My Photo

I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

On the Hurricane - Part III

Today at the parish we had a collection for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and will do so again next week. I speaking with people at the parish, I can definitely sense a feeling of shock over the images of New Orleans but no one asked about the place of God in the tragedy. Perhaps they are asking themselves that question in silence, perhaps after you have experienced enough tragedy yourself you already have an answer.

Reuters is also noting that the hurricane has caused them to think more about God and what God wants for their lives. I note especially the case of Joseph Brant - about whom the article states, "On Sunday, he was praising the Lord, saying the ordeal was a test that ended up dispelling his lifelong distrust of white people and setting his life on a new course. He said he hitched a ride on Friday in a van driven by a group of white folks." Certainly I believe that God wants us to reform our lives. After all, I'm in a community that dedicates itself to constant conversion, but I would like to think that thousands of people don't have to die for me to see how import conversion is. Yet, I also think that it is important to find the sparks of God amidst a tragedy lest everything appear darkness.

Certainly that is more helpful than the members of al-Qaeda who said that the hurricane was the "wrath of God against an arrogant America". How sad it must be to believe in a God who behaves in such a way, to believe that God sends disasters to punish us like some spoiled child striking out. I can understand a desire to find some sort of meaning in an event that seems so unexplainable but an explanation that has God serves his message with the back of his hand becomes a God of vengeance - not a God of love. Yet, it is not only certain Muslims who believe this, but some Christians as well. Maj. John Jnes of the Salvation Army said, "Natural disaster is caused by the sin in the world...The acts of God are what happens afterwards ... all the good that happens." Tim Washington was quoted, "God made all this happen for a reason. This city has been going to hell in a handbasket spiritually."

Also not helpful are the words of the president of the American Atheists, "We're getting reports of how some religion-based 'aid' groups are trying to fly evangelists into the stricken areas and how U.S. Army chaplains are carrying bibles -- not food or water -- to 'comfort' people...People need material aid, medical care and economic support -- not prayers and preaching." These chaplains are not traveling into stricken areas without also offering material aid. Yet, they may be carrying a bible but they are also traveling with entire units of National Guard who are bringing assistance and to cast unwaranted scandal upon the chaplains of the U.S. Army is inexusable. Moreover, to say that these people don't need "prayers and preaching" indicates a total disconnect with the reality of the people on the ground. They need and want our prayers. They need and want to hear a comforting word from God. They need and want to know that Christ is with them, in solidarity, in their suffering. It seems to me that living a life without knowing the love of God is an even greater tragedy.

As I wrote earlier, I don't know what, if any, spiritual explanations there are for the tragedy. I don't understand the natural explanations either. Some might ascribe it to the general chaos of the world - a la Kushner, but a world in which tragic events are more powerful than God leaves me without hope. Yet, a world in which God has the power to prevent natural disasters, but doesn't isn't any more appealing. I can understand, in a way, that giving us freedom means also allowing us to see the consequences of bad decisions - even though sometimes these consequences can be devastating. But I still don't know what to do with tragedies such as Katrina. Perhaps it is the mysterium iniquitatis, perhaps it requires the answer of Job - I don't understand O Lord, but I trust that you do.


Post a Comment

<< Home