Words for Katrina

So what the heck do I think I can add to the discussion about the devastation of New Orleans? Am I going to defend God? Am I going to decry the sinfulness of the city? Am I going to whine about my gas prices? What can I say?

First, to gain some Biblical perspective on this, I would strongly recommend listening to John Piper’s NPR interview “God and Tsunamis” (4mb MP3).

Second, and this along the lines of what you’ll hear in Piper’s interview, I want to confess that America is a sinful nation. We are a nation that elevates sex and impossible standards of physical beauty to the pinnacle of existence. Nationally, we are more interested in “Sex in the City” than we are in God and our neighbor. We don’t hate God we ignore him. We’re indifferent about spiritual things and fill the void with voyeuristic television.

Third, we are not more civilized than anyone else. Humanity shares a fallen nature and we’ve seen this come out within four days of the hurricane through the looting, riots, rapes and gunfire in New Orleans. Chicago is no better than New Orleans, nor is Tulsa or Des Moines. All of America is four days away from chaos at the most. God has instituted civil authority to keep society in order and when he removes that civil authority, we get a glimpse of what we’re all capable of.

That is not to say that every single soul in New Orleans is being rotten. I read a story about a man leaving a Rite-Aid and feeling guilty. He showed the reporter that all he was carrying were essentials; pads for post-operative incontinence. “I’m a Christian. I feel bad going in there,” he said. Obviously, you have to do what you can to survive, but there are others who are going far beyond mere survival.

Forth, God was gracious in this act. In case you haven’t heard (unlikely) New Orleans sits largely below sea level. That is why dikes and levies are necessary to keep the city dry. They are also why the city is currently flooded. When the hurricane was headed toward New Orleans, it was a Category 5, the highest category. Also, it was heading straight for New Orleans. Just before landfall, it downgraded from category 5 to category 4 and it made a slight eastward turn. You’ve no doubt seen how bad the damage is regardless of these mitigating circumstances, imagine how bad it would have been if those two things had not happened. The sea would have been driven even harder before the storm and the flooding would have been far worse pouring over the dikes and levies and filling that “bowl” much higher. Once the storm hit the city the damage from those stronger winds would have been greater then it is.

What has happened to New Orleans is horrible, not doubt. It could have been an order of magnitude worse.

So in the end, this like the tsunami earlier is God’s call for us to wake up.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5 (ESV)

Some mentioned that the tsunami struck mainly Muslim and Hindu nations. What are they saying now about Katrina?

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