gratitude & hoopla: The Meaning of Katrina

gratitude & hoopla

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

26.9.05

The Meaning of Katrina

Among the ancient Greeks and other pagans, it was a matter of course to read the signs of the weather in order to understand the Gods. Thunderstorms caused people to presume that the Gods were angry, while fine weather was indicative of favor. To some extant, you could manipulate their moods through the sacrificial system. You could appease them, or even bribe them. But ultimately people were simply at their mercy. The fickleness of the weather reflected the fickleness of the Gods. People were just not their special concern, the focus of divine attention. People were merely their playthings, or their pawns, or perhaps just innocent bystanders, in the ongoing warfare of a very dysfunctional supernatural family.

Why do I mention all this here? Because I have been concerned lately about Christian speculation concerning the spiritual meaning of Hurricane Katrina. Frankly, I find much of it embarrassing. The notion is, New Orleans was an extraordinarily evil place. God runs out of patience with it, and sends an extraordinary "weather event" which can be understood as his judgement on the place, as well as a warning to the rest of us. Sodom and Gomorrah all over again.

Two things. I’m not sure that New Orleans was all that much more evil than many other places, and I’m not sure that Hurricane Katrina was so extraordinary a weather-event as to require a special explanation.

But more importantly, such speculation seems to lose touch with the God of the Bible, who has set for himself a day of judgement at the end of time, in which he will deal with sin according to the response that people have made to the cross of Christ. He is not, until that day, a bomb-throwing God who sends massive catastrophe on whole populations because of sin.

I just wanted to say that. The fact is, ever since the fall of Adam, which essentially caused the fall also of the natural order, weather of all kinds, including very destructive hurricanes, has been the natural condition of things. Even the natural order has been subject to the curse of God, and is in bondage to decay and death. That, my friends, explains Katrina, and indeed all forms of weather, far better than the suggestion that God has simply run out of patience with a particularly sinful city.

One further point: does not such speculation have much in common with the arguments of Job’s judgmental counselors? They looked at the condition of Job, at the truly extraordinary level of disaster that had struck his life, and drew the conclusion that such extraordinary trouble must indicate an extraordinary level of sin in his life, for which he obviously needed to repent. But God's response to all that marks a once and for all break with such a simplistic understanding of divinity. For his anger is reserved not for Job, but for these counselors. Do not presume that you can read the Lord’s moods by reading the weather!

Again, our God has set aside his judgement on sin for a day yet to come. This is what the Bible teaches us. On that day, judgement will come to sinners based on how they responded to the cross of Christ, just as mercy will come to other sinners based on how they responded to the cross of Christ. In the meantime, all creation quakes as if in the travail of childbirth, awaiting the revelation of the sons of God. Only then will it be freed from that bondage to decay to which God long ago subjected it. When we, the sons of God, are one day transfigured, so too will nature be. Until then, hurricanes will happen. And in the meantime, the message of God is this: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in eat with him, and he with me."

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Hat tip: I was helped greatly in arriving at this understanding by Sam Storms, which I found through Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds.

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