Israel Folau, the former Australian rugby star is reported as stating that the bushfires now devastating his country are God’s judgement on Australia for allowing gay marriage. It is an opinion worthy of the Protestant evangelicals of Nineteenth Century Ireland.
As Folau claims fires are God’s judgement, so the evangelical Protestants claimed famine was God’s judgement.
Charles Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary at the British Treasury during the years of the famine wrote:
The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated. …The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people.
Trevelyan saw the famine as punishment for a failing in the national character. Protestant evangelist Edward Nangle saw the famine as divine punishment for much more specific actions:
The Government resolve to endow in a permanent form the fountain-head of Popery in Ireland — the Royal (?) College of Maynooth. The Universal Protestantism of Great Britain and Ireland revolts, and with a million and a half voices deprecates the measure. This is of no avail. The miserable minority of men in power accomplish this infatuated purpose. It is done ; and in that very year, that very month, the land is smitten, the earth is blighted, famine begins, and is followed by plague, pestilence, blood! The work of encouragement to Popery proceeds; the essentially Popish Board of Irish National Education has been doubly, trebly endowed and chartered; the Popish priesthood are flattered, and unconstitutional, illegal titles are heaped upon the Hierarchy. A state endowment is lavishly offered to them, and, parallel with all this, pestilence grows and increases, famine spreads, civil war and rebellion stalk through Ireland.
Nangle suggested that the death of a million people and the exile of a million more were due to a single action. But, if this was God’s judgement, why did God not strike those responsible instead of destroying innocent lives? Similarly, if God is angry at Australia for allowing gay marriage, then why did he not strike the legislators responsible instead of causing suffering to the innocent?
Edward Nangle is remembered as a crackpot fundamentalist. It is hard to imagine any Christian would now attempt to defend such a perverse view of the events of 1845-1852. Should he persist with bizarre claims, Israel Folau will be similarly remembered.