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Posted: January 22, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Parson to Person: God is not to blame

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The devastating earthquake which hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, has dominated the news. Haiti, once considered the pearl of the Antilles because of its beauty was once one of Frances richest colonies. In our day however, Haiti has the distinction of being the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. Even before this devastating earthquake, stories coming out of Haiti told of people making mud pies and eating them in an attempt to stave off the hunger and get at least some form of nourishment.

Since the earthquake I have both read and heard people's opinion on why this has all happened to Haiti. Whenever there is a major tragedy such as the one in Haiti, people of faith have a tendency to try to interpret it in light of what we believe God is trying to say to us through the event. Erwin Lutzer writes, "Clearly, people see in natural disasters exactly what they want to see. I am reminded of the remark, ‘We know that we have created God in our own image when we are convinced that He hates all the same people we do.' Disasters often become a mirror in which our own convictions and wishes are reflected" (Lutzer: "Where Was God?", Tydale House Publishers page 6).

I see that happening as some try to give us the reason why Haiti has suffered so. Lest however some critics attempt to lay blame for such damning insights only at the feet of Christianity, please note above that I was careful to point out that this is a tendency that people of every faith can become guilty of if we are not careful. For example, when the tsunami hit Southeast Asia at Christmastime, 2004, some Muslim stated that Allah was judging the region because of their immorality, abominations, and drunkenness. When Katrina hit New Orleans, some Christian leaders claimed that it was God's judgment on the decadence of the city, while some Muslims opined that Allah was heaping vengeance on the United States for our presence in Iraq. Those are just a few of the myriad examples that I could cite. Not only are people of every faith guilty of trying to explain God's purpose in disaster, but people of no faith are quick to try to place blame for human suffering at the foot of religion in general.

It is not my purpose to try to discuss why such things as these happen, or to try to interpret them in light of my feeble understanding. The fact that we try to analyze such disasters may in fact hint at our own hardness of heart. When we can blame God for the calamity and justify it by pointing to the "sins which caused it," then we can justify our own uncaring response to the pain. "They must have deserved it," speaks more of a hint of unemotional karma than it does of a commitment to a loving and gracious God.

The most troubling aspect of any suffering is the silence of God in the presence of human turmoil. We might be able to explain suffering that comes from man's inhumanity to man, but when the suffering comes about through natural disasters, or even when man's inhumanity to man is lifted to the level of Nazi Germany (15 Million killed in Concentration camps) or Stalin's Russia (30-60 million executed), or Mao's China (30 million Chinese executed), we are left questioning our faith, struggling with doubts, wondering if God really can be trusted, and what appears to us as Divine indifference to human tragedy, leads us to our personal aftershocks that shake our faith.

Like it or not, when disasters strike, it is we who are on trial not God. Natural disasters are graphic reminders that even things that appear solid will someday quake beneath our feet. It is therefore imperative that we find firm ground while we can.
I do not know all the whys of sufferings, I can speculate with the best of them, but when all is said and done, it is not my job to analyze why something may have happened, it is my job to respond to and help those who are hurting. It is my job to minister practically to their needs and speak with them about ultimate hope that only Jesus can give.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.


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