Devastation and God

Hurricane Sandy came through this week with an attitude, cutting a path of destruction the likes of which most of us have never seen.

As I look at the images on television, I shudder. The affected areas look as though they’ve been hit by a nuclear bomb. The destruction is total, and breathless in its totality. Fire, floods, sand covering neighborhoods, houses knocked down, facades of buildings blown away, cars put into place by angry flood waters…a crane hanging precariously from a building under construction, and literally millions of people without power.

I keep thinking, “the people. How will they cope? ”

When I visited New Orleans and the area affected by Hurricane Katrina, I felt the same way. To walk through streets that had once been part of vibrant neighborhoods, but now destroyed by a fierce and relentless storm, was eerie. There were things hanging on power lines, cars that had obviously been moved to their locations by moving water, houses with big “X’s” on their doors, indicating whether someone had been found inside dead. The former streets were deathly quiet. Pets, who obviously had lost their families, wandered around, following us, wanting food, and love and attention.

It was eerie.

But this latest storm, this Sandy, seems to have done even more damage than Katrina.

In a time like this, people ought to be able to turn to God, but invariably, some religious type makes a pronouncement about God and about such a devastating event being God’s will, as punishment for the “ungodliness” of the people
Pat Robertson is pretty famous for doing that, but he is not the only one. He  certainly was of the opinion that Hurricane Katrina happened because of the waywardness of the people.

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University writer and scholar who most recently authored The American Bible: How Our Words United, Divide and Define a Nation, wrote a piece this week on the CNN Belief Blog about the whole notion of saying that certain things, like a natural disaster, are God’s will.

Wrote Prothero: “Is God angry with Cuba, where 11 died last week? More angry with Haiti, where 51 perished? Relatively unperturbed with Jamaica, where the death toll was only two? If a tree falls on my house today, will that be an Act of God, too?”

We are all so imperfect. Paul Tillich talks about how we sin but how grace “more abounds” than does sin. There can be no sin without grace, and grace is given to all. Tillich says it is our challenge to believe that God accepts us in spite of our being basically “unacceptable.” Grace is given “in spite of.”

That notion of God is a far cry from this notion of God who would send a storm like Sandy to punish people for being “ungodly,” and not particularly according to God’s standards of “godliness,” but according to human standards.

I can’t fathom a God like that.

I cannot believe and will not believe that God looked down and said “I’m going to devastate a whole slew of innocent people because they have not “been good.”

We have never been good.

According to the Bible, “all have sinned and fallen short.”  Supposedly, there is no sin that is greater than another.

Therefore, corporate crime is as distasteful to God as is street crime; selfishness and thievery and murder are no greater than any other misstep. We all fall short. If God was that punitive, would not we all have been knocked out of commission a long time ago? Isn’t the fact that God sent Jesus, according to Christian theology, supposed to confirm that we are “justified” and “reconciled” to God, “in spite of” ourselves?

I cannot believe, will not believe, that people who are walking around tonight with no home, who are dazed with the afterglow of this horrendous storm, are being punished by God. And …I wonder where the people are, how they’re coping, who even without a storm, have little or next to nothing.

In order to maintain sanity, I for one have to believe in a good God, a God who does not cause bad things to happen to good people, a God who loves us “in spite of.” Without that notion of God, I don’t know how people would be able to cope with something like this storm.

I know I wouldn’t be able to.

That’s a candid observation …


3 thoughts on “Devastation and God

  1. I think comments like that are despicable, self-righteous and arrogant. Jesus came to die for ALL sins. So to say that God would send a natural disaster to kill people because of all the bad in the world is unfounded. Like you said, does that mean the 12 year old who died from cancer was being ungodly, or the woman killed by a a drunk driver, or a kidnap victim found murdered in the field. I don’t believe in that kind of God.

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