You Birminghamians out there might remember Hank Erwin, former host of WDJC's afternoon talk show. Erwin was a fairly popular figure in the '90s among the local evangelical community -- much to my chagrin. Now a state senator, he's making headlines again, claiming Katrina was God's judgment on the sin-filled Gulf Coast.
(As Neal Boortz acidly commented, that explains all the hurricanes in Las Vegas.)
I'll be honest with you, full disclaimer here: I have very little respect for Erwin and have tangled with him from time to time. I might agree with him on many topics in principle, but his vitriol-filled rants interspersed with loony Biblical exegesis have left me wanting to punch a hole in the radio more than once.
One time, I nearly fell out of my chair when he advised a caller that the wine Jesus created at the Cana wedding was, indeed, wine ... it just wasn't intoxicating! (I was tempted to call in and ask if Jesus whipped up some o' that non-intoxicating wine for the Last Supper, but I resisted.) And now, Erwin is cloaking himself with a prophet's mantle and claiming to know God's ultimate purposes behind the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.
Erwin, IMHO, is making the same sort of buffoonish statements as Falwell did in the post 9/11 days. This issue is not whether God judges sin but whether it is our prerogative to announce God's judgment whenever extreme tragedy befalls our neighbors. I suppose, according to Erwin's logic, we might as well tour the cancer wards and the ICUs and say, "Hey there, friend! What sort of vile sin put you here, huh? You some kind a pervert?"
(And by the way, Hank, have you read the Book of Job lately?)
Furthermore, Erwin talks about "godliness" and "churchgoing" and "godly living" but never mentions Jesus, the only sinless person and the only one who can save us from sin and judgment, hurricanes or no. And then he recommends these things so we'll be under "divine protection" from Mother Nature's wrath.
(Again, Hank, read the Book of Job lately?)
As for why Katrina did happen, I'm inclined to agree with the Methodist bishop quoted in the article:
"I have no idea what sort of senator or politician Mr. Erwin is, but he's sure no theologian," William Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, told the News. "I'm certainly against gambling and its hold on state government in Mississippi, but I expect there is as much sin, of possibly a different order, in Montevallo as on the Gulf Coast. If God punished all of us for our sin, who could stand?"