mjYAgSSA week ago, an unnamed storm dumped four trillion gallons of rain on Southeast Louisiana, flooding over 100,000 homes and thousands of businesses. The Red Cross has called it “the worst [disaster] to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy.”

Baton Rouge, the state capital, was submerged in water after more than two feet of rain fell in less than 72 hours. Baton Rouge is usually a “high and dry” place that New Orleans residents evacuate to when hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast.

Baton Rouge  — or “red stick” — is the place I call home. Baton Rouge is Red State and Bible Belt, LSU football, Cajun cuisine and the epicenter of the indescribable circus that is Louisiana politics. We moved there when I was in junior high school. My 86 year old mother still lives in that same house with my sister and brother-in-law.

As the flood waters rose, I worried from too-far-away Nashville. Social media brought regular family updates along photos tracking the water level. The streets filled up, then the water spilled over the curbs, then up into the yards. Raindrops plopped relentlessly into our newly formed neighborhood lake, ringed by houses that were flooding, one by one.

Social media offered support and a remedy: “Please pray” was the plea from my family members and from other Baton Rouge-related friends. “God help us.”

The water was coming up on the carport, rising toward the back door. It was early Monday morning August 17 when the good news came through a family member’s timeline: “The rain has stopped and waters have stopped rising. The house is dry. Prayers were answered.”

For my family, it seemed, all those prayers held back the water, and God messaged us, “You are safe from the flood.”

For a high school friend’s family, prayers did not “work” to stop the waters at her doorstep. As they kept seeking higher ground, God’s message may have been, “I am with you in the flood.”  

For Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, disasters are God’s way of saying, “I’m angry about your liberating politics and civil rights actions.”

In 2015, Perkins said that Hurricane Joaquin was God’s punishment for legalizing gay marriage and abortion. “God is trying to send us a message,” Perkins declared. He hasn’t yet revealed what message God was sending him last week when his Baton Rouge home was flooded out.

A 1000 year flood happening in a place that is always wet but never before underwater — that sends a clear message:

“Climate change is real. And it’s getting worse.”

The days before the Louisiana floods saw a record amount of precipitable vapor in the atmosphere . Extreme climate conditions brought a flood to a city that is always wet but never before under water. Weather disasters are becoming more common and more severe. Church-related disaster relief, Red Cross, and emergency management services will not be able to keep up with the great need. The clean up is expensive and disruptive. Society’s marginalized are hardest hit. The next disaster is on the way.

Ancient God message:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it.”
(Psalm 24:1-2)

Translated for today:
Red state, Blue state: We all breathe from the same air, thirst for clean water, benefit from nature’s bounty. When disaster strikes, we are all in the same boat.

The Louisiana flooding was “at least the eighth 500-year (or rarer) rainfall event in America (sic) since just last May,” according to meteorologist Eric Holthaus. (emphasis mine) 

As the waters begin to rise again, will we get the message?

“Climate change is real. And its effects fall on all of us.”

God help us.

* * * * * * * *
Rev. Sharon M. Temple currently serves as Designated Pastor of the delightful Brookmeade Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Nashville TN.  She blogs at Tidings of Comfort and Joy and contributed an essay to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.

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2 thoughts on “The Pastoral is Political: Flood Messages

  1. Sharon, I live in New Orleans — you know, the place that “always” floods, but this time didn’t. All the nearby places we in New Orleans think of “running away to” if a hurricane is coming have sustained unbelievable levels of flooding. I’ve just come back from a day on the Northshore, where I once served as a pastor, and the piles of debris out at the curb look like New Orleans after Katrina. Tony Perkins and numerous other conservative pastors who think these things are “God’s punishment” for [fill in the blank “liberal” stuff] are annoying and/or laughable, depending on your situation. If someone else gets the disaster, it’s God’s punishment on them. If these folks get the disaster themselves, it’s Satan trying to destroy their ministry. You just have to ignore the ignorant. Glad your family made it through without flooding.

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