Monday, August 30, 2010

Remembering Katrina

The fifth anniversary of Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast got me thinking back to the brief time I spent there that fall in the early days of the clean up effort. Here's something I posted then. Alas, five years on, our theological discourse remains in greater disrepair than does the Gulf Coast, what with mosques burning and Glen Beck's preaching.

Katrina Diaries: Theological Storms

Rita swirls out in the Gulf, bringing sporadic rain and a steady breeze with sweet relief from stifling heat and humidity. No amount of wind can clear the air of the bad theology that clings to the aftermath of Katrina. The other day I heard a radio preacher talking about the judgment of God on the voodoo-welcoming people of New Orleans.
Never mind that a god so narrow minded as to wipe out people seeking various ways to the divine does not deserve praise and worship. A god who discounts as collateral damage the hundreds of people who probably shared the radio evangelist’s faith doesn’t even deserve respect. A jealous and angry god is one thing – perhaps even a Biblical thing – but a god with such lousy aim is worthless. A god who unleashes flood waters on poor people trapped in New Orleans by a system that forgot to evacuate them is not the God of Moses who parted the waters for a people escaping a system that enslaved them.
I met some folks today at a church that sits right on the coast in Biloxi among a row of houses built just after the Civil War. The homes on either side of the church were destroyed, but the church itself escaped with nothing more than a flooded basement and a few damaged doors. One of the people I met there said, “God must have been watching out for his house.”
Less than two blocks away, 30 people died when the motel they were in collapsed. Here’s a god with pin-point precision but confused priorities. A god too busy watching over a temple of bricks and mortar to protect the flesh and blood next door is not the God made known in Jesus Christ, the suffering servant.
But when you wander through streets that look like a war zone, it’s hard not to wonder who and where God is in all of this.
Desmond Tutu has written, “The God we worship is the Exodus God, the great liberator God who leads us out of all kinds of bondage. Do you remember what God told Moses? [God] said, ‘I have seen the suffering of My people. I have heard their cry. I know their suffering and am come down to deliver them.’ Our God is a God who knows. Our God is a God who sees. Our God is a God who hears. Our God is a God who comes down to deliver. But the way that God delivers us is by using us as […] partners, by calling on Moses, on you and me.”
Ah, and therein lies the rub. Lousy theology lets us off the hook. It is fatalistic rather than faithful. If spirit is wind and fire – pnuema and ruah – then surely God can speak to us through the ferocious winds of Katrina and Rita, and surely part of the message is simply this: “here I am; where are you? Here I am, come and join me.”

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