As I write this, we are coming to a fuller understanding of the tremendous devastation caused by the recent earthquake and resultant tidal waves across Asia. The most recent estimate I saw was that the death toll will far surpass 100,000 spread across 11 countries bordering the Indian Ocean. This is a tragic event and every person (especially every Christian) should truly grieve for this incredible loss of life and for the devastation facing those left behind trying to pick up the pieces!
Yet, at the same time, I am stunned to see the callousness with which some people and some organizations have latched onto this tragedy as a means to further their own personal agendas. The global warming crowd is trying to make the case that an earthquake is somehow the result of too many people (in the US only, of course!) using too much fossil fuel and hairspray. Even worse than that, a writer in the New York Times actually tries to make the case that “Gaeia is angry” because of pollution and that “she is fighting back”. (See article here: The Year the Earth Fought Back – as well as a tongue-in-cheek response here: Satirists Can’t Keep Up )
One of the leading lights of the United Nations, taking a momentary break from attacking the US for liberating Iraq, took the time to opine that the US was “stingy” in its provision of aid… a stunningly ridiculous and soon retracted claim! We are and have been for decades the most generous nation on the face of the earth. The UN itself could not exist without the lion’s share of its funding that the US provides, not to mention the use of a huge chunk of prime real estate on the east side of Manhattan and $$ millions in ignored parking tickets!
It just really saddens me that so many are so quick to skip over the tragedy experienced by the victims and run so quickly to try to do what Peggy Noonan describes as “…slyly asserting their own, higher sensitivity and getting credit for it, which is odd because what they’re actually doing is using dead people to make cheap points.” (See full article here.)
There is a more serious and substantive discussion that these types of event can raise about the presence of God in tragic circumstances such as this. For a serious and well-reasoned treatment of these issues, see Tremors of Doubt, by an Eastern Orthodox theologian. He quite correctly strikes the balance between God’s providence and the ongoing effects of sin on our world: not that human sin caused this tragedy, but that the whole world is subjected to the detrimental effects of what Christianity terms “The Fall” and “groans for deliverance” that will only come at Christ’s return. (see Romans 8:18-25)
The greatest lesson we can learn from this (without going overboard) is that life is fleeting and uncertain and that we need to prepare for that reality… sooner than we think we do!!