Church of England: Floods are punishment from God (for sodomy, etc.)

July 8, 2012 • 3:27 am

Just in case you thought the Church of England practiced Sophisticated Theology™ , have a gander at this 2007 article in The Telegraph, which gives the church’s theological and scientific explanation of recent flooding in England.  It’s wickedness, and sodomy, and the gays!

The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God’s judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to senior Church of England bishops.

One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

While those who have been affected by the storms are innocent victims, the bishops argue controversially that the flooding is a result of Western civilisation’s decision to ignore biblical teaching.

The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society’s moral decadence.

“This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way,” he said. “We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.”

The bishop, who is a leading evangelical, said that people should heed the stories of the Bible, which described the downfall of the Roman empire as a result of its immorality.

“We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate,” he said. . . .

Shades of Pat Robertson!

“People no longer see natural disasters as an act of God,” said the Rt Rev James Jones [he obviously hasn’t read the Rt. Rev. Dow]. “However, we are now reaping what we have sown. If we live in a profligate way then there are going to be consequences,” said the bishop, who has previously been seen as a future Archbishop of Canterbury or York.

“We have a responsibility in this and God is exposing us to the truth of what we have done.”

Isn’t it enough to blame humans for causing the depredation of our own environment? Why do they have to drag God into it?  And really—the gays?

I wonder if Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, ever condemned this?

51 thoughts on “Church of England: Floods are punishment from God (for sodomy, etc.)

    1. Indeed! I didn’t notice that. I’ve revised the post but left it up anyway, since it’s still Sophisticated Theology.

      1. By which I mean its been raining here pretty much non-stop since the start of April.

        There must have been an awful lot of uphill gardening going on.

  1. The immediate argument against this thinking is what it says in Genesis itself: God was sorry he put the world through what Noah survived, and he won’t ever do it again, he said. So whatever caused it, it was nothing to do with God (who just sat there watching).

  2. Here is Scotland, the gay marriage legislation process is further advanced, with the backing of all five (!) parties represented in the Scottish Parliament.

    So why have we had less flooding? Answer me that, Bishop Dow.

          1. Okay. I had to copy that to my “favored quotations” — with all due credit.

            By the way. In Iowa it is total drought and temperatures of 35 C plus. Such a whimsical deity and such a whimsical bunch of clergy. I wonder who has killed more – the clergy or the deity?

  3. It seems peculiar that an omnipotent God cannot be more selective in his punishments. I’m sure there are any number of C of E adherents of the homophobic, misogynist tendency who have been adversely affected by the flooding.
    Just another example of God’s outlook on life and death, as described by Burns in “Holy Willie’s Prayer:-

    “O Lord wha in the Heavens doth dwell
    Sends ane tae Heaven and ten tae Hell
    Aa for Thy glory,
    And no for onie guid or ill
    They’ve dune afore Thee.”

    1. This god is a bit old-fashioned and has trouble keeping up with modern times. I would have thought that lots of well chosen heart attacks, unexplainable by physicians, would have made a bigger impression.

  4. Surprise,surprise, I knew they would blame floods on innocent children who have been drowned by these floods,but why not Rome where in the vatican child abuse by the Church has not been reported and covered up,surely ifthere were a god he would have sent the floods to the wicked Church who have covered up atrocities by priests.The very rich make sure they are nowhere floods can reach them.
    Just watch Eden HD on tv and see where it can be seen that the earth is billions of years old. What a wicked god glad I dont believe in him.’On the first day man created God’.

  5. I remember heaping my derision on this Bishop at the time. However I missed the bit where he claimed that the Bible describes the decline of the Roman Empire. Since the Bible was written and compiled before the decline happened, presumably he must have been creatively interpreting “prophesies”.

    “People no longer see natural disasters as an act of God.”

    That would be because they aren’t and all educated people understand that. Unlike Dow who is apparently no more educated than some primitive savage.

    1. So true. That is why they are trying to keep evolution out of the classrooms.
      Can they please give me proof that it was an act of god or just keep quiet and stop embarassing themselves.

  6. Strange, I remember, at the time this story first came out, that the Bishop of Carlisle was thought to be a likely contender for Archbishop of Canterbury. The fact that his name has not cropped up recently is perhaps evidence that most people thought his outburst on the subject of floods and sin a bit beyond the pale. I don’t think A’bishops of Canterbury are in the business of scolding fellow bishops, and when the tsunami hit Southeast Asia, as I recall, the A’bishop of Canterbury himself suggested that it was reasonably thought to be a punishment or a warning from god. This is a dim memory, but I think that is right — although he later denied that this is what he meant.

  7. Loath though I am to defend the CofE &c, you can’t pin those statements on the Church as a whole. They’re explicitly attributed to individual bishops. Even one identified as an Evangelical.

    To the best of my knowledge the Church only speaks with one voice when it comes to the Synod. Which incidentally is meeting just right now, I think, so you may indeed get something you can hang around the neck of the Church as whole in the next couple of days.

    1. What good is it if they can’t even get the basics of the deity’s involvement with flooding right?

    2. “Loath though I am to defend the CofE &c, you can’t pin those statements on the Church as a whole.”

      Perhaps not, but I think it’s reasonable to expect the church to clarify its position on issues like this since not only have they set themselves up as a moral authority, but as far as they’re concerned are institutionalised as *the* moral authority.

      If we can’t take this as the view of the church then *why not*? What *is* the church’s view? If morality comes from god (as Williams and Sentamu certainly claim) then it should be an easy question to answer. Or, at least, you’d think they’d all agree.

