A Fitting Punishment


Dear Friends: Drought and forest fires all over the West. Two simultaneous hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. The North Pole going ice-free. Each summer hotter than the summer before.

Do you think we might have something to do with climate change? That is not a question that precludes religion. The Bible is full of instances where God punishes the human race for its sins. Noah’s flood is an obvious example. We are often told that various things happening to us are God’s punishment for our sins. And here’s the interesting thing: I agree with that hypothesis.

God is very good at making the punishment fit the crime: it’s called cause and effect. Forest fires and hurricanes and melting ice caps have a lot to do with the stewardship of Creation. God likes the Creation. How many times in Genesis does God say that the Creation is good? That phrase is repeated every time something new is created. And then the human race was given dominion over all of it. Do you suppose God is angry with us because we’ve abused that dominion? Could abuse of God’s Creation be creating forest fires and hurricanes? Could it be melting the polar ice caps? Could God’s punishment for that abuse be climate change?

Cause and effect. Let the punishment fit the crime.

God usually sends prophets to warn people before Divine punishment is meted out. In the Bible, those prophets are both ignored and laughed at. I think the same thing is happening today. I think God has sent us plenty of prophets: they’re called climate scientists. We’ve been ignoring them and laughing at them, following a long religious tradition.

Maybe we shouldn’t be.

Remember what God told Noah? No more water - fire next time. What do you think climate change is? We are seeing literal fire.

Cause and effect. Let the punishment fit the crime.

I’m not saying there isn’t hope. God often relents when prophets are finally listened to and sins are confessed. If we listen to the prophets – the scientists – we still might turn this thing around. What seems sure is that if the sin continues, the punishment for it will increase.

We can still turn this around at any time. The choice is ours.

– Bill Ashworth, South Mountain Friends Meeting, Ashland, OR (NPYM)

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