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August 22, 2008 / beidson

Meteorologist As Priest, The Forecast As Revelation, And Safety As Salvation: When Weather Becomes The Gospel

When news of severe weather and natural disaster make it to the headlines, people pay attention, especially if it is going to affect them.  We’ve all heard stories and perhaps known and even lost loved ones who were devastated by some sort of catastrophic natural event.  When it comes to the forecast, we have no problem when we are warned to take cover.  No one complains when they are told they are in danger.

But this may be the only politically correct warning our culture receives without complaint.  It seems that the topic of weather has somehow transcended arguments about political correctness.  Afterall, we are all in agreement that it is not a good thing to be caught in the path of a tornado, or to be trapped in a school or supermarket when a hurricane sweeps through.  No one is protesting that meteorologists shouldn’t tell us when to run for cover, or when to leave our homes and evacuate.  And the reason should be obvious: severe weather kills.  Whether it’s a drought, a flood, a tsunami or a lightning bolt, weather can be extremely dangerous, so people beware.  And we are glad when we are warned.

And yet, perhaps the reason for our agreement isn’t so obvious.  We all want to be safe from harm, but many people have made safety a moral issue, couching it in terms of right and wrong, good and evil.  Sure, weather is an act of God, and so there is a sense in which it is included in our ideas of morality, so far as we are concerned with God’s direct control over it.  But the kind of importance given to weather in our culture today is a result of dismissing biblical morality to the point that the only thing anyone can agree on is that we ought to be safe.  Safety, then, has become a righteousness we hope to attain: the safer, the better.  We may not be allowed to talk about the morality of abortion around the water cooler at work, but safety . . . that’s a discussion we should all be having.

I’m not encouraging recklessness in the work place or anywhere for that matter, but there is something to the fact that much of our ethical and moral conversation is limited by political correctness, and  yet somehow we don’t see the irony in our conversations about physical safety.  But what should we expect when the body and the earth and possessions become the center of our lives?  Weather affects all of these, and we can all agree that physical pain and suffering is bad and evil (rooted in) and should be avoided if unnecessary.  It makes sense, then, that we would care about the weather.  But what doesn’t make sense is the way some have made it a transcendant issue, as if it were the only thing we can speak of in terms of right and wrong.

When a culture begins to pile up unrighteousness on top of the truth, we should expect that secondary issues would gain a place of primary importance.  We need transcendance.  We need something to worship, something to fear.  The problem is that many of our intellectual trends reject the gospel outright, and appeal to judges of a different sort to speak on morality.  And so the weatherman becomes a priest, standing between us and the gods, warning us of furious weather and pleading with us to escape its wrath.  The forecast becomes a type of revelation, a “thus saith the Lord” sort of proclamation.  And physical safety becomes our salvation.  We are told to take cover from the weather and save our lives.  At last, safety-speak has become the gospel, and we are all now evangelists carrying the message of redemption from a life of precariousness and deliverance from a life-consuming world. 

Is our greates hope the promise of a safer world?  Are weather, sports and gas prices the only issues we can speak of in terms of right and wrong, good and bad?  Or do we have a better hope, one that transcends toppling trees and crashing waves?  We do have a hope such as this in the person of Jesus Christ, who is truly a priest and prophet, who has given to us the revelation of God, the gospel, which is the center story of history.  He is not scared to speak about judgment and condemnation, and he is not safe at all.  He has spoken, and even the winds and the seas obey him.  And yet in this dangerous man we find our deliverer, who rescues us from much more than stormy seas.  He commands you to trust in him, or else, he warns, he will judge you in your sin, and from this you cannot take cover.

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