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August 30, 2017, 12:00 AM

The Eclipse, Jim Bakker, UMCOR, and Grace in the Storm

The recent eclipse was perhaps the most widely photographed and observed celestial phenomenon in human history.  Our area gained international attention because of the longevity of totality, and because we are literally at the crossroads for two total eclipses  The second one will be April 8, 2024.  We are able to predict when it will happen with exacting accuracy.

Both eclipses could have been predicted with the same accuracy 10,000 years ago, if we had known the math then.  It was going to happen no matter what might be transpiring on earth.  The same is true for the next eclipse and every one after it.  It’s like the changing of the seasons, or the phases of the moon.  More rare, and pretty spectacular, but not some kind of unique miracle…just nature being nature.

Even so, we heard some Christian celebrities claim that this event was a warning/judgment from God.  Among these sages was none other than Jim Bakker, who gained infamy for his financial and sexual scandals in the Nineties.  In what is a testament to the gullibility of a portion of the American public, he is back on TV.  Now he sells freeze dried survivalist food and other “end of the world” supplies while hawking a “gospel” filled with fear of the future.

Between sales pitches, Bakker stated, ““God came to me in a dream and said I should tell the world that I am plunging the world into darkness to remind people I’m still mad at the Obama years.  Obama legalized witchcraft, sexual deviants getting married and schools started teaching transgenderism.”

He also seems to think Donald Trump is God’s Anointed Leader, even though someone with a lot of time on their hands checked out the counties where the sun went totally dark, and discovered that the majority of them went for Trump in the election.  Using Bakker’s “logic” wouldn't that mean the Lord plunged them into darkness as a punishment/warning?

Or maybe, it was just nature being nature and not making a political statement, one way of the other.  (I vote for that)

And now, we have Hurricane Harvey which has unloaded over 27,000,000,000,000 gallons of water on Texas and Louisiana, causing catastrophic flooding and misery in states that never voted for Obama.  Bakker…and Bakker’s “God”…have been strangely silent about what he would surely claim was divine retribution if it had fallen on California or New York. 

UPDATE:  Hurricane Irma, the most violent storm in decades, is about to devastate Florida, another Bible Belt state that went for Trump.  And again, Bakker has declared this storm an expression of God's wrath.

Let’s look at what Jesus says… (God) causes his sun to shine on evil people and good people. He sends rain on those who do right and those who don’t. (Matthew 5: 45)

I’m reminded of the time Pat Robertson claimed that the deadly earthquake in Haiti was a disaster caused by a deal the Haitians’ made with the Devil in order to gain their independence from the French.  Aside from being lousy theology, it was lousy history.  They never made any such deal.

Jesus didn’t go  into the life histories or theologies of the people whom he cured.  He simply stepped-up and dealt with their need and graciously eased their suffering.

We’re seeing all sorts of inspiring stories of people coming to the rescue and aid of the beleaguered people of Texas.  Mattress Mack, the mattress store owner who has provided beds and food in his stores for hundreds of refugees…The Cajun Navy, made up of scores of private boaters who have trolled the flooded neighborhoods of Houston, looking for stranded people…The churches, synagogues, and mosques that have opened their doors to shelter, feed, and comfort the displaced…Individuals ranging from wealthy, high-powered celebrities, to just “average” people who have already raised millions for the relief and rebuilding effort.

The stories of grace and courage are where you are to find God…not in inane and self-righteous claims of divine judgment on people you happen to dislike.

I am proud that the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is considered one of the foremost disaster relief organizations in the world.  I have personally worked with the in the aftermath of flooding, hurricanes, a tornado, and even a nuclear disaster (Chernobyl).  I have seen their integrity, efficiency, and ability.

They are not only among to first into a disaster scene, they are among the last out…and that is particularly important.  A catastrophe like the one unfolding in Texas will take years to fully repair.  UMCOR will be there, for years.

A friend of mine once participated in a joint UMCOR/Habitat project in Florida, a year or more  after Hurricane Andrew.  At one point, he was delegated to get lunch supplies and went to a 711 that had reopened nearby to get them.  As he plopped supplies to prepare lunch for a dozen or more people the clerk commented that he must be cooking for something special.

My friend explained that he was with a church group from West Virginia, working on building a house.  The clerk smiled and said, “You must be a Methodist. Because only the Methodists are still here.”

THAT, Mr. Bakker, is the work of God by the people of God.  Not testy judgments and selling crappy, freeze dried snacks for Aramgeddon.  It has nothing to do with who is or isn’t president.  It has everything to do with grace and courage in the face of nature which brings rain and sun without favor, as Jesus himself pointed out.

And I recommend for your support, the heroic and capable United Methodist Committee on Relief.  Every cent you donate will go directly toward the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.  The low administrative costs of the organization are already covered.  Thanks to unselfish professionals and a lot of caring volunteers, UMCOR does the job with effectiveness and efficiency.  And their only question to the stricken will be, “How can we help you?”  Believers and non-believers, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, people of every creed and color will receive help in the name of Jesus Christ.  Because that’s how he did it.

For people seeking grace in the storm, Jesus is present in people who show his love in practical, powerful, and courageous ways.  UMCOR is doing that, and I invite you to support them by going to their website and making a donation.  You will make a difference.



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