Thomas Oliver, the New Orleans city council president, upon hearing stories of Sodom and Gomorrah this week, commented a few days after Katrina hit his city: "Maybe God is going to cleanse us."

It would be a wonderful thing if more of our leaders actually thought this way. Newspapers in Europe, certainly no hotbed for Christian faith, suggested that Katrina was punishment for America failing to sign on with the Kyoto accords. Islamic militants suggested Katrina was part of their "holy war" against the US, citing Allah’s will. And some zealous defenders of Zionism have suggested that our complicity in removing Jews from the Gaza strip brought down God’s jugdment on us. It seems the culprits behind Katrina’s devastation are many, at least according to the pundits and critics.  We really do like to "blame" someone, or something, when disaster strikes. This is all the more true as we move further and further away from a robust doctrine of divine providence as taught by the Bible. Where, and when, such a doctrine is believed today it is generally misunderstood or wrongly used, as seen in several of the above quotations.

The New York Daily News noted on September 4 that in the 1990s the New Orleans Police Department "had the dubious distinction of being the nation’s most corrupt police force and the least effective; the city had the highest murder rate in America. More than 50 officers were eventually convicted of crimes including murder, rape and robbery: two are currently on Death Row."

Michael Brown, a Catholic writer on the Web site, www.spiritdaily.org, wrote back in 2001 of the danger of a coming disaster for New Orleans. He wrote again this week that "When you invoke dark spirits, you get a storm. The very word hurricane comes from the Indian hurukan for evil spirit."

New Orleans has long been widely known as sin city. It features everything from voodoo to "the highest murder rate in the country" says the American Spectator. It was clearly a city with a dangerous culture sitting right in the path of possible natural destruction. And as we now know New Orleans was totally unprepared for the consequences. Sadly, I expect this blaming to continue. I also doubt that many leaders in New Orleans will be as honest as their city council president. I wonder what would happen if leaders declared a national day of prayer and fasting to seek the grace of God in repentance for the cleansing of our nation? It would surely be an appropriate direction to take. There was once a time when this would have been soberly done by our leaders. May God again give us sensitive, God-fearing leaders who respect providence enough to respond with such humility, much the way Abraham Lincoln did during our greatest national ordeal between 1861-65.