I took note of two public statements in recent days that must have been calculated to draw attention because both were — in my humble opinion — preposterous.

Former (and probably future) presidential candidate Mike Huckabee — who is also a Baptist preacher — has been touring Israel as the guest of the “Jewish Reclamation Project” of Ateret Cohanim, a polarizing group that promotes Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory. Buying into his hosts’ position, Huckabee announced that if the Palestinians think they should have a homeland, it should be somewhere else, not in Israel.

An orthodox rabbi who welcomed Huckabee prayed that the former Arkansas governor might be elected president of the U.S. so he could become like a modern King Cyrus, urging the people of Israel to build a new temple.

That correlation is so out-of-context and so wrong that it hardly deserves comment. Huckabee’s hosts are using him to undermine global efforts to promote peace in Israel-Palestine, and Huckabee is playing right into their hands — probably hoping his zealous and uncompromising stance will win him sufficient support to carry the Republican banner against President Obama (who supports the United Nations’ longstanding call for a two-state solution) in the next election. Huckabee criticized Obama’s approach during his visit.

I’m hoping that most Republicans are more interested in both justice and peace, and less interested in fomenting present oppression and future war.

Meantime, leading Calvinist advocate John Piper has taken a page from Pat Robertson’s playbook, interpreting a recent tornado that grazed the Minneapolis Convention Center as a God-sent “gentle but firm warning” to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), which was holding a meeting there. During the meeting, the ELCA voted to agree to disagree on the morality of lifelong same-gender relationships.

A report by Associated Baptist Press first alerted me to an August 20 blog in which Piper noted that what he called a “curious tornado” came through and struck a Lutheran church across from the convention center at precisely the time appointed for the Lutherans to discuss liberalizing their policies toward homosexuals. Piper argued that “official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God are evil,” that “Jesus Christ controls the wind including all tornadoes,” and therefore the tornado should be seen as a warning to both Lutherans and the rest of us to turn from the approval of sin (no word on Piper’s interpretation of the typhoon that killed hundreds in Taiwan and East China).

By portraying the tornado as a divine warning, Piper seems to be suggesting that the Lutherans and others can, by their own free will, change their ways and have a better outcome.

I guess predestination isn’t what it used to be.

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