Hurricane Katrina as divine retribution

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Various political and religious leaders have suggested that Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,836 people, was sent as a divine retribution for the sins of New Orleans, or of the South, or for the United States as a whole.[1][2] New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is said to have asserted in a speech on January 16, 2006, addressing the effects of Hurricane Katrina, "Surely God is mad at America".[2] Various different reasons have been given for God's wrath. Some victims of the disaster also made attributions to supernatural causes, that they were being punished for their sins, or that God was testing them, or even that the event was "the work of Satan."[3]

Failure to support Israel[edit]

Ovadia Yosef, a prominent ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbi, declared that Hurricane Katrina to be "God's punishment for President Bush's support of the August 2005 withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip".[1] He added that black people died because they did not study the Torah:

There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn’t enough Torah study... Black people reside there [New Orleans]. Blacks will study the Torah? [God said], Let’s bring a tsunami and drown them... Hundreds of thousands remained homeless. Tens of thousands have been killed. All of this because they have no God... Bush was behind the [expulsion of] Gush Katif, he encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif... We had 15,000 people expelled here [in Israel], and there [in America] 150,000 [were expelled]. It was God's retribution. God does not short-change anyone.[4][5]

The Jerusalem Newswire, a Christian Zionist online news service, ran an editorial headlined "Katrina— The Fist of God?" [6] stating:

For six days thousands of weeping people were pulled and carried from their homes. While this was taking place, a small tropical depression was forming near the Bahamas.... That small depression had turned into a frightening fiend.... Is this some sort of bizarre coincidence? Not for those who believe in the God of the Bible.... The Bible talks about Him shaking his fist over bodies of water and striking them. While the "disengagement" plan was purportedly the brainchild of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the United States of America has for more than a decade been the chief sponsor and propeller of a diplomatic process that has dangerously weakened Israel... the Sharon disengagement plan was something that was forced on Israel, primarily by the United States.[6]

This was echoed shortly thereafter by the Jerusalem based Christian Friends of Israel, which wrote, "we know that God only disciplines his own. Perhaps there are enough good men left in the United States that God thinks it worthwhile to send an occasional reminder not to tamper with the Land that He calls His own".[6]

Evangelical Jack Chick produced a chick tract entitled Somebody Angry? which also explained the hurricane as a sign of God's wrath over US pressure on Israel.[7]

Attacks on Al-Qaeda[edit]

Al-Qaeda in Iraq declared of the hurricane that "God attacked America, and the prayers of the oppressed were answered".[1]


Minister Louis Farrakhan asserted that Hurricane Katrina was "God's way of punishing America for its warmongering and racism".[1] Said Farrakhan, "Maybe God ain't pleased. Maybe this caste system that pits us against each other has to be destroyed and something new and better put in its place."[1]

Sexual immorality and abortion[edit]

One of the hundreds of churches and other places of worship in New Orleans devastated by what some consider divine wrath.

Less than two weeks after the Hurricane, Pat Robertson implied on the September 12th broadcast of The 700 Club that the Hurricane was God's punishment in response to America's abortion policy. He suggested that 9/11 and the disaster in New Orleans "could... be connected in some way".[8]

Steve Lefemine expressed a similar view, stating that "In my belief, God judged New Orleans for the sin of shedding innocent blood through abortion.... Providence punishes national sins by national calamities.... Greater divine judgment is coming upon America unless we repent of the national sin of abortion."[9]

Soon after the tragedy, Democratic Unionist Party—a right-wing political party in Northern Ireland—Councillor Maurice Mills claimed that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to the United States as an act of judgement upon those who practise sodomy.[10]

Gerhard Maria Wagner, briefly an auxiliary bishop of Linz, attributed Hurricane Katrina to God's ire caused by the town's reputation for lax sexual behavior, claiming that the hurricane destroyed brothels, nightclubs and abortion clinics: "It's no coincidence that in New Orleans all five abortion clinics as well as night clubs were destroyed.".[11] James Gill, columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, satirically called for the Pope next to elevate Wagner as Archbishop of New Orleans after protests from Roman Catholics in three New Orleans congregations over the merging of their churches by aging Archbishop Alfred Clifton Hughes.[12] The churches had been depopulated in part by out-migration resulting from Hurricane Katrina. Elevated by Pope Benedict XVI on January 31, 2009, Wagner resigned on February 15, 2009 amidst criticism, in part over his views of Hurricane Katrina.

American evangelist John Hagee linked the hurricane to a gay pride event known as "Southern Decadence Day", which was to have been held in the town's French Quarter a few days after the hurricane hit. He said in 2006, "I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are — were — recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came."[13][14] However, on April 25, 2008, Hagee backed away from his comments regarding Hurricane Katrina by saying, "But ultimately neither I nor any other person can know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina. I should not have suggested otherwise."[15] In rebuttal,'s "Urban Legends and Folklore" section[16] entitled "Hurricane Katrina: God's Punishment for a 'Wicked' City?" points out that the hurricane occurred before the parade and that the French Quarter was one of the least devastated parts of the city.

False claim of assertion by Pat Robertson[edit]

Evangelist Pat Robertson was falsely credited with having asserted that God sent Hurricane Katrina as punishment for the selection of Ellen DeGeneres to host the Emmy Awards. A Dateline Hollywood article satirically purported that Robertson had stated: "By choosing an avowed lesbian for this national event, these Hollywood elites have clearly invited God’s wrath.... Is it any surprise that the Almighty chose to strike at Miss Degeneres’ hometown?"[17] Because Robertson had made similar pronouncements in the past, this was believed by many to be a factual report.[18] Richard Dawkins referred to this Dateline Hollywood article in his book, The God Delusion, stating that Robertson "was reported as blaming the hurricane on a lesbian comedian who happened to live in New Orleans", and that although it was "unclear" whether the story was true, it was "widely believed, no doubt because it is entirely typical of utterances by evangelical clergy, including Robertson, on disasters such as Katrina".[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Michael Eric Dyson (2006). Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. Basic Civitas Books. pp. 178–202. ISBN 0-465-01761-4. 
  2. ^ a b Douglas Brinkley, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2006), p. 618.
  3. ^ Some evacuees see religious message in Katrina, MSNBC.
  4. ^ Zvi Alush (7 September 2005), Rabbi: Hurricane punishment for pullout], Ynetnews 
  5. ^ "Nature’s Wrath, Or God’s". The Jewish Week. 16 September 2005. Archived from the original on 20 November 2005. 
  6. ^ a b c Stephen Spector, Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism (2009), p.154-55. ISBN 0-19-536802-9.
  7. ^ Somebody Angry?, 2008
  8. ^ First Read, NBC: Robertson on Haiti: 'Pact to the devil'. January 13, 2010.
  9. ^ Some say natural catastrophe was 'divine judgment', Houston Chronicle.
  10. ^ "Burning Bush - DUP councillor calls "Hurricane Katrina" a judgment from God". 
  11. ^ Cleric whose Katrina comment caused stir promoted; Veronika Oleksyn, Wagner appointment in Huffington Post; Controversial Austrian priest now a bishop.
  12. ^ Gill, "Holy Nutcase!" (Times-Picayune, 2009 February 4, p. B7).
  13. ^ NPR: Pastor John Hagee on Christian Zionism. September 18, 2006.
  14. ^ Some hateful, radical ministers—white evangelicals—are acceptable
  15. ^ Boston Globe, Hagee Retracts Katrina Comment, by Foon Rhee on April 25, 2008.
  16. ^ Urban Legends
  18. ^ Urban Legends Reference Pages: God's Wrath
  19. ^ Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006), p. 239.