Video: Punishing the sinners?

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updated 10/5/2005 7:19:00 PM ET 2005-10-05T23:19:00
TRANSCRIPT

Hurricane Katrina damaged the city of New Orleans in what seems like biblical proportions. Some say the human suffering alone could be a part of God's plan.

Reverend Franklin Graham, son of Reverend Billy Graham, suggests the city was targeted because of the city's sinful reputation.

At a speech in Virginia, he said, "This is one wicked city, OK?  It's known for Mardi Gras, for Satan worship.  It's known for sex perversion.  It's known for every type of drugs and alcohol and the orgies and all of these things that go on down there in New Orleans.  Reverend Graham continued, "There's been a black spiritual cloud over New Orleans for years.  They believe God is going to use that storm to bring revival.

Was God behind the destruction? 

Jennifer Giroux president of Women Influencing the Nation, Kennedy, political commentator and host of FOX Reality Channel's new show, "Reality Remix," and William Donahue, president of the Catholic League joined "Scarborough Country" for the heated debate. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY: Do you agree with Reverend Graham, that this was part of God's plan? 

JENNIFER GIROUX, DIRECTOR, WOMEN INFLUENCING THE NATION: Joe, I don't have any problem with what the Reverend Graham said. 

I believe that, when he talks about New Orleans and a cloud of darkness hanging over an immoral city, he could be referring to any city in the United States.  I believe that God will not be mocked.  We talked about this just eight-and-a-half months ago with the tsunami.  It's a very delicate theological issue, as we talked about then. 

You know, all of us have a sinful nature.  And many innocent people suffer, along with those that perhaps were engaged in sinful activity.  But let's look at the state at which our country is in, abortion, contraception, homosexuality, cloning, I mean, it all really comes together in one big picture. 

Why do you think those like myself and those in my organization that voted for President Bush are outraged that he is saying he doesn't have a litmus test?  Abortion is an abomination, an offense and mocks God. 

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Jennifer, let me ask you this about Franklin Graham's statement last night, just a simple question.  Do you associate yourself with those comments that there's a black spiritual cloud hanging over New Orleans, and that's why Katrina was sent there, to create a revival, or would you like to disassociate yourself with those comments? 

GIROUX: What I will associate myself with, Joe, are the comments that Archbishop Hanna of New Orleans, the archbishop, if you remember, that did the eulogy at JFK's funeral, which just tonight an interview came out from him who said it was a chastisement of New Orleans and a chastisement of this country. 

He is a 92-year-old archbishop of New Orleans, a very respected archbishop, who said that we as a nation have got to be accountable for our moral acts as a nation and as individuals. 

SCARBOROUGH: All right, Kennedy, let me bring you in.  What do you think about the archbishop's comments and Franklin Graham's comments that this terrible tragedy was the cause of God's wrath? 

KENNEDY, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Franklin Graham has always appeared to be a pretty reasonable guy.  I have great respect for his father. 

But after hearing what he had to say, I think that he is insane.  I think that he now feels that he is the personal spokesperson for God.  And, you know, like I have said in the past, as an Orthodox Christian, I find people who speak on behalf of God, as opposed to those who interpret what they believe to be God's message, I find people who speak on behalf of God
to be insane and offensive. 

SCARBOROUGH: Bill...

GIROUX: And how does a sane person claim to be associated with MTV and call themselves an Orthodox Christian?  I don't understand that one. 

KENNEDY: Oh, you know what, sweetheart?  You have an agenda here.  You are trying to steer a conversation about New Orleans and the sin that may happen within the city walls into an abortion discussion.  That's my problem with the far right.  It's illogical.

SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you, Bill Donahue.  We hear the archbishop of New Orleans coming out and associating himself with the remarks of Franklin Graham, saying the city is chastised.  Do you agree with that?  Do you agree with Franklin Graham? 

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: No, I don't.  I know lots of people have gone to Mardi Gras, and they have loved it and had a good time.  And they didn't act in excess. 

