I was a bit taken aback the other day when one of my coworkers was reading the early reports of the devastation from the cyclone that hit Myanmar and remarked – “He’s really cleaning things out over there.” This young man is a Christian. Our conversation often wanders into the realm of church, community and our faith. But, I was so taken aback by that attitude I could barely respond. This attitude that when disaster occurs that God is somehow cleaning out an evil people or punishing people for being bad is pervasive at times. I heard similar remarks from people when the tsunami hit the shores of the Indian Ocean.
I wish I’d had the presence to ask him a few more questions. There’s Facebook group formed around anger at the actions and words of Westbrook Baptist Church, who proclaimed that the all to recent murder of a coed on our campus was the just punishment for the unholiness of college campuses. When disaster hits close to home, the sentiment is certainly not that we are evil and we are being punished.
My own morbid fascination with this latest disaster has caused me to ask myself some questions. As I watch aid groups trying to get in and help, I see the government of Myanmar either not responding, or trying to handle it all alone. I see them refusing to let aid workers from the US enter the country. I head the media observe that the US has been an outspoken critic of the Myanmar government and opine that this is probably the reason they are refusing to let people from the US in. I wonder at how many times, in my own life I refuse help with disaster (not on this scale, of course) because I don’t like the person who is offering help. I think of the man in the parable of the Good Samaritan, who likely wanted help, but might have been very dismayed at the prospect of that help being offered by a Samaritan. He probably would have preferred help from his own people – those who passed him by – instead of from a despised Samaritan.
I believe that nature is nature and disasters will happen. I know that hurricanes/typhoons are a physical force that transfer heat from the equator to the poles and keep the world functioning. I tend to think of the earth – even the universe, as a creature of sorts. Just as a human body has mechanisms to maintain body temperature and fight off infections, the mechanisms in place to keep this planet functioning are going to have to work to keep the proper balance.
Scripture observes that rain for the fields falls on both the good and the evil. The sun shines on both the good and the evil. And cyclones, tsunamis and hurricanes hit land inhabited by both the good and the evil. We are called to love and care for each other and not make that love and care dependent on whether we perceive the recipient of that care as good and deserving.
If there is anything I can do to help ease the pain and suffering of those remaining after this disaster, I pray that I am open to see it and willing to do it.