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I send the locusts on a wind

Such as the world has never seen

On ev'ry leaf, on ev'ry stalk

Until there's nothing left of green

I send my scourge, I send my sword

Thus saith the Lord!

Maybe you're being stalked by some depraved serial killer. Maybe your nemesis is a horrible alien abomination seeking new, exotic Earth meats. Maybe you're facing something out of Cosmic Horror, or maybe even Satan himself! Surely the best and brightest shall be the first to fall.

Not quite. It turns out that the common ground most monsters and antagonists, regardless of alignment, intelligence, or sanity, seem to share is a habit to pick targets who have just exposed some minor vice of their own. Given the choice between the prim and chaste (but initially vulnerable) Final Girl, or the smoldering, seductive temptress, they will, without fail, gut the temptress, probably just after she's had sex to show us how promiscuous she is.

Such a pattern will continue throughout the tale until the monster is out of sinful meat and will be forced to finally make an attack against the designated protagonists. By the end of the tale, the only people left standing will be those who comfortably fit into a mainstream, chaste, god-fearing ideal, and the monster has run out of the "instant death" moves that allowed it to kill a normal human being before they even realized it.

A close relative of Karmic Death, except that victims of The Scourge Of God generally aren't Asshole Victims, instead being "guilty" of comparatively minor foibles. One is left with the impression that the Big Bad, whomever they are, is the arbiter of some decidedly twisted god's justice, and that those who perished are somehow supposed to have deserved their fate. Occasionally, though, the "guilt" of these crimes can spill over to the innocent as either a parable for these original sins being so bad that others suffer too, or to include an Anyone Can Die vibe.

The name comes from the Romans' nickname for Attila the Hun, claiming that his success at pillaging half their empire was God's punishment on the wicked.

It is especially notable and ironic that even director John Carpenter, who essentially caused the "boom" in the masked slasher genre by making the film Halloween, was often mistaken to have been making a statement about promiscuity. Quite the opposite in fact, Carpenter has said on many occasions; the characters who were picked off during or after sex were only so treated because they were distracted and not concentrating on what was happening, not because he wanted to make any sort of moral statement. The main survivor of the teens in the film survived despite having partaken in illicit drugs earlier in the film, for example, but was collected enough to survive a run-in with a masked maniac (with a fortunate chance stop-in of a psychiatrist with a vendetta, armed with a gun, who ended the encounter and saved her life). Similarly, in the first Friday the 13 th, the survivor partakes in illicit drugs and, in the original script, a premarital affair. The survivor being a chaste and pure character is something that has occurred with the Flanderization of the genre.

See Death by Sex, The Punishment. If the "god" is implied to be the Earth itself in retaliation for environmental damage, this is Gaia's Vengeance. Unrelated to Word of God or Shrug of God.

Examples of The Scourge of God include:


Comic Books

  • Tends to turn up a lot in Jack Chick comics. The entire purpose of the comics is to push a conservative, fundamentalist Protestant worldview, so naturally, anything that goes against it (rock music, evolution, Dungeons and Dragons) will lead people to suffering.

Film

  • Or, of course, there is Godzilla, the 164-foot, fire-breathing, Immune to Bullets sublimated-god embodiment of this trope.
  • Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight, begins as something like this in his conversion to the 'Fallen Angel' of Two-Face, but as the story reaches its climax beings to subvert the trope. He begins with those of with the most guilt and least sympathetic motivation (The Joker, Det. Wertz, Maroni) and moves on until he begins to punish those who are only questionably guilty or downright innocent.
  • Eric from The Crow is one of these. In fact, the entire movie (or comic book) can be seen as a horror movie viewed through the other end of the telescope... except if you're not violent, he's not either (witness him helping Sara's mom by forcing the morphine out of her body).
  • Used in the 1950s horror movie Horror of Party Beach (which was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000). The main character's girlfriend at the start of the movie is a hard-drinking party girl who flirts with any man she sees, so naturally she's the first victim of the mutant fish monster. Of course, this frees our hero up to get with his boss's sweet, chaste, beautiful daughter.
  • At least in the later Final Destination movies, Death seems to wait for ridiculously minor infractions. Such as disobeying the "No food or drinks allowed" sign. (Particularly onerous when you're at a theater with the same taboo, solely to force you to pay their markups.)
  • Played with extensively in Se7en; the serial killer targets people demonstrably guilty of one of the seven deadly sins (mostly). Subverted when the last person he kills is Brad Pitt's innocent (and pregnant) wife, which is then used as the justification for his own death via Suicide by Cop.
  • Sam, from Trick 'r Treat, is a variation on this: he's the Scourge of the Celtic god Samhaine. Hell, he probably is Samhaine. Sam targets people who don't respect Halloween. Serial Killer Steven Wilkins has a similiar agenda, but he oversteps his bounds by killing an (apparent) innocent, and is then eaten by a werewolf, with Sam's implicit sanction.
  • Jackson the sniper in Saving Private Ryan.
  • In John Waters' Serial Mom, Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) is the eponymous protagonist. She's a Scourge of God but not against violators of morality, but those sins are against propriety or etiquette, such as wearing white shoes after Labor Day.

