Ray Nagin: 'God is mad at America'
It will be interesting to see whether the statements of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin get the same degree of media play that Pat Robertson's statements about Ariel Sharon received. One might think that a government official's declarations on the mind of God would be more newsworthy than those of a broadcaster.

But maybe not. The Baton Rouge Advocate plays Nagin's Martin Luther King Day speech with this headline: "Nagin urges rebuilding with unity of residents: Mayor vows to bring black community back." The New Orleans Times-Picayune says, "Evoking King, Nagin calls N.O. 'chocolate' city: Speech addresses fear of losing black culture."

Both are probably reflective of local concerns. Louisianans may care more about what a rebuilt New Orleans will look like than they do whether Ray Nagin invokes God for his political purposes.

But nationally, the headlines focus on Nagin's theodicy. "Hurricanes May Be God's Punishment, Mayor Says," says the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press goes with "New Orleans Mayor Says God Mad at U.S."

Here are the relevant parts of Nagin's speech:

Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country. … Surely he doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves.

Equating the hurricanes with God's wrath is theologically problematic. But it's even more theologically problematic to invoke God directly in your plans to rebuild the city: "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."

Of course, ...

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's editorial director. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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