In the face of inexplicable tragedy, some zealous religious folk readily preach a message of divine retribution. The burden of blame is placed on the sinfulness of society as a whole, or on a specific group within society. This does nothing but promote an unearned self-righteousness for the finger-pointers, and undeserved hatred for those singled out.
Much of what is evil in the world can be explained by cause and effect. If we abuse our bodies or partake in dangerous behaviour, we increase the odds of suffering physical consequences. If we take up arms against a neighbour, chances are that we will start a war. If we hoard the bounty of the earth, then others will suffer from deprivation. Many causes of evil are due to the misuse of that awful gift of free will.
But who or what can be blamed for horrific natural disasters or widespread epidemics? Is God to be blamed? Is God a vengeful deity with a limited amount of patience, ready to teach us a lesson at any time? If so, whose side is God on when so many of us claim to be the favoured ones?
It is theological presumption to cling to a God of one’s own liking. But I have to believe in a loving God, not a God of retribution. I cannot believe that God would bring suffering merely to get even with a specific population group. The core of the Christian message is that God became one of us in order to save us. Jesus preached a gospel of love not of anger and destruction.