Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Where Was God?

Post-Katrina, Time Magazine asks Where Was God?

Mystery does not sit well with us, nor random tragedy, nor helplessness in the face of a ruthless wind, so we place our trust in better sensors and protocols and reinforced concrete and roofs designed to rebuff the gale. The cataclysm of Katrina has been blamed on everything from SUV drivers to coastal developers to the Army Corps of Engineers, in a strange rite of reassurance: if man has the power to cause these calamities, maybe he would have the power to prevent them. The speed with which the commentariat moved from covering an actual storm to a political one—hurricanes don't kill people, inept bureaucrats kill people—suggests which subject is more comfortable discussing. Somehow human nature, even at its most disturbing, is less scary than Mother Nature at her most murderously cavalier, thousands dead in a single deep breath.

Then there is the response of those convinced they know God's Politics and are just as intent on seeing the guilt assigned. An ultraconservative Israeli rabbi declared that Katrina was retribution for U.S. support of the Israeli pullout from Gaza. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam called Katrina judgment for the Iraq war. The Christian Civic Group of Maine noted that the hurricane struck just as New Orleans was planning a huge gay-rights festival. A Kuwaiti official said, "The Terrorist Katrina is One of the Soldiers of Allah." There was, in other words, broad agreement in some far-reaching quarters that Katrina represented God's punishment, just no consensus on the sin.

There is no consensus, nor will there ever be. The fact of the matter is, God sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike. We don't get to assign blame, in our wisdom, after the fact. Moreover, we should be careful when we ask God to dispense justice because we all deserve death. Perhaps we should ask for grace instead.