January 10, 2005

A godly perspective on the tsunami

I've been reading articles for the last week or so dealing with how different religions respond to the South Asia tsunami--what do they say about the tsunami and their deity's role in it? So when I saw Bet's post, I was hooked. She linked to Jon at Personal Trainer. He's got a well-written theodicy--which is a "defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil." (Thanks to Bet for looking up the definition of theodicy in Merriam Webster.)

I'd much rather read the truth that Jon has pointed us to than to read the thoughts of the unsaved journalists who I have been seeing in print all over.

The New York Times ran a story using the tsunami as a springboard to talk about the growth of religion throughout the world. One of the main points of the story is that people of all religions are shunning "fundamentalist" beliefs of their religion. Guess that's good news for all the moderates in the world. I don't get it.

Ms. Goodstein even managed to work the ol' alma mater into her article. I'm impressed. Really.

I can see it now.

Editor: Ms. Goodstein, we need you to write a story. To appeal to the religious-minded readers of this liberal publication, we need a story about religion. Here's what we need you to do: (1) say religion is growing; (2) say fundamentalism isn't; (3) bring up Franklin Graham's statements about Islam; and (4) get that wacko school in South Carolina into the story somewhere. We haven't mentioned it in a while.

Ms. Goodstein: Sure thing, boss. When do you need it?

And she did it. Each of those elements is in this story. ...just remember, it's part of "all the news that's fit to print."

Some other articles on God and the tsunami show the broad range of thought on the God of the Bible as well as the deities of other beliefs. I think it's profitable to know what people are thinking.

God Was There Before the Tsunami
A rabbi takes a very deistic approach, stating that "Outside of a couple of Biblical exceptions, Nature has run on its own inner-clock. It is not manipulated by God as a means to punish. Nature is not "angry". It is what it is."

Seeing God's mystery in the tsunami's wake
A NY Newsday column which comes close to the truth, but never quite gets there. Talks to clergy from several religions, including another rabbi who says, "I always shudder when I hear the tsunami referred to as an act of God. I don't see it as such. But I see the outpouring of relief aid and the rescue efforts and the kindness of people from all different walks of life as an act of God."

Faithful seek answers after Tsunami
Similar to the above piece, but an article, not a column. Has similar rabbinical statements to above links, while including more from Eastern religions.

Why did God allow this disaster? What a silly question
Garth George uses this piece to take pieces of the Bible to support that the tsunami was a random occurence and that attributing it to God is silly. He quotes "Robert Paul Reyes writing in an obscure weekly newspaper called the Lynchburg Ledger published in rural Virginia.'When disaster strikes we shouldn't be praying to the heavens for help, we should be looking to see how we can help our fellow brothers and sisters. The world's immediate and generous response to the tsunami relief effort is a picture of the good that the human community can accomplish. Humankind can perform miracles without God being in the equation at all.' I like that. I suspect God does, too."

God and the tsunami: How can a merciful God allow such disaster and suffering?
Transcript of a program called "Scarborough Country in which author Anne Graham Lotz says "I know that God is a loving God. I don't look at the tsunami and what has happened at Asia. I look at the cross. And when I look at the cross of Jesus Christ, when God sent his own son to die to take away my sin, I know that God loves me. So, I don't know the love of God is in question when this happens." A couple other personalities, including Rabbi Shmuley Boteach weigh in before author Tim LaHaye (Left Behind) makes the point that "we're looking through a glass darkly. We don't see the end from the beginning."

Where's God when a tsunami hits? Many Jews, Christians and Muslims would say their deity is in South Asia at the source of healing
A lenghty, confused article that says, "The Book of Job has been called a literary masterpiece. But it provides no single answer. Job, in his anger at God, cannot fathom why the Supreme Being allows injustice. In the midst of his pain, Job eventually ends up uncertain, simply marvelling at God's magnificent and complex universe. Many Jews, Christians and Muslims (who all belong to the same Abrahamic tradition) are satisfied to end up in an ambiguous place similar to Job. They acknowledge they don't know why untold misery can take place under the watch of an omnipotent God." After the Holocaust, according to the article, Jews and Christians became dissatisfied with Job's position. As a result, "These dissenters began to reject the foundational belief of many Jews, Christians and Muslims -- that God is "Almighty," and that's what makes God worthy of the name God."

Area rabbis answer tough questions in wake of disaster
Cleveland-area rabbis (male and female) share their beliefs about God and his soveriegnty, especially in relation to the tsunami.

Bet links to the ever-useful journalism site, Poynter Institute, which has a similar, but different roundup.

Anyway you look at it, it seems that people are searching for answers.

I like the conclusion that Jon comes to at Personal Trainer.

The lesson of Job is let God be God, and every man a liar. We cannot know why this or that happens. We simply humble ourselves before God with the quiet assurance that "the Judge of all the earth shall do right." All creation groans and travails waiting the day of redemption. We long for the day when He shall make all things new. In the interim, thank God for the next breath, the gift of life, the cross of Christ, and Jesus' resurrection from the tomb that assures us death has no final victory!
Posted by JRC at January 10, 2005 10:50 PM | TrackBack