When something terrible happens, it’s usually not long before someone on the religious right attributes it to God’s wrath. From hurricanes to earthquakes to tornadoes to floods, if you look closely enough you’ll see that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all that horror and suffering: gay people and/or American foreign policy.
Enter Michele Bachmann. You probably know by now that South Carolina is experiencing its worst flooding in hundreds of years. At least eleven people have died due to weather-related incidents in the Carolinas since the flooding began on Thursday. The former congresswoman (who evidently moonlights as a meteorologist) has a theory, however.
Bachmann took to Twitter over the weekend to let her followers know what’s really going on in South Carolina. “U.S. turns its back on Israel, disasters following,” she wrote above a link to an article on the record-setting storms on the East Coast. Got that, Carolinians? If you’re upset about the deluge sweeping your state and you want answers, don’t look to science or Hurricane Joaquin or that tropical moisture from the south or the unusually high water temperatures in the Atlantic – you’re suffering because Obama and Netanyahu don’t get along.
Bachmann, of course, has a history of divining the real causes of natural disasters. When Hurricane Irene pummeled the East Coast in 2011, she opined: “Washington, D.C. – you’d think by now they’d get the message. An earthquake. A hurricane. Are you listening? The American people have done everything they possibly can. Now it’s time for an act of God and we’re getting it.”
I understand the temptation to dismiss Bachmann. She’s a religious lunatic and, since leaving Congress earlier this year, an increasingly irrelevant political figure. But her opinions are not marginal among the Christian right in this country. We’ve heard this over and over again from prominent Republicans, both in and out of office. Bobby Jindal held a prayer rally earlier this year, where a right-wing group distributed a years-old document stating the following:
We have watched sin escalate to a proportion the nation has never seen before. We live in the first generation in which…homosexuality has been embraced…While the U.S. still claims to be a nation "under God" it is obvious that we have greatly strayed from our foundations in Christianity. This year we have seen a dramatic increase in tornadoes that have taken the lives of many…and let us not forget that we are only six years from the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2011, Rick Santorum similarly theorized that the global economic recession was caused by, you guessed it, the gays (also, abortion):
“Letting the family break down and in fact encouraging it and inciting more breakdown through this whole redefinition of marriage debate, and not supporting strong nuclear families and not supporting and standing up for the dignity of human life. Those lead to a society that’s broken…If you look at the root cause of the economic problems that we’re dealing with on Wall Street and Main Street I might add…they were huge moral failings. And you can’t say that we’re gonna take morality out of the public square, morality out of our schools, God out of our schools, and then expect people to behave decently.”
There are countless other examples of this crooked logic on the right. Whether it’s Jerry Falwell blaming 9/11 on the “pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians” or it’s an Illinois Republican linking same-sex marriage to autism, insanity of this sort is commonplace in the GOP. The point is that these are commonly held views among Republican voters and politicians. These people really believe this stuff, and that’s terrifying.
Science – and good policymaking – is about understanding cause and effect. We can’t deal with complicated issues like climate change and financial regulation when one our two political parties is rife with this kind of ignorance. So yes, Bachmann doesn’t really matter anymore, but her deranged worldview is still very much a part of the GOP – and that’s a major problem for the country.