Friday, September 02, 2005

The LORD Was Not In The Wind

Provocative enough title for you? (See I Kings 19:11)

I have been watching New Orleans' slow death by torture unfold this week. Like many, I have withheld comment in my own blog, for lack of anything meaningful to say. But now that others whom I respect have spoken up, I wish to reflect on their take on this disaster.

Michael Spencer - "What Are We Seeing in New Orleans?"

I'll take his major points (see the article for how he develops them) and respond individually.

I think we are seeing a turning point in the perception of America in the world. - I think it's way too soon to tell.

I believe we are witnessing a turning point in the perception of the urban poor in America. - if what I've read thus far is any indication, this only goes to reinforce peoples' existing political prejudices - liberals will scream about how the government failed the poor there (true), whilst conservatives will scream about the failure of government to keep the peace (true). The human mind is an amazing thing - we will read into just about anything what we want to see. More on that later.

I believe we are witnessing a revelation of the impotence of government. Who's to argue?

I fear we are watching the first of many future episodes of social chaos in America. As I stated in the Boar's Head, this is nothing new. Remember the LA riots? The race riots of the 60's? The Depression? The Civil War? We've had social chaos here before - we'll have it again. It's the human condition. Human depravity is what it is - not even a "Christianized" society is immune from it, as the records of Medieval Christendom all too easily attest. In America, we've just put a good "face forward" on it in most respects. "The fault, dear Monk, lies not in our secularists, but in ourselves, that we are monsters..."


Eternal Perspectives - "What Are We Seeing in New Orleans?"

EP's reply to Michael's post above. The core of his reply, which I concur with, is here...

What is happening in New Orleans is the natural consequence of a deterioration of moral standards in the city. Many of the inner-city residents - and especially those who prospered from the immorality of Bourbon Street and its appeal to base desires - are both victimizing and being victimized by the absence of morality among some of those who remained during the hurricane. They are unrestrained, lacking an internal basis for morality. They are not living like animals, as some have suggested, but are living like humans lacking God-established controls.

They have sown the wind, as Hosea said, and they are reaping the whirlwind. Not the whirlwind of Katrina, but a whirlwind far worse and far more dangerous: the whirlwind of wickedness residing in the human heart. A minority - an immoral minority - is exploiting the absence of law and creating disorder. They are preying upon the weak and demonstrating that what God has said about the unaided, unrestrained human heart is tragically true. There are none righteous. We are desperately wicked.

To be sure, there are many good people in New Orleans who have sought to reform and redeem the city for years. It has been my experience that where sin is strong, so are the churches and Christians that live nearby. I am confident such is the case in New Orleans, too.

But it is an uphill battle for them and one they will not likely win. The United States is a democracy, not a theocracy, and individuals are free to reject the morality of truth and live outside the law - not outside the law of the land, but outside the law of God. Some people will live as close to the edge of lawlessness as those in power will allow. And when the threat of consequences and punishment is removed, the evil in their hearts runs wild in the streets.


Cerulean Sanctum - "What the Church is Not Learning"

Dan Edelen raises the spectre here of the possibility that Katrina is a manifestation of the wrath of God. I will reiterate my arguments from Boar's Head tavern on this topic here.

1) Who was the target? The Mardi Gras revelers? They're all gone for the most part, as well as the promoters and organizers. The urban poor were most of the vicitms. America in general (as Dan seems to intimate?) Granted, America has done and is doing things that are sinful. But so does every other person, nation, and society. From that standpoint, we could say that *all bad things that happen to us are manifestations of God's wrath*. But the Bible says that for Christians, these events are not punishments but trials and discipling, strengthening our faith and preparing us for the New Creation. For the unbeliever, they are foretastes of the eternal punishment to come.

Which leads to another point. When someone says that a disaster is "God judging us", they too can point to the Bible. The OT clearly states that disasters were God's judgment on Israel for her sins. And here I want to return to an earlier point, about our seeing in things what we want to see. We make the leap between how God used disasters against Israel to how God uses disasters today, without thinking about whether or not America is in a similar position with God as Israel was. Of course, most American Christians *do* make that assumption, some consciously, many unconsciously. So, when we see something like this happen, we start to think of all the bad things we as a country have done and how God is trying to "wake us up". This may be true, but it is not the way the NT teaches us to look at these things. And, to get back to my title, it is dangerous to start speculating as to why God has brought tragedy onto any one person or place at any one time. We are NOT God, we have not His wisdom, and at times like this it is best to do as Job's friends intially did, and sit and weep with those who have been afflicted (Job 2:13).

Now that I've disagreed with Dan, it's my turn to agree with him. I think he's spot on about American Christians not being prepared to suffer. American evangelicalism is a theology of glory, not of the cross. Americans have largely forgot that the human condition is to suffer. Hence, when any little thing goes wrong, we throw a conniption fit and call our lawyer. Yes, we ought to prepare for evil times - not because of some coming "judgment", but because it is wise. Evil times are the mark of this age, and we have deluded ourselves into thinking otherwise.

That said, how to prepare? By stockpiling food and water in our basements? (Fat lot of good that would have done the folks in New Orleans.) Buy guns and train ourselves in their use? (That would provoke a good discussion about the proper use of defensive force for Christians, a topic for another day.) My point is, all the physical preparations a person can make may be of no use when the crunch comes. How should we then prepare? By learning to worship God, and learning to recognize our fellow Christians as our brothers and sisters, no matter their location, race, or denomination. What one person cannot do, God and the Church can do more and beyond what is required. So let us learn to worship God aright, give to our brethren in need, and rest in the Gospel. Then we will be prepared for whatever lies ahead.


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