The Universist movement has found that a disturbingly large number of sermons on Sunday, September 4, preached that Hurricane Katrina was the will of God. New Orleans supposedly incurred God’s wrath because it was sinful and decadent.
"If there's ever been a city that's needed to be swept clean of the sin and the wickedness it's New Orleans," said Chris Hodges, Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, Alabama.
Breaking new ground in meteorological science, Tim Bourgeois of the Tree of Life Christian Church in Canoga Park, California revealed that:
When there are storm winds, they don't just meet because a low pressure area happens to meet with a high pressure area in the upper atmosphere and suddenly this wind just randomly, naturally occurs, and waters randomly fall along with it. This is God's word at work in the midst of his creation.
Now, I’m sure that these are minority views. Most Christians, like most Americans, have been wonderfully generous and non-judgmental in responding to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Nonetheless, the Universists have a point:
This is 2005, but Christianity's various denominations were unified this week in thought circa 1205…The world has moved on since the dawn of Christianity and its heights in the Dark Ages.Reading the ridiculous stone-casting sermons got me thinking about the root of such magical thinking. In my opinion it is a feeling of specialness.
Meaning, some people (in this case, fundamentalist Christians) believe that they enjoy a special relationship with God. This enables them to know God’s will, his likes and dislikes, and what is sinful. That special position at the right hand of God enables these faithful to interpret earthly events through their unique divine understanding.
Which is garbage, I’m highly confident. However, I then considered how I’ve held similar—though less extreme—beliefs about my own specialness. For in 1971 I was initiated into the mystical-spiritual path of Sant Mat, also known as the Path of the Saints or the Science of the Soul.
There are various branches of Sant Mat. Theological differences abound. Not all agree with the teaching of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), the branch I’ve been associated with, that there are “marked souls” who have a special relationship with God. Supposedly I’m one of those souls, since I’ve been initiated into the RSSB fold.
My wife isn’t. She’s unmarked, I guess. I’ve never been able to recognize my mark, but apparently it is visible to those with eyes to see. Here’s how this highly questionable theological hypothesis is described in “The Journey of the Soul,” a RSSB children’s book:
After a while God willed the creation. He sent forth a wondrous luminous wave of Sound and Light from his own Being and made the entire creation from it. He made skies, planets, suns, moons, and stars. He made mountains, valleys and deserts, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams. The creation was majestic and beautiful…but there were no living things in it to enjoy it.
So God decided to put on a play, using his souls as actors, and his new creation was the theatre! God was the Director, and He named his play, “Life.” Almost all of the souls wanted to be in his show, so God told them they could leave their Home in the Ocean of Light and journey down to be performers in the theater of creation.
But there were a very few of the little souls that did not want to go at all. They wanted to stay home with their Lord. But He told even these to go and enjoy being in his play, too. Then he put a mark on each one of the souls that wanted to stay with Him, and promised them that one day He would send for them and have them brought back to their Real Home with Him.
He told all the other souls that if they ever decided they wanted to come back Home again, He would mark them too. One day, through God’s boundless Grace, He would help them come Home, too.
Thus if you’re not one of the original marked souls—like marvelously fortunate me!—you’ve still got a chance to jump on a later soul train headed Home. You just won’t get there as soon as I will.
I have come to reject my specialness. I don’t consider myself better than anyone else, especially not my wife, who is a more compassionate and caring human being than I am.
Every religion wants to be special. As I’ve observed before, religious faiths are like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average.
The Christians who consider themselves morally superior to the homosexual, whoring, gambling sinfulness of New Orleans (which, of course, is why people loved to go there, including George Bush in his younger days) aren’t so different, really, from the members of Radha Soami Satsang Beas who consider themselves to be “marked souls.”
Feelings of specialness are feelings of specialness. They’re all repugnant to me, though some manifestations of “I’m special!” are more repugnant than others.
Isn’t spirituality supposed to be about humility and not feeling superior? I’ve always thought so, but maybe I missed a memo from God.