Friday, September 02, 2005

Is God in the Eye of the Storm?

Like most of you out there, I've been following the horrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the South. Like most of you out there, I've also been secretly thanking God that I was safe up here in the North. I've also been thanking God for supplying me with the basics, food in my stomach, clothes on my back (fabulous clothes even!), and a roof over my head. In addition I have a great family and wonderful friends who are the coolest and really interesting people. I really am very blessed. And my problems (refer to previous blogs) are downright trival compared to what those poor people down there are going through.

I've also been interested in different views on this travesty.

First, I've read a great suggestion to pull our troops out of Iraq and redeploy them in the South to help our own citizens out. (Hmmm. Isn't this what we actually are paying taxes to the military for? To help us out? Oh wait, I went and got all naive all of a sudden! Sorry!) This would really improve the US military's image after the Iraqi torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib prison camps. (Also check out this Dear President Bush letter that has the same idea!)

I've also read that many gay humanitarian groups have pitched in with all available resources to help out. The Rainbow World Fund has called for the LGBT community to join in supporting America's Second Harvest, a national food-rescue operation that is working to help at least 10 food banks hit by the hurricane.
"Hunger does not discriminate against human populations, and neither does America's Second Harvest," Maura Daly, a spokeswoman for ASH, told the PlanetOut Network. "The funds that we are raising will help us transport food to the impacted areas, including New Orleans, help us secure additional warehouse space to accommodate an increase in demand and assist our food banks in resuming or maintaining full operations."

And finally we have Repent America who has hijacked the whole event to Hurricane Katrina to stop Southern Decadence, an annual gay event in New Orleans. Sort of reminds me of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Genesis. (Click on the title above for the article. It must be read to be believed.)

Which brings me to the question that I'm wondering today- Is my God from the Old or New Testament? In otherwords, is God the vengeful, jealous, angry God that smites people with lightning from above? Governing our world by fear? Or is God one of grace, love and forgiveness who allows free will but also helps mold us into the plan He has for us? One that would even sacrifice His own Son own our behalf?


Anonymous said...
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abogado-david said...

You know, this same sentiment was expressed to me by a cashier at the drug store down the street from my office. As I was buying a can of Coca-cola, I mentioned watching the hurricane devistation and rescue efforts on TV. She said, "Well, you know, I'm a Christian, and I just can't help and think about Sodom and Gomorra and how they were destroyed for their wickedness. And you know, New Orleans was a wicked city." I thought about correcting her by reminding her that actually it was LAS VEGAS which is universally known as "Sin City," but I took a different approach:

"Well, you know, I don't think bad things like this necessarily only happen to bad people. I mean, the victims of the Tsunami last year stretched over several thousands of miles and dozens of countries. I don't think all of those people were bad or were being punished. Like the Bible says, 'The rain falls on the good and bad alike.'"

I wished her a good day and excused myself. I had to get back to the office and I wasn't about to get into a religious debate with her. And actually, the whole conversation takes us back to one of the oldest delimmas: The Question of Evil.

In otherwords, if God is all good and all powerful, than why do bad things happen to good people?

This question especially haunted me in 2001 after my good college friend Sara was randomly murdered in her home, only days after discovering that she was pregnant. I had been the best man at their wedding. I just learned today that the man who murdered her has died in jail prior to his trial for the crime.

That same year another close friend was killed by a drunk driver. She died in her husband's arms. They had only been married two years.

And then there was the 9/11 attacks. Again the question was asked, what did we do to deserve this? What did any of these people do to deserve this death and horror?

To begin with, we must grapple with the question of merit--do some people deserve to die and some people deserve to live? I suppose so, but who makes that determination? God does, on Judgment Day, I suppose. But make no mistake--the second most critical theological tenet of our faith is that ALL HAVE SINNED AND COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD--therefore all of us deserve punishment and damnation. BUT--the first most critical tenet is that SALVATION FROM OUR SIN COMES FROM THE GRACE OF CHRIST, NOT OUR WORKS--therefore if any of us get into heaven, it is by grace and mercy, not merit.

But then what about punishment and reward in this life? Well, I believe faith in God has plenty of reward and benefit in this life, but what I can say with certainty is that it is not a magic spell that will stop all bullets, block all disease, and redirect all bad things and its pain away from me and to less righteous people.

So, is God powerless? No, I believe God performs many miracles, but he also sees things far better than we ever can. Why does he not stop the planes from smashing into skyscrapers or redirect hurricanes from populated areas, or open up the earth to swallow up ethic cleansers before they reach their victims?

I have no idea. I know that often the consequences of sin fall on people other than the sinners. But I have also seen God's hand work miracles out of tragedies. I don't know what it will be in this case, but I see the best chance of our country uniting beyond the labels of red and blue states in six years. I see us grappling with the issues of race and class like we never have before.

I do not believe that God willed this disaster upon New Orleans or any of us. But it is God that will bring about the good that may come from it.