Continuing on the theme of the tsunami and religion, Representative Tom DeLay (R-Texas) offered this passage from Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount.
21. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
22. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
23. Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
24. Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
25. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
26. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
27. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
He offered it at the 109th Congressal Prayer Service, which you can find at C-Span. The choice of passage paints at least a plausible image that he believes that believers received God’s punishment. But interestingly, not everyone sees it that way, and certainly, it possible that DeLay doesn’t see it that way. (Although, my take on Tom DeLay leads me to suspect that he did mean it that way, but I could be wrong.) The discussion of DeLay’s choice of the passage over at Crooked Timber is interesting. One commenter suggests that the passage is not about judging unbelievers but rather:
“One of the points Jesus is making in the passage Delay read out is that self-proclaimed ‘faith’ without works will not be recognized. The last sentence before the passage De Lay read is ‘by their fruit you will recognize them.’ (7:20) Among the ‘words’ which hearers are to put into practice are: ‘Love your enemies’ (5:44), ‘do not resist evil,’ (5:39), ‘do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth’ (6:22), and ‘do not judge.’ (7:1) . . . [I]f his prayer is understood as an appeal to his fellow Christians to put their faith into practice, it takes on a different appearance. Try reading it as not about the victims of the tsunami, but about those who are hearing it read out to them. . . The passage, in context, is addressed to Christ’s ‘hearers’ and is a challenge to them. It is explicitly not about judging others. It is about doing God’s will — where that means, as Matthew also tells us, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, inviting in the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison. (25: 35-36)”
I have my doubts that this is how DeLay reads it. But there are those who do think that things like this are God’s punishment and they do read it that way, even if most believers don’t, as these comments on whether the tsunami was an act of God suggest. Perhaps the most interesting question is why “blaming the victims” is so easy a turn for religion, even if it isn’t the most common one.