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Was Hurricane Katrina 'God's Wrath' on a Sinful Coast?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 30, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

RICH LOWRY, GUEST CO-HOST: In a column he distributed to news outlets this week, our next guest says the damage done by Katrina was God’s wrath on a sinful coast. He claims the Gulf Coast has long been known for gambling, sin and wickedness.

Joining us now to explain his comments is Alabama State Senator Hank Erwin. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

HANK ERWIN, ALABAMA STATE SENATOR: Honor to be here.

LOWRY: I find your comments objectionable, but I really want to seriously engage you on them.

It seems to me you have a very Old Testament (search) concept of sin, to say the least, and if you look at the New Testament, this issue comes up explicitly. Something terrible happens in Galilee, in Jerusalem, and Jesus says explicitly, it’s not because these people were any more sinful than anyone else.

So it seems to me that your view on the hurricane directly flies in the face of the teachings of Jesus.

ERWIN: Well, you’ve got to read the rest of that chapter there, though. That verse also comes right after that, saying that unless you repent, so likewise shall you perish. So he didn’t let anybody off because of their sin.

Jesus (search) is the same God, and the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament, which is a God that says, if you sin, you have consequences, but I love you. Please turn around. And that’s what I think we need to have in America is a relook at what God is like. And he is a balanced God with judgment along with compassion.

LOWRY: Well, Senator, with all due respect, what you seem to be suggesting is that only people in the Gulf Coast are sinners and the message of Christianity that I think is most powerful and most obviously true is that we’re all sinners.

ERWIN: Well, I agree with that. We’re all sinners. But at the same time, there’s certain degrees of sin which brings divine judgment all throughout the New Testament, all throughout the Old Testament. When people got to a point of behavior that was sin to a certain degree, God then brought in judgment.

And I think we need to ask ourselves, does God still judge anybody today? Is all behavior allowable?

LOWRY: You would agree, Senator, when Al Qaeda (search) in Iraq says that Hurricane Katrina was the wrath of God to punish America? You agree with that terrorist group? You agree with their estimation?

ERWIN: No, there’s a difference. Their motivation is to destroy America. My motivation is to revive America. We’ve got to be able to say...

LOWRY: Partly through hurricanes that killed hundreds of people?

ERWIN: Can God use weather to express a message to America?

LOWRY: Well, Senator, I hope also you’re aware that the only sins aren’t sin — aren’t sex and gambling on the Gulf Coast or anywhere else. There are also sins called pride and presumption. And it seems to me that pretending to know in great detail the intentions and designs of God is exactly that sort of pride and presumption.

ERWIN: Well, I don’t think it’s pride and presumption. I just say it might be an opportunity to throw down on the table another idea, because everybody is trying to explain the why of why this storm happened. It was a remarkable storm.

But I think one thing you need to suggest if this is a Bible believing country is that maybe God did use that to send a message not only to the folks on the coast: turn around, get right with the Lord, come back to church.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Senator, it’s Alan Colmes. Thank you for coming on our show tonight.

ERWIN: Hey, Alan, how are you?

COLMES: Thank you, sir. Thanks for being with us.

I’m just curious, since God is out to get all the sinners, which is why he brought the hurricanes, why didn’t they get the French Quarter (search), where most of that sin takes place?

ERWIN: Well, I thought that they did get some flooding there.

COLMES: No, that was actually the driest part of the city.

ERWIN: Well, I know that, but they still got flooding I think.

COLMES: And by the way, why didn’t they get — how about Vegas and Atlantic City? That’s still standing?

ERWIN: Well, that — if I were living in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, I would probably be sitting up and wondering myself.

COLMES: Yes.

ERWIN: God always is sending messages. And I think it would be interesting for us to consider that.

COLMES: But I also want to know, the Bunny Ranch — the Bunny Ranch, you know, where they have legal prostitution, that’s standing. So why do they go after these poor innocent babies and families who are now in shelters and they’re separated and some of them are dead? Is God that vengeful?

ERWIN: No, when sin gets into a society, innocent people suffer.

COLMES: That’s what God is like?

ERWIN: All throughout history when sin gets into a society, eventually, the good people will suffer because of that. Not from God, but because of the sin that’s in that community.

COLMES: So the real sinners in Vegas who are gambling or Atlantic City or the "Johns" visiting prostitutes in Nevada, they’re left alone; and the poorest of the poor, and the people and the innocent babies, they’re the ones who God wanted to go after?

ERWIN: No, not them. The sin of that community led to the unfortunate suffering of the innocent people. And right here in Alabama, we’re taking care of those innocent people. I’m involved in a hurricane relief effort right here in Alabama.

So the key message is this: is God a full God that not only is a loving God but also an accountable God? And should we consider that this hurricane might be a message...

COLMES: Well, I can’t explain all the innocent people here who were not sinners who got hit here.

Also, I’d like to point out, sir, you have the same exact position as Al Qaeda, who says that, you know, this is — hurricanes are because of the sin of the United States and all the sinners here in this country. So I wonder how it feels to have the same position as our biggest enemy at this moment in history?

ERWIN: Listen, Al Qaeda can jump in the lake as far as I care. Their message is to destroy America. My message is, listen, should we relook at this? Is this indeed an option? Is God sending us a message here?

LOWRY: All right, Senator.

ERWIN: And if so, we need to wake up.

LOWRY: Senator, thanks so much for joining us. I have to say all this discussion of collective punishment makes me very nervous since I live in the same city as Alan Colmes. Colmes, I’m putting the burden on you for some clean living.

COLMES: It’s coming after me next. Is that it?

LOWRY: Clean living, Alan.

COLMES: You stay close to me, you’ll be OK.

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