Only you can answer that question, of course. But as you’re clearing your deck of loose items or shopping for toilet paper and bottled water at Wal-mart, it’s something you might spend time thinking about. Perhaps if you are this weekend’s “Jonah,” you could confess or move to another state and possibly spare your friends and neighbors the wrath of Irene.
So good luck, East Coast! And make sure your flashlights have batteries, just in case you lose electricity and God’s message shows up in the middle of the night. But don’t worry, even if you miss it, you’ll have something to look forward to come winter when God’s message blows in via a Nor’easter.
This post was originally written for a newspaper on the East Coast. This is the unedited version.
A BLOG POST: How To Find God in Natural Disasters! is a post from: Jesus Needs New PR