making the New Orleans weather

After thinking about it more carefully, I’ve decided to post my response to a comment that was made on my “making the weather” post from earlier this week.  I don’t think I know the “midwest transplant” person who made the comment, but I thought it was appropriate to offer a response to clarify my intentions because it was a great question that leads to some new and interesting points, and now I think it would be best to share it with all of you.

midwest transplant wrote: 

As I read this, I see dead bodies floating in the streets of New Orleans. I wonder that you would tell a child, or anyone, clinging to the roof of a floating house days on end unprotected from the sun, dehydrated, and starving, waiting for rescue (that may or may not come — for many, it didn’t) that she created her own mess? Or willed it? Really.

The following is my response, which I posted as a comment on this site and sent to him/her as an email:

To midwest transplant:
Thank you for the challenging comment. It’s difficult to adequately convey one’s perspective on any particular topic through a one-sided blog post of a few hundred words. I can understand why you might challenge the position I took in this post with regard to a tragedy like the one which occurred in New Orleans. Although we may never have the opportunity to discuss this point through resolution, I would like to offer a response.

I can assure you that I would never suggest to that child, clinging to the roof of a floating house and suffering unimaginable terrors that she is the source of her own trouble. Nor would I suggest such things for the adults, young or old, nor even for the civil institutions which might have done more to mitigate the damage.

As I said, perhaps without the needed emphasis, in this post, “of course, many things happen, positive and negative which are outside our control.”

I know that many Christians, and even people of other faiths, look at global tragedies such as New Orleans, and blame those events on the people suffering from the calamities, or somehow rationalize that such events are the judgments of God and deserved by those upon whom they have been inflicted. I do not, absolutely do not, share that position. I cannot justify any position which interprets “acts of God” in such a manner. I do hold a position that God must be accountable for such events, and that he alone can understand the overwhelming complexity of such human suffering.

I do, however, as I stated in this post, hold the position that we can control our responses to such calamities. Because I have not experienced such calamity, I cannot ascertain nor judge the responses of those affected, but I can hope that such a little girl would find hope. I can justifiably postulate that for her to survive such unthinkable conditions, it would be important for her, over whatever time is necessary, to move forward and to choose to live well in spite of such circumstances.

As far as I’m concerned, the tragedy in New Orleans, and other events like it, should never be viewed as weather that anyone but God has made. To him, my unceasing question, which in my opinion will always defy human reasoning, is: “How could you?” My faith assures me he has an answer that I cannot comprehend.

Thanks again for the challenge.

After reading through these thoughts again, I think it’s appropriate for me to clarify one further point:  As I said, “I cannot justify any position which interprets ‘acts of God’ in such a manner [i.e. as deserved judgements].”  I do, however, believe that God judges, and may do so through such calamities, much to our dismay.  The position I cannot justify, though, is the interpretation of such events as God’s judgements; something like a Monday-morning quarterback assuring everyone he knows exactly why the game turned out the way it did.

In other words, I cannot know, much less understand, the ways in which God interacts with his people in general, so I can’t rightly interpret such events as judgement.  That’s God’s business.  The only appropriate response for me is to engage in prayer and support and service to the victims of the tragedy.  How arrogant it would be for me and other people of faith, to posture ourselves in such a manner, as if we could clearly discern the ways and means of God in relation to the billions of people in this world.  Let’s worry about our own houses, doing all we can in support of our communities – local and global – and let God maintain his position on the throne.

5 thoughts on “making the New Orleans weather”

  1. (I received the following paragraphs today from my email subscription to John Eldredge’s mailing list. This is an excerpt from his book Sacred Romance. I thought it was fitting in regard to the thoughts in this post today. Dale)

    “Everyone has been betrayed by someone, some more profoundly than others. Betrayal is a violation that strikes at the core of our being; to make ourselves vulnerable and entrust our well-being to another, only to be harmed by those on whom our hopes were set, is among the worst pain of human experience.

    “Sometimes the way God treats us feels like betrayal. We find ourselves in a dangerous world, unable to arrange for the water our thirsty souls so desperately need. Our rope won’t take the bucket to the bottom of the well. We know God has the ability to draw water for us, but oftentimes he won’t. We feel wronged. After all, doesn’t Scripture say that if we have the power to do someone good, we should do it (Prov. 3:27)? So why doesn’t God?

    “As I spoke with a friend about her painful life, how reckless and unpredictable God seems, she turned and with pleading eyes asked the question we are all asking somewhere deep within: “How can I trust a lover who is so wild?” Indeed, how do we not only trust him, but love him in return? There’s only one possible answer: You could love him if you knew his heart was good.”
    John Eldredge: Sacred Romance


  2. If I should find myself reborn
    A child on the streets of some futuristic Zimbabwe
    With swollen belly and rotting sores
    I ask only for the wisdom to see
    The purpose behind all pain.


  3. If I would want anything, indeed if it were within my power to shirk my wanting as this is, in my opinion, the most central of selfishness, I would want to remind anyone and everyone (including myself) that God “Will have mercy on whom He has mercy.” That is not for us to decide. We are all God’s possessions and He will do with us as He wills…With love and compassion that surpasses all our understanding. I’ve found through the course of my life that if the Lord allows pain or suffering at one time in each of our lives, it is wholly to spare us greater pain or suffering in the future, as He is the one that sees the beginning from the end. It is also at His sole discretion, as we are woefully, dismally inadequate to understand His ways. He does nothing, NOTHING without infinite, unbending, unconditional love for us. Can any of us truly define this, or map it’s parameters? In truth, one cannot find the end of something that has no end.

    I will though, make an inflammatory statement (a particular aptitude of mine) and I hope it will not go unheeded. Whether anyone would agree with me or not, it makes it no less the truth from my selfish standpoint. Did we learn nothing from New Orleans? Or did we find out some things that we can’t unlearn? Are we really so lost in pain and anger that we forgot the shining examples of unconditional love that emerged from the ashes of said tragedy? Did we not learn about the power and unpredictability of the very Earth we live on? Have there been no steps taken to avert the recurrence of said tragedy?

    As to those that lost their lives in New Orleans after Katrina, or those that survived to grieve for them and suffer further, I will not call them victims. I refuse to suffer them further insult my putting such an oppressive label over their heads. A victim allows further suffering by placing themselves in a position, namely labeling themselves, to continue to be victimized. They perpetrate their own victimization by doing nothing to stop further atrocities. They lay down and take it. I see no victims rise from and above the maelstrom, I see only overcomers. I rejoice knowing that the Lord has taken the dead to Him, and they no longer suffer…And I rejoice knowing that the Lord above all, has everything under control.


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