After the 9.1 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, my Facebook was abuzz with people publicly praying and soliciting prayers for Japan. There were also those who posted links to the Red Cross or exhorted their friends to text REDCROSS to 90999, but they were markedly fewer.
It didn’t take long for people to start interpreting these natural disasters as Acts of God—and not in the sense that insurance policies use that phrase.
The Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, was the first to call the earthquake “tembatsu”, divine retribution. For him, the divine was punishing Tokyo politicians for their egoism.
Predictably, crazy-ass Christians started claiming that it was tembatsu (although they didn’t use that word) for Christian martyrdom in Japan and Japan’s lack of belief in Christ.
Not to be outdone, Glenn Beck did not not say that the quake was tembatsu for not following the Ten Commandments…but he didn’t not say it either. Interestingly, it sounds like it was tembatsu for the United States not following the Ten Commandments.
Fortunately (or perhaps to prove that the Divine is capricious), there is a heartwarming story about a local shrine in Otsuchi which is still standing—the water stopped at its steps. The town it served has been fairly decimated, but the shrine remains as a symbol of hope for those who have lost everything else.
So either the Divine likes Shinto shrines or this natural disaster was just that—natural.
h/t to the Wild Hunt for excellent coverage of religion in general and planting the seed for this post.