When Katrina flooded New Orleans back in 2005, Pat Robertson promptly announced the reason. It was God. God did it, he declared, because of the city's abortions and homosexuals. This made New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin mad...hopping mad, and he jumped in to set the record straight. God did not destroy New Orleans because of abortions and homosexuals, he stormed.
He destroyed it because of the war in Iraq and disunity among its black residents.
No one thinks, apparently, that locating a coastal city below sea level yet in the path of hurricanes might have anything to do with it. No! It's all God. God destroyed that city for....well....pick your reason. But whatever reason you pick, have no doubt that God did it. Even insurance companies have long acquiesced to the language; natural disasters, they tell us in their policies, are "acts of God," whereas every non-religious person says, quite sensibly, if a bit crudely, that "shit happens." Which is it - "acts of God" or "shit happens"? Moreover, if such calamities are not really caused by God, does not church instruction that they are amount to monstrous slander against him?
Now, I recently came across a religious blogger who says he can accept God smiting New Orleans, or anywhere else, because "God is Sovereign" and thus can do whatever he wants! I swear, it's a wonder we're not all atheists! You don't think it might be nice for God to warn the "non-guilty" so they can clear out before the smiting starts? And what's so especially wicked about New Orleans? People aren't creampuffs up here in Rochester either, I assure you - why single out Louisiana folk? Atheists may say rotten things about God, but the really nasty things come from those who claim to be his friends! They don't do it on purpose, of course, but they buy into longstanding doctrines - nonsensical and unscriptural doctrines- that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. With friends like these, so the saying goes, who needs enemies?
There is an explanation for disasters. The churches don't offer it, but it is this: If you've voted the Republicans into power, you can't be upset that Democrat policies aren't being carried out (or vice-versa). Everyone knows that. And with only minimal exaggeration, the same reasoning can be applied to spiritual matters. There is a "party" that offers control over natural forces. That party is God's Kingdom, as in "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt 6:10) Alas, last time there was an "election" back in Genesis days, God's rulership was rejected in favor of human rulership - rulership which can't control the weather or the economy or health or peace or very much else.
Control of natural forces? An attribute of God's Kingdom? Why not? Consider the account at Mark 4:37-41:
And on that day, when evening had fallen, he [Jesus] said to them: “Let us cross to the other shore.” So, after they had dismissed the crowd, they took him in the boat, just as he was, and there were other boats with him. Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept dashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?” With that he roused himself and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” And the wind abated, and a great calm set in. So he said to them: “Why are you fainthearted? Do you not yet have any faith?” But they felt an unusual fear, and they would say to one another: “Who really is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Rejecting God's right to rule, as was done in Eden at man's start, has had long-standing, terrible consequences. God has responded by allowing humans to make good on their claim that they can govern themselves without him. He's set aside a block of time during which humans can devise schemes of government, harness the power of science, improvise their own economies, philosophies, moralities, and so forth. When that time runs out, and all such schemes have fallen flat, (aren't they doing that now?) God brings about his own rulership, the same rulership he purposed from the start but which he allowed to be briefly diverted so that humans might carry out their experiment of self-rule. That, in a nutshell, is the Bible's explanation for present abysmal conditions, as outlined here and (for atheists) here.
It's an explanation that makes splendid sense, but accepting it means rejecting some cherished church beliefs, such as the dogma that earth is but a temporary home upon which people prove their fitness for their ultimate destiny in heaven or hell. Unwilling to part with such unscriptural notions, what is there left to church teachers other than to defend each and every natural disaster as part of God's plan? Thus, Katrina, 911, tsunami 2004, earthquake after earthquake - tragedies that haphazardly ruin rich and poor, good and bad, old and young, all such calamities are manifestations of God's will, say his friends! He's Sovereign. He can do what he wants. Don't try to figure it out. His ways are higher than ours. Though such events give not the slightest appearance of wisdom, love, or justice, we're told to accept them as such! (And to think some detractors accuse us of being told what to believe!) Does God really need enemies, with friends that say such things about him?
