Well it was bound to happen. We now have the ultimate answer to the trivia question--- What do the fundamentalist Christian TV preacher and the head of Al Quaeda in Iraq have in common? Answer--- they both think that Hurricane Katrina is a judgment of God on American sin!
Yes, I kid you not, today Mssr. Al Zarqawi was on the news claiming that Hurricane Katrina was not only an act of God's judgment on American sin, a reprisal for the destruction we have wreaked on Afghanistan and Iraq, but in fact he claims that the hurricane is an answer to prayer--- namely the prayers of those who are part of Al Quaeda. When fundamentalist preachers and Al Quaeda operatives agree on something it is time to ask--- What's wrong with this picture?
Perhaps, we have forgotten entirely about the story of Abraham praying for Sodom and bargaining with God to spare the city (Gen. 18.16-33). Notice that in that story God spares Sodom if there are even ten righteous persons in the whole city. Abraham is persuasive in the story based on the rhetorical question "Will God sweep away the righteous with the wicked?" The answer to the question is no. God has better aim than that for one thing, and secondly the God of the Bible is compassionate over and over again even on recalitrant sinners (see e.g. Hosea 11.8-11--- thank goodness God is not like us in this regard). One can surely make the case that Biloxi, Gulport, New Orleans had more than ten righteous believers in them. Consideration of this sort of text should have eliminated some of the flippant rhetoric we have heard on Christian TV of late.
Or we could consider the brief story of Jesus' disciples asking whether they should call down fire from heaven on a village in Samaria that had not provided hospitality to the disciples (Lk. 9.54-55). Jesus' response is to rebuke the disciples for seeking judgment for those who reject them.
For the Christian person, the bottom line in this sort of discussion, however trite it may sound, is--- Would Jesus have suggested that the devastation that hit the gulf coast was a judgment of God? Or, would he perhaps have said of those cities what he says elsewhere about Sodom and Gomorrah, Korazin and Bethsaida--- that divine judgment of such places will not arrive until the Day of Judgment (Lk. 10.13-15). Judgment of that sort awaits the eschatological conclusion of history. Such texts ought at the very least to make us reticent to make snap judgments on why devastation fell on the Gulf Coast.