Friday, May 30, 2008


Religious Fatuity of the Day: Sharon Stone on the Chinese earthquake

I’ve been concerned about how we should deal with the Olympics, because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine. And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, is that karma – when you’re not nice that the bad things happen to you? —actress Sharon Stone speaking at the Cannes Film Festival

The suggestion that the root cause of a natural disaster was some delinquency on the part of somebody (or everybody) goes back to our earliest written records: The story of the Great Flood, causing the near destruction of all humanity by an offended deity, is found worldwide.

Of course in the West we prefer the Old Testament account. The god Yahweh (Jehovah) was so put out with humankind that he had something very like a hissy-fit. From Genesis, Chapter 6—

5 And Yahweh saw that man's wickedness was great over the face of the earth, and that all day the thoughts in his heart formed nothing but wickedness.
6 And Yahweh regretted having made man on the face of the earth, and his heart grieved.
7 And Yahweh said, "I will wipe man from the face of the earth, man, my own creation and also the animals of the field, and the creatures that crawl on the ground, and the birds of the air; for I regret having made them."

Since our rational faculties seem to have ceased to evolve about the time of the election of Ronald Reagan, we should not be surprised that natural cataclysms—be they earthquake, hurricane or tsunami—or even human-engineered disasters—as in the case of the destruction of the Twin Towers—bring out a rash of prophets to denounce the sins of the locals.

The most salient feature of these fulminations is that they always involve sins committed by someone other than the critic. In the case of Christian evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and the like, the root cause of disasters is usually said to be the failure of society to have made its homosexuals sufficiently miserable—a failure for which they cannot personally be held to account.

Another notable reaction of these divine mindreaders is that the disaster is typically celebrated. As Britain's Channel 4 reported after Hurricane Katrina,

Without reference to the children crushed beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings, Steve Lefemine, Director of Columbia Christians for Life said, categorically: 'God judged new Orleans for the sin of shedding innocent blood through abortion', while Pastor Bill Shanks of the New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans rejoiced that 'the hurricane has wiped out rampant sin' in a city about to host its annual Gay Pride event.

But this tendency to blame geophysical events on people we disapprove of is not restricted to Christian evangelicals. After the tsunami of 2005 Buddhist leaders of Sri Lanka were condemning sin willy-nilly—not to mention the island's remaining Muslims and Christians.

But what to do about an earthquake in godless China, where religious leaders aren't permitted to tout and taunt? Clearly an outside voice was called for, and the lot fell to Sharon Stone.

Stone bravely stepped into the role and carried it to new heights. The earthquake occurred, according to Stone, not because of "sin" but because the Chinese were "not nice" to the Dalai Lama. It remains unclear whether the Chinese government's fundamental offense was to bully a holy man or to mistreat one of her personal friends. In either case, justice was served.

Now karma is not being nice to Sharon. Christian Dior, which was using her to to pitch skin-care products to the Chinese, has dropped her like a plucked eyelash, and her movies have been banned from China and Hong Kong. Stone has been moved to contrition and even offered to help with the relief work.

That's what I like about karma—it all works out in the end.


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