Faith and Disaster

March 9, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

What do groups do when they are faced with strong evidence that their core beliefs are wrong? Ever since When Prophecy Fails (1957), we’ve known the answer. They try spread the word, both to others who they try to convert, and to themselves with greater demonstrations of their faith.

The phrase “acts of God” usually refer to natural disasters — floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes. Yet after these events, no matter how devastating, people rarely give up their belief in God as a beneficent being.

When Prophecy Fails followed a group that believed that on a given date, the world would be destroyed but that aliens in flying saucers would come and rescue them. They were not unusual. Faith often is a belief in a distant and powerful figure who will save the group from disaster. If there are two such figures, the faiths can be combined.

The idea of a God-Trump alliance may be widespread among his Christian supporters. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders stated the idea explicitly: “I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that He wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there.”

An act of God that caused great destruction and loss of life is not going to shake the faith of Alabama Christians. As for Trump, it’s possible that his administration will come through for Alabama. But even if FEMA fails to deliver the kind of relief Alabamians expect, and even if their lives do not improve during the Trump years,they will probably maintain their belief in his goodness and blame any misfortunes on others.


Previous posts include examples of failed prophecy among liberals, the NRA, economists, and a Trump supporter in the South who is young, Black, and gay.

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