The Daily Telegraph certainly knows how to pitch a headline. Never mind that the sensationalised headline misses the bishops' central points: that human behaviour has consequences, both personal and corporate, and that we have a responsibility before God and one another to make responsible choices in how we live our lives.
Many Christians are uncomfortable with the concept of judgement. I know that I am. It stems perhaps from knowing my own weaknesses, and that if I was to be judged on my own merits, I'd be in big trouble. Married to the possibility that to suggest anything is wrong, is to bring upon oneself the judgement of being a bigot or unloving, and who wants to risk those epithets?
Yet, judgement features heavily in the Bible. What are we to do with it? Excise it? Gloss over it? Denounce it?
Or might we see the love and judgement of God as two sides of the same coin. Any parent loves their children unconditionally. Yet at times, and often with much pain, those same parents have to 'judge' their children by deeming their actions right or wrong. One problem in our society is that such judgement is either too severe (witness children being smacked almost uncontrollably in the supermarket), or completely lacking (witness same naughty children running amok). Both extremes have consequences for the children concerned, and can leave terrible scars of abuse or neglect.
Yet God, in His love, has shown us ways to live. Not only that, he offers forgiveness rather judgement. And surely any calamity might remind us of our own frailty, bad choices and cause us to turn away from our selfish path and turn instead to God? It reminds us of the fact that we live in a fallen world, where "bad things happen to good people", but where such events might turn us to the greater reality that there is more to living than we commonly perceive.
Jesus seemed to talk a lot about judgement, both of the religious and irreligious. For example:
Repent or Perish - Luke 13:1-4 (ESV)
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
So, are the floods the judgement of God? Truth be told, I simply don't know for sure, but I reckon the climate has changed, and we might be in part responsible for that (though some debate the truth of this).
All I know is that we need to turn to God in the face of human sin and the trials of life:
Psalm 46 (NIV)
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.