One reason people become Jehovah's Witnesses is that they don't buy into such a moral vacuum. They look, instead, to when God's permission of human rule runs out, at which time he brings about his own 'kingdom.' The Lord's prayer points to that time:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matt 6:9-10)
The Book of Daniel points to it:
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Dan 2:44)
Revelation points to it:
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Rev 21:2-3)
Note above that they're not angels; they're men - people - and New Jerusalem stands for God's government over all the earth, just as literal Jerusalem stood for God's government over his ancient people.
Several Old Testament verses prophetically point to it. For example, Ps 93:1
Jehovah himself has become king! Let the earth be joyful. Let the many islands rejoice
But here we run into something peculiar. Most Bible's don't say "has become," as the New World Translation does. Some do, such as Young's Literal Translation, J.B. Rotherham Emphasized, and Douay-Rheim. But most say that God "is reigning," or something similar. What's with that?
It turns out that the Hebrew verb has two tenses: perfect and imperfect. The perfect tense is used to convey action completed. Events in the past would likely be described with the perfect tense. But, oddly, future events may also be conveyed with the perfect tense, when the writer regards their fulfillment as absolutely certain. The imperfect tense, on the other hand, denotes a work in progress, an ongoing action. Also, everyone acknowledges context plays its part in determining how to translate the perfect or imperfect tense.
The verb "reign" [malakh] in Ps 93:1 is in the perfect tense. It therefore seems that malakh should be rendered as an action completed, and not "reigning," as in an ongoing process. The New World Translation, and a handful of others, has thus translated it that way. And why do most others translate it "reigning?" Apparently due to their perception of doctrinal context - if God "has become king," they reason, there must have been a time when he was not king, and they can't get their heads around that. However, Jehovah's Witnesses side with Sigmund Mowinckel, who wrote in his 1962 book Psalms in Israel’s Worship:
...it is not a valid objection to say that Yahweh had, according to the Israelite view, always been king. The latter statement is correct enough . . . but in the cult the fact of salvation is re-experienced as a new and actual reality. Yahweh is ever anew witnessed as ‘coming’, ‘revealing himself’, and doing works of salvation on earth. The Israelite idea of God was not static but dynamic. Israel did not regard the Lord principally as sitting in calm possession and execution of his divine power, but as one who rises and seizes the power, and wields it in mighty works. And this is as a rule concretely pictured; from the ‘mythical’ side this is seen epically and dramatically: at a certain time Yahweh became king. To the Israelite way of thinking there is no contradiction between this and that he is king for ever; such a contradistinction is modern and rationalistic.
And with Charles H Spurgeon, who points out with regard to Ps 93:1 "In the verse before us it would seem as if the Lord had for a while appeared to vacate the throne, but on a sudden he puts on his regal apparel and ascends his lofty seat, while his happy people proclaim him with new joy, shouting "The Lord reigneth." Though he prefers "reigneth," probably out of convention, reading his remark makes apparent he'd have no objection to "has become."
And with Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, who "sees this psalm as reflecting the various pronouncements that will be voiced in the Messianic era and, therefore, the past tense is syntactically uttered in the psalm in retrospect."
Go here for some of these arguments, scroll ahead to page 67. The New World Translation agrees, not with the paper's author, Gerald Randall Kirkland, writing his Master's Thesis, but with Mowinckel and Feuer, whom he has cited.
So.....Ps 93:1 and similar verses take some time to discuss, but in the end they agree with the other verses cited. Though always king, God has granted a stay of his kingship for a time while humans try to prove their boasts of self-rule. The stay will run out soon - such is a prime import of the Jehovah's Witnesses position. In the meantime, we don't accept disasters and calamities as manifestation of God's will. They're an integral part of a rapidly decaying system of things under human domination.