I wrote this post as the winds and the snow began. The angle that my building makes with another high-rise forms an interesting vortex such that precipitation will actually rise. Yes, DC really is weird: here, it snows up. There is also standing water on US 1 with waves in it being driven by the winds.
I want to use this moment to point out something that’s been bothering me for a while. I’m currently ambivalent about the extent to which magic can change or affect the material, physical world. (I am most certainly agnostic about the means by which it does so, as I find many of the explanations which justify it to be precisely as bad as the obnoxious New Atheists mock them for being.) At the same time, I’ve done magic which, by my standards, worked. Including weather work. I didn’t get a chance to do preparatory work before Sandy as I’ve done before, but I’ll be doing more tonight.
Anyone who has had much exposure to the New Apostolic Reformation and associated/similar kinds of Christians will have seen their claims to have worked what I would classify as magic. They describe it as prayer, and we can debate the interpenetration of those categories, but they say they make changes in the world. Many of their claims are clearly ridiculous, and the sources that follow them tend to report these claims as further proof of the NAR’s detachment from Planet Reality.
Of course, this is also something that causes a lot of mainstream thinking to dismiss all magic as “woo” and hence to think Paganism is entirely ridiculous. But I don’t think all of this is entirely “woo,” so let’s stipulate the possibility that the NAR, like other kinds of magic, can affect the “real” world. (Thank you, Hecate, for teaching me that it’s all real; it’s all metaphor; there’s always more.)
And given the context of this storm, if Jesus wants to help out moderating its impact, I’d gratefully take his help.
So I was asking myself why it bothers me so deeply when I see Cindy Jacobs asking her prayer intercessors to “rebuke” the storm. After all, I think my magic can make a difference, so maybe hers can too, and I’d be stupid to refuse help, right?
I think I found the answer in another headline from today: Hurricane Sandy is God’s Vengeance for (insert that Christian’s personal hobbyhorse – QUILTBAG rights, abortion, etc). Again, if you’ve been around these kinds of Christians much, you’ve seen these kinds of condemnatory headlines. In fact, they’re much, much more common than calls to ask their god to help potential problems that are developing.
Worst of all, they almost never show any sort of compassion for the people who are killed, hurt, or otherwise impacted by these disasters and tragedies. It’s the most despicable kind of appropriating others’ pain in order to “lesson” the rest of us about moral decay.
This isn’t just a failure of theodicy. It demonstrates a worldview with a propensity for bullying, a propensity learned directly from their twisted, malignant vision of deity. Even when they do issue calls to try to importune their god for help, I cannot escape seeing an implicit threat. “If you don’t do what we want, I mean, what HE wants, we might not be able to hold him back next time,” this cycle of pin-the-blame-on-the-sinner says to me.
Of course, it’s also a failure of theodicy. This is another aspect of the same incoherence that crops up when people try to square the circle of an omnipotent, omniscient god which doesn’t intend the rape but does very strongly intend the pregnancy that follows from it. There are coherent theological responses to this; I respect Christians who are willing to grapple with this with eyes open to the realities of the world they are trying to discuss, and some of them are fairly successful at it. But many aren’t, and too many of those are closer than we realize to the abhorrent, bullying view that makes my skin crawl even when they say they’re working for (my) good. This is all one worldview, and if you don’t think it’s a problem, you’re not paying attention.
But we can’t let our attention – or our intention – be occupied by that alone.
And now, having faced that little piece of my shadow (thank you, Samhain, thank you, people who have helped me do shadow work recently), I am going to sit with this amazing, awe-full and awful storm. I am going to reach out in love, with responsibility, and with my fear – of the storm, of the people who scare me and open old wounds, of the uncertain future that this storm makes all-too-apparent – with all of those, and work. For myself, for others, for the world, for all of us. Together. Here. Now.
There are birds taking flight off the roof of a building nearby. The clouds are so low that their wild flight in the face of the wind disappears almost immediately. I want to try that: what kind of flight would be possible in this unique storm that we could never think of in “normal” times? What kind of magic can ride in its wings?
What are you doing tonight?
Updated after the storm: We were safe and sound; although there were risks of flooding, none affected us. (Key safety tip: knowing when the full moon is and how it affects the tides is practical, real-world knowledge!)
My thoughts and prayers went out to those who were hurt by the storm.