Hurricane Sandy God's Punishment? Priest Shuts Down Claims as Twitter Users Mock Pat Robertson

Fr. James Martin Tweets 'God's Ways Are Not Our Ways;' Others Mock 'Theological Climatologist'

Father James Martin, who has been sharing a series of prayers and reflections as Hurricane Sandy barrels her way along the East Coast Monday, issued a tweet Sunday night discouraging religious leaders from linking the deadly storm with God's divine punishment against specific parties.

"If any religious leaders say tomorrow that the hurricane is God's punishment against some group they're idiots. God's ways are not our ways," tweeted the Jesuit priest, who is also a contributing editor at America Magazine and the author of Between Heaven and Mirth and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.

Martin, who eventually got into a brief Twitter debate about the "mystery of suffering" with one questioning user, has also shared on his Facebook page reflections about finding comfort in a storm.

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"Millions of people on the East Coast of the U.S. are frightened as Hurricane Sandy makes landfall today. Frightened of many things: terrible damage from the wind and water, especially the surging, record-breaking tides; widespread power outages that may last for days; the potential loss of potable water; and, even more serious concerns like caring for a sick loved one," the reverend wrote in a post titled "Fear and Hope in Midst of the Storm".

Martin added, "In these times, it's is easy and natural and human to be frightened. It's not a sin to be frightened. Listening to the rising wind outside my own window is not the most comforting thing in the world.

"But there are resources for those who fear. For me, the Gospel passages I turn to most when I'm frightened are the Annunciation and the Storm at Sea."

In contrast to Father Martin's somber tone, others were wondering Monday if and when conservative evangelical Christian Pat Robertson would be making any comments of his own in relation to Hurricane Sandy.

Former "Star Trek" television star Wil Wheaton, for example, tweeted: "Has noted theological climatologist Pat Robertson told us who God is trying to punish with Hurricane Sandy, yet? Asking for a friend."

Robbie Leib, a member at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, also wondered, "Has Pat Robertson let us know why Sandy is coming yet? I'm curious what the entire East Coast did to deserve this."

Robertson, who founded the Christian Broadcasting Networking and co-hosts "The 700 Club" daily television broadcasts, has claimed more than once that certain natural disasters were divine judgment from God.

Most notably were remarks he made in 2010 after a devastating earthquake hit the Caribbean nation of Haiti. At the time, Robertson claimed that the small island's inhabitants were in such a position because of a deal their ancestors made with the devil in the 1791 slave rebellion against the French. His remarks were quickly condemned.

More recently, several Christian ministers have spoken out against Robertson's claims, specifically taking him to task for seeming to suggest that Alzheimer's disease is grounds for divorce. He also has been criticized for cautioning parents considering adoption that some orphans who have suffered sexual abuse or been deprived of food might turn out "weird".

However, it appears Robertson has not shared any theological thoughts on Hurricane Sandy as yet. The Christian Broadcasting Network has wished for viewers to be safe and to "pray for those in Hurricane Sandy's path."

Father Martin, meanwhile, has encouraged those following his Facebook updates to use the story of the Annunciation found in Luke 1:26-38 and the Storm at Sea, found in Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25 to cope with the storm.

"In times of fear, look backwards. Look where God has been with you in the past, and remember that God will continue to be. Trust that the God who has been with you in the past will not abandon you, either in the present or in the future," he wrote.

Martin added, "Sometimes it is hard to see, and sometimes it takes a while to realize exactly how God is with us, but God is there. Remember: God entered fully into our humanity, as a human being, and the Risen Christ is with us in all of our trials. That doesn't mean that things will not get tough, but the one who you think is not paying attention is closer than you think."

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