      1. “What is the church’s view?” Oh, that’s an easy one. The church’s view is the one taken by whichever spokesperson you are LEAST inclined to argue with. That is the church’s view.

        Surprisingly, this is a view common to most religions, if we are to judge by the proponents most eager to change the subject.

  8. Someone on Twitter suggested that the hosepipe bans earlier in the year were probably caused by not enough sin. It really is hard to find a balance!

  9. The Bishopric (stressed final syllable) seems to attract this type of tool.

    A few years back I wandered into Carlisle Cathedral and chanced upon the previous incumbent’s valedictory homily, most of which was spent slagging off Richard Dawkins and ‘The God delusion’; what a bitter, twisted and deeply unhappy man he seemed, as he contemplated life without the cassock.

    The Rt. Rev. Dow wouldn’t agree with Gibbon regarding the Fall of the (Western) Roman Empire: EG attributed it ultimately to the talent drain – of the best and brightest acquiring sinecures within the Church, rather than working in the administration of the state, thereby undermining the Empire’s external security, internal coherence. In other words, Gibbon, contra the Cumbrian cleric, blamed it on Christianity!

    But then what could Gibbon possibly know about the subject, compared to the good Reverend?

  10. I remember this story from that time as I was often travelling to Carlisle. The bishop was so dim as to fail to draw a connection between the flooding and Carlisle being built of a flood plain where three rivers meet.

    As to whether the AoC condemned this outburst, I consider this as likely as the Pope condemning his archbishops and cardinals for saying Europeans sold Africans condoms pre-infected with HIV.

  11. The Archbishop of York has prayed for Andy Murray to win Wimbledon.

    Well, of course he hasn’t, he’s *far* too much of a weasel for that. What he actually prayed is:

    “Guide Andy Murray in the choices that come to him with every ball.”

    Brilliant. So if he loses, it’s not god’s fault!

    If he wins, prayer totally works!


  12. Two points: First one can apparently get to be a bishop without knowing much about the bible, since contrary to what he claims the bible does not describe “the downfall of the Roman empire as a result of its immorality” and the bible was written and compiled long before the fall of the Roman empire.

    Second, I don’t know why anyone would take the bishop or his church seriously since it was only a few hundred years ago that his predecessors were blaming storms on witches. Then saner, more intelligent minds prevailed and the Church of England stopped killing alleged witches which, in retrospect may have been a mistake from the church’s perspective because otherwise the bishop could round up a few witches and burn them at the stake whenever there are devastating storms. Ah, the havoc that civilization wreaks upon religion!

    1. I don’t know why anyone would take the bishop or his church seriously….

      Well, that is the bottom line question about all religion.

  13. “The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods are . . . also a judgment on society’s moral decadence.”

    Would the reverend claim that humanity in general, and England in particular, were less decadent during the height of the British Empire, what with its conquest and colonization of peoples around the globe?

    (I’m no less inclined to say that of mah blessed Land of the Fee and the Home of the Craven, Amuricuh, and other imperialistic contries; I’m simply responding to the Right Reverend’s specific claim in the article.

    Also, are there any “Left” Reverends?)

  14. For an omnipotent god, he sure has shitty aim.

    For an omniscient god, he’s chosen a shitty way to get his point across. (Doesn’t he know we’d mistake the floods for natural events?)

  15. So…what’s next? Tossing virgins into volcanos in order to appease the angry god that lives within?

    No, I’m serious. Cany anybody explain to me how this “wrathful Jesus punishes us with natural disasters” bullshit is even superficially different from the most absurdly primitive forms of paganism?


  16. Fifteen or so yrs ago, the mother of one of my daughter’s friends related this story.

    As a child of I guess around 5, her brother drowned, so now we’re talking ~60yrs ago. Understandably distraught, her mother went to her priest asking why this had happened. To which the loathsome toad replied that obviously she must have done something that displeased God, and she should go off and try to figure out what that was.

    Defying all logic, they all remained religious.

  17. The fact that I live at the top of a hill in a part of the UK which has not been hit by a great deal of this flooding and stuff must mean that God loves me more than most because he hasn’t ever come near to putting my house under water.

    But this is puzzling, because I’m one of the most evil brutes that ever lived, because I disapprove of not only slavery but also the mandate that hats are not to be worn indoors. If he really wanted to do something to punish me, I suppose he could cause one of the trees in the copse behind my back garden to come crashing down on my garage and wreck my car.

    Who am I kidding? My insurance covers all that stuff.

  18. If this is true, why isn’t all of Ireland under water, given the great number of pedophile priests who reside there? Or why isn’t Venice sinking or the Roman aqueducts overflowing since the Roman Catholic Church’s head denier, the Pope, lives there?

      1. Many educated children know that Venice is sinking. I’m referring to a vision of the whole community under water as it may be eventually.

      1. I send my congratulations to Sarah who said it better than I did. I’m learning how to make meaningful comments…hopefully I’ll do better in the future and my skill will approach that of others. Love you all.

  19. I detest the C of E. If it vanished tomorrow the vast majority of people in England wouldn’t notice it had gone, so little influence does it have on everyday life.

  20. Presumably the drought before was also a punishment for those things. Does their god do nothing more than interfere with weather systems to punish people, the good AND the bad???

  21. Yes, it behooves the CofE to react to this nonsense from one of their bishops, and it speaks poorly of their integrity when they don’t. Still, that is no excuse for any of us saying that “the CofE” teaches or says or holds these stupid ideas. We should be better, more precise, than our opponents when we present facts.

    By the way, this Bishop Dow is one of the nine bishops who rejected the ordination of a gay man to be Bishop of Reading. The nine were at once (and quite hilariously) named the Nazgul.

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