The idea — well, you know what bothers me is the certitude that is involved here and the explicitness that we know God that ordained this, that God is vengeful, that this is an act of retribution to — It's payback time to get a certain group of people.  Why did God choose mostly blacks?  Why did God choose New Orleans, as opposed to New York City or someplace
else? 

No, look, one could say this much.  Remember, Abraham Lincoln, back in 1861, at the time of the Civil War, instituted a day of prayer and fasting.  And he did it again in 1863, two years later, in the middle of the Civil War.  He said, we have forgotten about God.  We have been caught up in our successes, and we need a kind of a wakeup call.  I am paraphrasing here. 

I think he understood that we had this terrible tragedy called the Civil War and perhaps that we should think more about the eternal and the transcendental and about salvation.  I have no problem with that, that Lincolnesque-type statement.

But when people get specific and they know exactly that this is what God had meant, to get a certain class of people, because some of them are in excess, and, therefore, the entire city is going to suffer as a result of a natural disaster, this is not the lexicon of Catholicism. 

SCARBOROUGH: Jennifer, that's the question I have. 

GIROUX: I agree with that, Bill.

SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Jennifer, the question I have is this.  I think the part of this New Orleans story that bothered me the most was the fact that you had young, 12-, 13-, 14-month-old babies dying of dehydration on city sidewalks in New Orleans. 

I don't know about you.  I mean, the God that I worship is not a Santa Claus, but the God that I worship does not kill 14-month-old babies in such a heinous way to punish Florida residents that go over and have too much fun on Bourbon Street.  

GIROUX: Bill, I agreed with everything.  Joe, I agreed with everything...Excuse me, Kennedy.  Joe, I agreed with everything my friend Bill Donahue said here.  Bill, I agree with you.

I want to clarify my position.  I do not think God targeted New Orleans alone.  I think the archbishop, who has, by the way, in this interview, been going around to the victims in New Orleans and been getting standing ovations.  As a matter of fact, the sheriff asked him to speak to his police officers and explain the association of immoral behavior and what's happening down there.  He has been getting standing ovations. 

I don't believe God is targeting the city of New Orleans.  I believe that this is a wakeup call for all of us individually and as a nation to look inward and think, would I be ready to meet God?  How is my individual behavior in God's eyes?  How do we as a country have to turn back to God?  I do not believe God is after innocent children and babies at all, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH: Yes. 

GIROUX: I agree with you.  I believe that the innocent, historically and biblically — and I believe Bill Donahue would agree with this — the good have always suffered with the bad.  That is not for us to understand. 

I believe God has historically allowed disasters and punishments to happen as a form of chastisement.  We can go back as far as when God liberated the Jews and allowed Passover to happen and innocent first-born Egyptian babies to die to allow the Jews out of exile. 

SCARBOROUGH: OK.  Kennedy, let me bring you in here and I will give you the final word here.  You said you thought Franklin Graham was insane.  How do you think that plays in?

KENNEDY: Anyone who personally speaks on behalf of God is insane. 

SCARBOROUGH: On behalf of God.  Yes, how do you think that plays — because we always on this show try to speak to the Middle America that I grew up in.  How do you think that
plays in Middle America?  How do you think that plays among a lot of people in church?  Do you think a lot of people in churches may have been offended by those words also? 

KENNEDY: I think people are offended by that, because what happens is, when people like Franklin Graham are put under the microscope and, you know, a majority of people think that this is how most Christians feel, it makes Christians seem insane. 

It makes Christians seem like they are an uneasy people, when, really, I believe that most Christians feel that God does have a plan.  It is mysterious.  It isn't something that we can express in words or express personally.  And when someone tries to do that, it actually — it
removes people from the core of what their faith might be. 

You know, Franklin, you are not speaking for my God.  As a Christian, I am surprised that you are invoking stories of the Old Testament, when the God of the New Testament clearly is not the wrathful, vengeful God that is throwing hurricanes and floods and locusts around like
pies in a pie-throwing contest. 

Catch 'Scarborough Country' each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET

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