Literature

  • Inverted for Agatha Christie's book, And Then There Were None. The murderer killed his victims from the ones he considered most innocent to the one he considered least innocent, so that the ones he considered the most guilty would suffer from anxiety and shock, while the slightly less guilty get a quick death.
  • Subverted by Simon R. Green in Beyond the Blue Moon. Contrary to popular belief, the Walking Man couldn't care less about minor vices. He reserves punishment for real monsters -- like a pedophile/child-murderer/necromancer, who gets beaten into a barely recognizable corpse...bare-handed.
  • Baron von Rothbart in The Black Swan (Mercedes Lackey's retelling of Swan Lake), captured the maidens and turned them into swans (ostensibly) because they had been unfaithful to men (their husbands or fathers).
  • The Bible had no small number of these, the plagues of egypt being perhaps the best-known.
    • The Horsemen of the Apocalypse in particular, while by far not the most impressive, are sufficiently iconic to deserve a mention.

Live Action TV

  • Completely, and brutally, inverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when a monster called "The Judge" kills on sight if he sees any sort of goodness or humanity in your soul This becomes significant when he sees Angelus and lets him live.
  • Ivanova references this when she encounters hybrid shadow-human ships:

  Ivanova: Who am I? I am Susan Ivanova. Commander. Daughter of Andrei and Sophie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance, and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth, sweetheart! I am Death Incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me.

  • Awkwardly subverted in the Battlestar Galactica Reimagined remake, with the writers themselves serving as the Scourge. In a series where Anyone Can Die, the vast majority of deaths occur after (usually very soon after) they had committed some sort of impropriety, thus playing the trope straight. This includes major offenses (like Cally, for killing Boomer, and Tory for killing Cally), mid-range offenses (like Kat for becoming a drug addict, or Thrace for cheating on too many people), and even for being in the way (like Crashdown, I think was his name, for being a coward). The list goes on and on. For the most part, the survivors of the series are the more pure-of-heart, like Adama and Son, Athena and Helo. But then there's just one massive inversion to that final episode: Baltar survives, as does Caprica Six, both directly responsible for a genocide that killed 20 billion people. .


Video Games

  Soldier: If God had wanted you to live, he would not have created me!

  • In Final Fantasy X, Sin seems to be this. In reality, this is just a lie the Church of Yevon teaches the people of Spira.
  • Terraria: The Wall Of Flesh only appears when you chuck a voodoo doll of someone you know into a pit of lava.

Web Original

  • In Novel 1, we find out that the Sentiralites are God's punishment.

Real Life

  • Back in The Eighties, a lot of conservative Christian groups proclaimed that AIDS was punishment for homosexuality and drug use. This stopped once straight people and non-junkies (most notably Ryan White) started getting AIDS too, and especially once it became a public health catastrophe in Africa.
    • In fact, we could make an entire list of proclamations by conservative religious groups or televangelists that some disaster or another (9/11, Katrina, the Haitian earthquake) was divine punishment for the sins of its victims. Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps are particularly infamous for this.
      • The Israeli Rabbi Ovadia said about Hurricane Katrina that it was caused because the Torah is a defence against disasters, and New Orleans was hit because ‘there are negroes ther. Negroes, learning the Torah? Yeah, let’s bring a tsunami on them, we’ll drown them.’ How this wasn’t seen as a Moral Event Horizon is flabbergasting.
      • Completely inverted with the story of Job, who is known for being patient in the face of tragedy after tragedy that he did not bring upon himself, with several of his friends impulsively blaming him all the while. He does earn his happy ending.
  • Lincoln suggests this was the divine purpose behind The American Civil War in his second inaugural address. The speech is chock full of biblical references, and this passage hammers the point home: "...if God wills that it [the war] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'" It's a pretty chilling speech, considering most people on both sides of the war thought they had the blessing of the Almighty on their side (see: Battle Hymn of the Republic).
    • Some people (including U. S. Grant) also saw the American Civil War as a divine punishment for the preceding war against Mexico.
  • CS Lewis deconstructed this sentiment by saying that while this may indeed be true, if we desire to have the devil's job, we must be ready for his wages.
  • Aversion. Many Christians(and presumably many Jews too, though I couldn't account for that directly)say that there could be any number of reasons for bad luck and unless God actually says it is Hubris to figure out why someone else is suffering.
    • Judaism traditionally teaches that one should treat one's own suffering as presumably a consequence of one's sins, and should therefore repent and improve one's behavior, but that one should not assume that about others' suffering. There is a little bit of a grey area insofar as that this teaching can also apply communally: if suffering should befall an entire community, that community should assume it is a consequence of sin by the community as a whole.
    • This is why some ultra-Orthodox Jews say The Holocaust was God's punishment on the Jewish people for an overall failure to abide by religious laws strictly, understandably angering others.
  • Invoked by Ronald Schaefer who wrote a history of the strategic bombing campaign of World War II called Wings of Judgement.
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