First, Media Matters reported that on the August 26th edition of The Glenn Beck Program, Beck urged followers to store food in preparation for crises, insisting that Hurricane Irene was a message from God. An article from the Washington Post suggests that Beck was promoting the LDS virtue of food storage as a form of self-reliance.
"How many warnings do you think you're going to get, and how many warnings do you deserve? This hurricane that is coming through in the east coast, for anyone who's in the east coast and has been listening to me say, 'Food storage. Be prepared. Be somebody who can help others.' You've heard me say this for years ... I've been telling you, don't be in a panic situation. If you've waited, this hurricane is a blessing. It is a blessing. It is God reminding you, as was the earthquake last week, it's God reminding you you're not in control. Things can happen. Be prepared, and be someone who can help others, so when disaster strikes, God forbid, you're not panicking."Beck seems to have realized that his comment created controversy. In a YouTube video attributed to Beck's recent talk at High Point Church in Arlington, TX, he gave the quote additional context. At the 4:29 mark of the video below, he had this to say.
"I got in trouble today, that I said--I don't even know where I was when I said it--but I said, 'This hurricane is a blessing." Yeah! Yeah, it is. Everything in our life is a blessing. My alcoholism was a blessing. Everything that went wrong in my life was a blessing. If it wasn't for all the bad that happened to me, and what I did with it, I wouldn't be standing here today. There is no bad that God--there is no lemon that God can't make into lemonade."The merits of food storage notwithstanding, I do not believe that Glenn Beck knows the mind of God, nor do I think it's constructive to attribute divine causes to natural disasters. To boot, I doubt that everyone who lost homes, communities, and loved ones in the hurricane would call Irene a "blessing." This, alas, is yet another example of Glenn Beck being Glenn Beck.
Michele Bachmann also attributed Hurricane Irene to God, and like Beck, suggested that it was God trying to get people's attention. According to an August 29th article in the St. Petersburg Times, Bachmann told a Sarasota audience that she didn't know what else God had to do in order to get politicians' attention. She framed the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene as God's attempts to get politicians to listen to the American people. Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart later told Talking Points Memo that the statement was "in jest."
Frankly, I don't know what disturbs me more: the idea that Bachmann may genuinely believe that God sent the hurricane, or that she would joke about it. Dozens of people died during Hurricane Irene, and countless more saw their homes and communities damaged. If Bachmann was indeed joking about God sending the hurricane to get politicians' attention, she showed startling insensitivity to Irene's victims.
What is at the root of this compulsion to see the divine hand in disasters? Is it a way of finding meaning in seemingly meaningless catastrophes? Is it a primal response to the sheer power and magnitude of natural disasters? More cynically, is it a means by which Religious Right voices can transform God into a sock puppet for their views? Perhaps all of the above are in play.
For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.
CNN: Glenn Beck: Hurricane Irene is a 'Blessing'
Washington Post: Mormon Glenn Beck: Hurricane Irene and East Coast Earthquake a 'Blessing' from God
Talking Points Memo: Michele Bachmann: Earthquake, Irene Were a Wake Up Call from God for Politicians