Faith, disaster and metaphors

August 30, 2011

I've been thinking lately about disasters -- not only how
frequently they have dominated the news this calendar year, but the
frequency with which natural disaster comes up in the Bible.

I agree with Stephen Prospero
that it's a good thing that most of us no longer attribute "acts of
God" actually to God. We understand natural disastsers much better in
our generation, even though we're still pretty poor at predicting them
and even worse at preventing them. What's astonishing is that we can
endure storm after storm without ever confronting the reality that
climate scientists are telling us: extreme weather is partly a function
of human-caused climate change.

Even worse, we still avoid confronting the stark economic realities
that make persistent drought a difficulty in the American South but a
human catastrophe in places like Somalia. The lessons of Hurricane
Katrina -- that the most vulernable populations in a storm are, well,
the most vulnerable in our community -- are still unlearned, or at least
unacted on.

Meanwhile, the startling metaphors of the Old Testament, in which
human injustice often leads directly to the "divine" reminders of God's
displeasure (think Exodus, or Amos), lose a lot of their umph for us.
I'm not saying Pat Robertson or Michelle Bachman are right. I just wish
that having better science wouldn't give us an excuse to ignore  the
moral questions raised every time the poor are the first to  starve in a
famine, be overcome in a flood, or be crushed in an earthquake.

Originally posted at Living Word by Word.