Does God hate Joplin? Maybe the whole of Missouri, or the USA, or perhaps the whole world? There have been earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, volcanoes erupting in Iceland, tornadoes and floods in the south, the north, the mid-west. Australia is apparently on God’s list too – with floods; and New Zealand and Chile with earthquakes. And these are all quite recent. If we go back a little further it seems that God has something against pretty much everybody.
So does God really show us pleasure or displeasure through natural events? Or are they just natural events, the way things are set up? The first settlers on the plains and the south must have seen tornadoes and other types of bad weather – and planned accordingly. Of course, they might never have heard of any events that happened 50 or 100 miles away, which might be a relief for us modern, news-weary people.
Meteorologists tell us that most natural events that happen around us are not unique, that they have been happening for thousands of years and that even periods of increased activity are also part of the pattern. And they tell us that the active storm season in the USA this year has been set up by record and early heat in parts of the south and a very cold, long winter in the north with continued unmelted snow-packs. When these extremes get together, we get extreme weather.
Rather than asking if God is punishing us, perhaps we should ask it we are aware enough of our surroundings; if we are willing to use our God-given ability to figure out what is going on and what we can do about it. Given that many of us live in severe storm-prone areas, are we seriously asking ourselves, our cities, our government, if building codes are what they should be? Should we live in storm-prone areas without creating basements, or strong-rooms? We do have the ability to analyze what can be done. We often have the means to do something for ourselves and neighbors. We certainly have the means to rally our community to do more to protect ourselves. The addition of tornado sirens has been a big step forward for many communities.
I believe it was after hurricane Andrew that an official from Florida made the statement that houses would better withstand hurricane-force winds if the roof was tied to the house. I wasn’t sure that there was an alternative to actually connecting the roof to the house, but apparently some roofs in south Florida were just resting on the walls. We could certainly use our God-given abilities to do a little better than that, rather than just doing things as cheaply as possible.
Of course, none of this talk is helpful to the people in Joplin, or anyone else that is suffering from a tragedy. The only thing helpful for them is to get the help they need. But let’s not blame God (and then have to try and figure out what kind of God we believe in), when we can use the minds and resources he has given us to weather the storms with a little more safety.