As much as I was determined not to write this essay, I had no choice after observing the unrelenting flow of sanctimonious drivel—some of which was written by people who should definitely know better.
The question raised is how can a loving God permit a natural disaster that took the lives of more than 150,000, with the death toll still climbing. Some raise the specter of punishment, and, are, of course, roundly condemned by all the usual suspects. While I am not suggesting this as the ultimate answer, it is well to point out that the Bible is chock full of stories relating God’s punishment, and no less an authority than the Virgin Mary herself stated at Fatima that “War is a punishment for sin.”
To be sure, 150,000 is a large number, but pales in comparison to many other disasters that can’t be classified as “natural.” I’ve read many books on the Civil War, for example, and I have never encountered a sentence remotely like “How could a loving God permit a power-mad president to wage war on his own people, killing 600,000 and wounding 500,000 more?” Perhaps we react stronger to the death toll from natural disasters since it is beyond our control. Or is it?
We will probably never know how many lives could have been saved given an adequate tsunami warning system, and better emergency response and infrastructure in the countries hardest hit. Allow me a bit of skepticism here. After all, we have noted that worldwide political corruption being what it is, food cannot cure hunger, money cannot cure poverty, and the United Nations cannot even put a dent in genocide—much less war. Where was God in Rwanda, indeed.
And, before we go too hog-wild on this natural disaster thing, remember that we are living in the world, with all its beauty and danger, too. How could a loving God allow that shark to kill that surfer? How could a loving God allow that poor soul to freeze to death in his unheated apartment? Could it be that we must resign ourselves to the notion that life on this Earth is not perfect, and one of the things our faith does is helps us get through our sojourn here?
If you’re impressed by a big body count, how could a loving God permit 40 million or so abortions? Maybe it has something to do with the free will of the pregnant woman and the medical service provider. It could also have something to do with the sick mind of Harry Blackmun basing his majority decision on the travails of his then 19-year-old daughter who got pregnant out-of-wedlock in college. Talk about overkill…
Then, of course, there’s the matter of death per se. What makes any death “tragic,” exactly? There are scant few occasions whereby someone’s death will come at a convenient time, and most people will be mourned whenever they die. How many of the tsunami victims were destined to die “before their time,” anyway? For the faithful, what do a few years matter when compared to eternity? And, by the way, who determines what constitutes “before their time”? An actuary can give you statistical data, but cannot elucidate what is proper for a particular individual.
Where was God in the tsunamis, then?
He was and is in the hearts of all of the faithful, and we cannot fathom His ways. Of course, this is hardly news. There’s a book that you can find on the subject, written about 2700 years ago. It’s called Job. Highly recommended.