Wednesday, September 07, 2005

katrina - the wrath of God?



it is fascinating to see the many different theological reactions that people have to katrina. both al qaeda and a few from the far religious right feel that it is the wrath of God being poured out on america. of course they have their different reasons. according to an article from reuters, al qaeda says "God attacked America and the prayers of the oppresed were answered." and "The wrath of the All-powerful fell upon the nation of oppressors. Their dead are in the thousands and their losses are in the billions." while michael marcavage on his website repent america is saying "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge." it seems as if j. grant swank of michnews agrees with michael. fred phelps on his westboro baptist church website entitled "god hates fags", not only declares that katrina is God's wrath, but he thanks God for sending katrina to new orleans. and while those who host these websites are at one extreme, i have heard a number of christians who aren't so extreme, voice this idea in some way or another, or ask me if i thought this was God's judgment on america.

others are saying this is more evidence that we are living in the final days. this seems to be what george noory has said in his radio program, according to worldnetdaily. this is stated very clearly in the article nearing midnight at the rapture ready site. some consider this judgment for encouraging israel to pull out of gaza strip as mentioned in the article "escape all these things."

so while some from al queda and the far right are proclaiming with great confidence, that katrina is God's judgement on america, and some are saying this is evidence of the last days, others like billy graham and tony compolo are claiming that we shouldn't be focusing so much on the WHY, but rather on the WHAT. "what" should we do in light of this tragedy?

billy in an article listed on the christian post says “Whenever any disaster like this strikes, we often ask ourselves why. Why did God let this happen? I have been asked that question hundreds of times, and I have to confess that I do not know the full answer." then he points us to what we should do, "May this tragedy make each of us realize our need of God, and may we turn to Christ in repentance and faith and find our hope in Him."

tony compolo in an article on beliefnet says, "There are Christians who, in the weeks to come, can be counted on to thunder from their pulpits that Katrina is God’s wrath against the immorality of this nation, pointing out that New Orleans is the epitome of our national degradation and debauchery. To all of this I say, "Wrong."

The God revealed in Jesus did not come into the world "to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17) There can be no arguments over the claim that, for a variety of reasons, our nation deserves punishment. But when the Bible tells us about the grace of God, it is giving us the good news that our loving God does not give us what we truly deserve. Certainly, God would not create suffering for innocent people, who were--for the most part--Katrina’s victims." he ends the article sharing what we should do: "Instead of looking for God in the earthquake or the tsunami, in the roaring forest fires blazing in the western states, or in the mighty winds of Katrina, it would be best to seek out a quiet place and heed the promptings of God’s still small voice. That voice will inspire us to bring some of God’s goodness to bear in the lives of those who suffer."

i find it interesting reading some of the reactions to andrew zimmerman's article "katrina, louis armstrong and job". here are just a couple responses as posted on the site:

"Dont put the blame on God. It is our own collective sinfulness in a variety of ways that empowered the storm to wreak her vengeance and unmask the false systems that keep so many impoverished people down. White upper class folk would never dream of building their homes in the area hardest hit. Why would we think anyone else would want to live there. The poor don't have options and choices. Nor are they respected. These people are a reflection of our own selfishness and greed which we dont like to look at cause it isnt any prettier than gazing upon the face of the crucified Christ who first bore our sinfulness." Elizabeth Green from Missouri

"I think its time for the american people to wake up from committing too many sins and to know that Katrina is a message for those who are submerged in sins. I am not going to say that americans deserve the hurricane because there are some little innocent children who have nothing to do with it while there are more sinful who deserve it, especially the dumb rulers concerning what they are doing in iraq and supporting isralian movement in gaza (palistien)...secondly is the american people don't stand up for the system that the country going under it with bush's false decisions ....i wish they wouldn't be easily convinced once again." Chaachaa Yassine

"Is lung cancer "Gods wrath" for self-destructive behavior? Of course not. It's the result of a bad lifestyle choice. And so it is with Katrina. Humans have mowed down more than a million acres of Mississippi Delta wetlands, which has increased the intensity of the regions hurricanes, resisted common sense efforts to cut oil consmption- which means the Gulf oil rigs continue to foul the Gulf waters and pollute the air- all under the yoke of denial about New Orleans below sea level address. There isn't a shred of divine retribution in this tragedy: what do we expect to happen when we live this way? This concept of a punishing God is an outdated organ of human consciosuness that, hopefully, we are slowly outgrowing, although Zimmermans essay would suggest otherwise. Even if we do view the tragedy as punishment, the real question is not "how could God let this happen?" but "how did we contribute to it and what now?" If we batten down the hatches and retreat to our barren fortresses of religious icons, false piety and useless dogma, it'll happen again, and the next hurricane will make Katrina will look like a garden hose leak. If we dont change our behavior-on a wholesale, global level, and stop choking our hearts with the iron claws of selfishness and small-mindedness, there wont be anyone to even debate these things, because well be extinct." Patrick Miller from New Mexico

rob noll of christianity today shares many other reactions in his blog entry "in every thing give thanks" while religion and ethics newsweekly has a number of different theologians who speak to the issue of "why". i think it is helpful to reflect on both the "why" and the "what should we do", though for me the "what" seems a little easier to address. it was st. francis who said, "I have done what was mine to do. May you find what is yours and do it."

