Wednesday, March 03, 2010

When the Earth Moves

There is an upcoming gospel passage for a Sunday morning in which some onlookers ask Jesus about a current tragedy where a tower collapses and a bunch of people are killed. These folk want to know whether those who died had led bad lives. Jesus responds that this isn't the way it works and invites everyone to repentance.

It is an interesting story given that hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced as the result of two earthquakes which caused incredibly damage. One fundamentalist Christian yahoo pronounced that the earthquake in Haiti was God's retribution for the revolution against slavery two hundred years ago. Huh? How do these people scare up enough money to be on television?

Geological theory tells us that North America and South America were once abutted to Africa but the movement of the Earth's plates have caused their shift over the course of millions of years. This science, called plate tectonics, can explain the shifts which affected Southeast Asia and Haiti and now Chile. What they can't explain is the suffering which has resulted for so many innocent people. While we are all deeply disturbed by what has happened, these events are not examples of God's wrath or judgement on events that happened centuries ago. To say so is childish and contrary to what Jesus said, not only in the passage from Luke 13, but in other places in the gospels.

The mystery of human suffering has no easy answer and is part of our struggle in reconciling what transpires in tragedies with our belief in a loving God. All I know is that I am called to respond prayerfully, generously and with compassion whenever possible.



Anonymous said...

It is hard to believe there are still those who believe that God punishes us with natural disasters, or disease, etc. I think human suffering exists, simply because it does. I am not sure we require an explanation. There probably isn't one. I think God's only action in these events is the stirring in our hearts that allow us to know Him, and His hope that we will act on what we know He desires of us. We can't 'pray away' the laws of nature. We can learn from our mistakes in regards to climate change, and we can respond to those in need.

lionlamb said...

Agreed. We tend to assume or desire that everything in life is cause and effect. Trusting that God is present in the chaos may take more faith than assuming that he/she is a puppet-master. The incarnation speaks to me that God enters into our human experience and cares.