With Hurricane Maria threatening Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands, we’re likely to see more Religious Right figures finding spiritual significance in the recent storms, as retired law professor Carol Swain did in her September 7 appearance on Drew Mariani’s show on Revelant Radio, a Catholic network. That show fell between strikes on the U.S. by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Mariani started the interview by asking about Congress but the discussion of the recent agreement on the debt ceiling and relief funding for victims of Hurricane Harvey led into a conversation about the spiritual significance of natural disasters and whether the hurricanes and wildfires pummeling the United States are a form of divine judgment for the nation’s sins.
“We are being struck in this country by so many natural disasters all at once, on the tails of the eclipse, and I think it has spiritual significance,” said Swain.
Mariani said he is careful not to try to say any particular event is an example of God’s justice or chastisement; nevertheless, he said, “there has been an incredible rise in immorality” in the U.S. and natural disasters are a call for people to return to God.
“I hang out in the Old Testament,” said Swain, agreeing with Mariani’s assertion that there’s “consequence for sin.” Referencing some Old Testament prophets that she is re-reading, Swain said:
God always sent prophets to warn people, but also there were consequences for sin. And if you think about how God held Judah, ancient Judah and Israel accountable for their sins, I don’t know why any Bible-believing Christian would believe that the United States would get a better deal than ancient Israel. So you either believe in God in the Bible or you don’t. If you don’t believe in any of it, then this doesn’t matter. But if you do, you have to think about, did God change his standards? If he hasn’t changed his standards, then America is overdue for some kind of judgment and correction.
We’ve written before about Swain’s journey from respected academic to right-wing culture-war propagandist, a journey that reflects her changing priorities following what she calls her “very dramatic” religious conversion. She joins other Religious Right leaders in attacking the separation of church and state.
On the divide within evangelicals over immigration, she has sided with the anti-reform hard-liners. Former White House aide Steve Bannon, back in his perch at Breitbart, recently made headlines for attacking the Catholic Church’s pro-immigrant stand as cynical self-interest. But Swain beat him to it by a long shot. She impugned Catholic leaders for supporting immigration reform in her 2011 book “Be the People,” suggesting church leaders were motivated by a desire to boost membership.
Swain has also joined the recent right-wing attack on the Southern Poverty Law Center, with a Wall Street Journal op ed last week repeating her earlier allegations that the SPLC is a hate group that smears conservatives. In that column, she says that as someone who has been criticized by the SPLC, she is in “good company” with people like anti-Muslim extremist Frank Gaffney and anti-LGBTQ strategist Robert George.
Swain has provided conservatives with other helpful propaganda as well. Last year she denounced Black Lives Matter as “a very destructive force” that promotes “pure Marxism.” This summer she recorded a video for Denis Prager’s “PragerU” arguing that the Republican Party’s post-civil-rights “Southern Strategy,” which sought to build power by inflaming racial resentment among whites, is a myth “fabricated by left-leaning academic elites and journalists.” Swain doesn’t address the inconvenient fact that in 2005 former RNC chief Ken Mehlman apologized for Republican efforts to “benefit politically from racial polarization.”