by Leah Waldron
This week, Evangelical pastor and author John McTernan wrote on his blog that Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans on Aug. 29 because it was the start of Southern Decadence, an LGBT Mardi Gras-themed festival. Aug 29 is also the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall during the festival in 2005. Ergo: God hates gay people, and New Orleans is a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah that must be wiped off the Earth.
But wait, this guy (from Pennsylvania…what do they know about hurricanes in Pennsylvania?) has proof that New Orleans’ LGBT festival caused Katrina and Isaac. First, the number seven. Hurricane Katrina hit 7 years ago, in 2005. God created the Earth in seven days. So…there’s that. Also, “Isaac,” the namesake of this week’s storm, means laughter (and everyone knows that a deity destroying the Earth would be laughing during the whole ordeal). McTernan warns that, if New Orleans is hit by Issac, we will only have the gays—and their supporters—to blame:
New Orleans is still hosting Southern Decadence with open homosexuality manifesting in the streets of the city. It could be that God is putting an end to this city and its wickedness. The timing of Hurricane Isaac with Southern Decadence is a sign that God’s patience with America’s sin is coming to an end.
McTernan’s comments, while meteorologically idiotic, are nothing new. The host of the 700 Club, Southern Baptist Pastor Pat Robertson, linked Orlando’s GayDays, an unofficial Pride event at Disney World, to all sorts of natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and even meteor strikes (he threw in terrorist bombings for good measure). Cindy Jacobs, of the Generals International Ministry, blamed Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It seems that when the RNC is hit by a hurricane—twice, in two different states—everyone calls it a coincidence. But when a hurricane coincides with a gay rights initiative or an LGBT event, it’s God’s wrath.
I am not from New Orleans, and I did not experience Hurricane Katrina, but speaking as a Fort Lauderdale, Florida native and a survivor of Hurricane Andrew, a category 5 storm that took a chunk out of my childhood home, I can call BS when I read it. The hurricane season is short, unpredictable, and, like any weather event, caused by natural changes in the environment, such as water temperature (hurricanes), pressure fronts (tornadoes) and the shifting of the Earth’s plates (earthquakes).
I’ll give McTernan an ounce of credit and assume that he did not imagine God moving his finger in the heavens and gently nudging Hurricane Isaac—a pressure- and warm-water driven storm—in front of a gay guy dancing on a parade float. Instead, McTernan probably believed that God was acting through the Earth in a sort of “He created it, so He can manipulate it” manner. But even if you believe that God has Earth-moving power (I do not), wouldn’t he be a genocidal maniac? Of course, it’s not the first time God has destroyed men, women and children for the sins of a few bad apples, but a lot has changed since the Bronze Age.
Coincidental dates aside, McTernan also missed another important factor in Hurricane Katrina’s destruction: the levees. Katrina didn’t destroy New Orleans, a crappy levee system did. Before Katrina, the most damaging hurricane in history was Hurricane Andrew, which was a category 5, or the highest number on the scale (the score is based on wind speed, not rainfall). Katrina, like Isaac, was a category 3, and only destroyed the city because the levees could not contain the storm surge. And who built the levee? You guessed it: man.
Finally, despite what McTernan says about God having it in for blasphemous gays (and Americans who support them—McTernan makes that very clear), he also misses the point that New Orleans is, by no uncertain terms, a religious town. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a Catholic holiday. Yes, it’s celebrated with public drunkenness (just like St. Patrick’s Day and in some neighborhoods, Christmas) and flashing one’s boobs for beads, but the religious sentiment is seen throughout the festival, which Southern Decadence mirrors from an LGBT perspective. If God is attacking New Orleans, he’s picking a pretty devout Catholic town to make His point.
Over the years, I’ve watched friends and family members become displaced, financially ruined, injured and traumatized by hurricanes. If anyone is causing them, it’s Satan. But because I’m a believer in first grade science, I’m going to blame a hurricane’s path on the temperature of the ocean, barometric pressure, ocean currents, and really, really crappy luck.