Thursday, September 01, 2005
Where is the love?
If you have at all been watching the news of the devestation in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, you're probably, like me, in a state of shock. The destruction and chaos are unreal. It's like something from an apocalypse movie. When, since the great Chicago Fire of over 100 years ago have we seen a major American city simply wiped out?

And it's hard to know what to say or think or feel about this whole thing. The mass of human tragedy seems overwhelming, and the looting, violence, and inadequecy of response by our government drives one only to frustration and outrage. It is shameful that (some) people in New Orleans are responding with violence and theft rather than by coming alongside and helping their neighbors, and it is even more shameful that our government agencies are responding so slowly and so inadequately. There are so many questions: Why did we wait till after the hurricane to declare an official evacuation? Why has it taken over three days to get a substantial force of peacekeepers and rescue workers to the area? Why aren't we airdropping food and water and medicine to the thousands of people waiting at places like the New Orleans Convention Center, the Superdome, and along the highways? (Didn't we have supplies going to Southeast Asia within hours after the Tsunami last December?) Has having our troops and resources tied up in Iraq affected our ability to respond to those in need here in our own country? (I just heard that a few years ago the Bush Administration cut funding to the project that was supposed to repair and strengthen the New Orleans levees, because they needed the money and the engineers involved to rebuild Iraq.) What madness is driving people in New Orleans to shoot at medical choppers and attack police officers trying to help? And is it possible that racial and socio-economic issues are affecting the way we (i.e. our government and we as the American people) are responding to this crisis? (Would we be responding differently right now - faster, with more urgency, with more nationwide public involvement - if the majority of people stranded in New Orleans were white and middle class? I don't want to think so, but you have to wonder what role race and class are playing in all this... especially when you see things like this.)

And then there are the theological questions... Why did God allow (or cause?) this to happen? Is it possible that this is a form of divine judgment? (Some people though 9/11 was a judgment from God, and a hurricane is a much more obvious "act of God" than a terrorist attack.) Illinois Governor Blagojovich said on the news that this was a reminder from God that we human beings, despite our technology and our ingenuity, are still very small; that there are forces still much more powerful than us. Is he right? Is it possible that this hurricane was sent to humble us as Americans? To shake us out of our complacency and show us that we are not as safe and secure and in control as we like to imagine we are? Could it possibly force us to finally shift our attention and effort and resources away from destroying other people's countries and towards rebuilding our own? Could that be part of God's intention in allowing this to happen to us? Don't get me wrong, I'm not making any definite judgments or statements here. I'm just asking the questions that I'm sure have been raised in many minds in the aftermath of Katrina.

But regardless of what the "reason" for this disaster is, our required response is clear. We must reach out to love and help our neighbor. I see so many people desperate for food and water and to get out of New Orleans and reestablish some kind of life and I wonder what we can do to help. I was so gratified to see that some of the first people on the scene to help (even just hours after the storm passed) were the Southern Baptists. Way to go Church! I wonder what it would be like if churches all across the nation committed to help in similar ways. Right now the biggest problem is just getting people out of New Orleans and to places where they can recover and be helped. What if churches were to simply rent buses, send them to New Orleans, and ship people back to sleep in their facilities, in their church buildings? Why don't we do that? What's stopping us? Let's just go for it. Let's be Jesus to those people.
posted by Mike Clawson at 7:51 PM | Permalink |


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