The Christian Response to Disaster


TornadoThe foamboard in my front yard spoke to me. The yellow fiberglass insulation told a story.

I don’t know whose damaged or destroyed home those leftover bits and pieces came from, but they are a reminder of suffering and death in the wake of the tornadoes that went through several states last Friday.

In Batavia, a town just west of here, someone found storm debris that contained papers labeled with the name of the town of Nabb, Indiana. Nabb is part of the Henryville/Marysville area that was utterly devastated by the storms. Nabb is also just over a 100 miles west of Batavia. That’s 100 miles.

I’m glad that Pat Robertson does not live in our area. I’m sure he’d have something to say about these storms that I’d later have to apologize for on behalf of other Christians.

I hate it when the news media find some blowhard believer who can’t wait to have his or her opinion heard by the masses. How the media routinely uncover the worst representative of the Christian faith to comment on disasters is a gift, though one of the worst giftings I can think of.

When the “media” of Jesus’ day stuck a figurative microphone under His nose in an attempt to get a pithy comment from Him on recent disasters, this is what He said:

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

People are always trying to make sense of disasters. Truth is, disaster is part and parcel of a world steeped in human sin. If anything, our perspective should instead be one of gratefulness to God that anything good can come out of the mess we have made. Into that mess came Jesus, who offered Himself as a living sacrifice for sin and showed us by His actions how to show mercy to others.

So here is what I wish we would say and do when confronted with disaster: Show mercy to the survivors and remind everyone that disaster can come upon anyone at any time, and unless we repent, we will all likewise perish.

That’s all. Don’t add to that. Show mercy and remind of repentance. End of comment.

God will see fit to fill in everything else.

Sex, Politics, and Homeschooling…Oh, and Tornadoes


Boy, did I pick the wrong time to take a mini-vacation from blogging! The unholy trinity of controversial topics erupted on the Godblogosphere in the last few days: sex, politics, and homeschooling.

I’ll be commenting on the first and last issues once I clear my plate. Call me Slammed right now. My posterior actually hurts from sitting in chairs all day typing away. Plus, we’re doubling up on my son’s homeschooling to end by the close of May. More sitting there, too.

And then my in-laws were visiting in Greensburg, KS, when that town got erased off the face of the planet by what must’ve been the mother of all tornadoes. What's left of Greensburg's main attractionI’ve been to Greensburg myself; my wife grew up in a minuscule town just eight miles away. A few years ago, we went back to that area and I had the curious pleasure of descending the depths of the world’s largest hand-dug well, the key attraction in Greensburg. How eerie that the first image we saw of the devastation was the smashed sign for the well.

Praise God my in-laws escaped unharmed, plus saved their van and laptop. They lost everything else, though.

Life is like that, isn’t it? In myriad ways, most of us escape the truly awful consequences of life by the skin of our teeth. I suspect that many of us will arrive that way in heaven. How sad to think that most of what we’ve done will be tested by flames, only to burn! I pray that at least something of my life is gold and not all dross. Don’t want to make it into heaven smelling of smoke from that testing! I deal with enough shame as it is.

More later.

Update: The images of the destruction in Greensburg are mind-boggling. When I saw this aerial series of photos, I thought one thing: Hiroshima.

{Image: Greensburg, KS: sign for The World’s Largest Hand-dug Well post-tornado – copyright, The Associated Press}