so WHY do you think katrina hit new orleans?

and WHAT are you going to do?

obviously there are many good relief organizations to give to. but more than that, did you know that, according to an article in the washington post, katrina will go down as the largest displacement of americans since the civil war? so obviously many people need a place to stay.

it has been so encouraging to see how many people are taking victims of katrina and finding them places to live. msnbc has an encouraging article entitled "thousands offer shelter to katrina's victims." and in the article they site a number of websites that are helping connect those who want to host victims to those who are homeless as a result of katrina, including open your home and katrina housing. maybe you should join up with many other people and invite someone to live with you in your home.

another way you can help is by leading some kind of worship service in response to katrina. calvin college on their website give some helpful resources for leading a small or large worship service in response to natural disasters. during this time you could encourage others to help in anyway possible. we should think about what kind of response would we hope for if we were found in the same situation. that is what jesus meant when he said, "love one another as you love yourself."

we are the body of christ, we are his hands and we are his feet. let us love with our actions and our words.

6 Comments:

At 2:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 3:58 PM, Blogger Kevin Cieslukowski said...

interesting that the city didn't take a direct hit if new orleans was being judged. i hope that the crooked politicians that corrupted the city are exposed and judged for what they are. and that it will wake people up all around the country to the corruption and injustice in their own city governments. poverty and injustice go hand in hand.

i read this by hugh ross:

“[Hurricanes] counterbalance the ocean’s tendency to leach carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This leaching, if unchecked, would result in a catastrophic cooling of the planet. On the other hand, hurricanes prevent the oceans from trapping too much of the sun’s heat by helping to circulate greenhouse gases globally as they shade the ocean locally, preventing heat from building up too dramatically for the safety of certain sea creatures.”

there are scientific reasons too.

i'm impressed by the response of humanitarian aid. i wonder how happy it makes god to see people respond in such a grand way.

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger J.R. Woodward said...

I appreciate your insights Kevin.

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger darkestofwings said...

According to the Bible, the hurricane is absolutely a result of sin. Our rebellion in the garden has opened up a Pandora's Box of global chaos that has been dogging our path to this day.

I think in our response to say, "we're not with those hyper-fundamental judgemental preachers", we need to still hold true to our own theology that says that all of creation is subject to decay and groans to be set free from the curse and the ground is hard and full of thorns and it's all because of something we as the human race have done to betray God. If there's a local outbreak of punishment commensurate to the sin in an area, I don't see how that would be unreasonable from what I read in the Bible about the character of God.

God didn't even spare children, women, elderly, poor, or anyone else we call 'innocent' people when it came to taking over the promised land. He was judging them and bringing them punishment by their violent death, even the horses needed to be hamstrung.

 
At 2:04 AM, Blogger J.R. Woodward said...

thanks for your comments. i do believe that the sin that adam and eve committed in the garden did have a ripple effect and obviously has put all under a curse, and that the new heaven and the new earth is yet to come, so as you mention, paul talks about how the earth groans to be released from the curse.

obviously jesus himself became the curse for us and is working through us to redeem the whole world, first people, and then all of creation. it is the ripple effect in a redemptive reversal.

now when it comes to natural disasters, i think that we have to be very careful in declaring God's judgement, or declaring that those in new orleans are more wicked than those elsewhere. i think jesus gets at this in luke 13:1-8. my guess is that natural disasters should get us all looking to God and asking the deep questions about life.

i have more thoughts in my mind, but i think i will leave it at that. though if you look at my recent post about hurricane rita, i give more questions for us to ponder, and ask the question about the common denominator of oil in new orleans and potentially houston and area.

 
At 2:04 AM, Blogger J.R. Woodward said...

thanks for your comments. i do believe that the sin that adam and eve committed in the garden did have a ripple effect and obviously has put all under a curse, and that the new heaven and the new earth is yet to come, so as you mention, paul talks about how the earth groans to be released from the curse.

obviously jesus himself became the curse for us and is working through us to redeem the whole world, first people, and then all of creation. it is the ripple effect in a redemptive reversal.

now when it comes to natural disasters, i think that we have to be very careful in declaring God's judgement, or declaring that those in new orleans are more wicked than those elsewhere. i think jesus gets at this in luke 13:1-8. my guess is that natural disasters should get us all looking to God and asking the deep questions about life.

i have more thoughts in my mind, but i think i will leave it at that. though if you look at my recent post about hurricane rita, i give more questions for us to ponder, and ask the question about the common denominator of oil in new orleans and potentially houston and area.

 

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