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Sometimes I wonder about things that I probably should just ignore. For example, I’ll read something like this

“As a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us,” Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) told constituents last week at a town hall in Coldwater, Mich. “And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”

Among conservative evangelicals, that is not an unusual opinion. Nearly all evangelicals — 88 percent, according to the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life — believe in miracles, suggesting a faith in a proactive God. And only 28 percent of evangelicals believe human activity is causing climate change. Confidence that God will intervene to prevent people from destroying the world is one of the strongest barriers to gaining conservative evangelical support for environmental pacts like the Paris agreement.

…and I’ll think to myself, “What would Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan tell his constituents if there were a serial killer on the loose in Coldwater who was abducting their children?” Would he say “I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, God can take care of it”?

I really doubt he’d say that. And I really doubt that he’d get away with it if he did.

I mean, normally, if you have a big pressing problem in your community, you can’t just say that you’re a Christian and God will take care of it.

If the river keeps flooding, you build a damn levee. If earthquakes keep flattening your buildings, you make people build them up to code. If tornadoes are a recurring problem, you build some shelters and stockpile supplies. It doesn’t really matter whether or not a bunch of your constituents believe that God won’t allow a natural disaster to affect them. In the end, even they aren’t going to be satisfied with your complacent attitude.

How is this really different from the parents who won’t seek life-saving health care for their children because they truly believe that prayer will do the job? We want to make that national policy? Last I checked, that was considered a crime.

The best I can do here, and it’s not easy, is to acknowledge that there’s a difference between taking precautions against natural disasters and thinking that you can cause or prevent them. Except, I don’t really understand why you could successfully intercede with God to prevent him from leveling your house but not intercede with him to create an earthquake or hurricane. I get bogged down in these insane internal conversations that I imagine people having.

God says, “I was going to level all these houses in your town but since you asked I will spare you and pick on this other town.” Or God says, “I wasn’t thinking of destroying your enemy’s community, but since you brought it up I think I’ll give them 12.0 trembler and kill almost all of them.”

But I don’t want to have a theological argument about what people can or cannot convince God to do. I just want to point out that it’s actually not normal, even by their own standards, for evangelicals to insist that nothing can be done to prevent or mitigate things that can go predictably wrong. There’s a distinction between believing the God might cure your child of cancer and having so much certainty that he will do so that you don’t take your child to the oncologist. Likewise, it’s possible that the predicted negative results of climate change won’t occur because God “takes care of it.”

That’s criminal in one case and it ought to be criminal in the other.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com