Friday, January 15, 2010


It seems that every few years on planet earth, whether it be a tsunami, an earthquake or some other disaster, something terrible happens. Haiti is another example. At this stage we don't know how many will die, it seems somewhere between 50 and 500,000 people! Whatever the number, this is a catastrophe. If one life is precious as I believe it is, this is a horror! This will also decimate a nation.

According to Haiti, even before the earthquake, is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Its unemployment rate before the quake was 80%. More than 50% lived off less than a dollar a day. The infrastructure was totally inadequate with few paved roads, an inadequate water supply and few utilities. 60% of the population lived in abject poverty! Less than 20% of Haitians over the age of 15 could read and write. Less than 75% of Haitian children attended school. The health care system before the disaster was already patently inadequate with 40% of Haitians without access to primary health care! 6% have HIV/AIDS, the highest in the western hemisphere. 30,000 die of AIDS alone each year. There were already 150,000 AIDS orphans. The numbers of street kids had grown exponentially due to the poor abandoning their children.

If such a disaster had hit a first world country like NZ, it would have been terrible. But the damage would not be as bad, the casualties much fewer, and the recovery quicker. Haiti is one of the worst places on earth for this to happen. It is also an island nation and so isolated. It is hard to access.

What is unfolding then is a disaster of unimaginable proportions. What is our response?

1. We Must Do Something.

Each of us needs to give something to the AID relief effort. Even if we can give a dollar, it will help. Sure, half of that will end up in admin, but the other half might help. The Samaritan Parable tells us not to simply walk past whatever our excuse. We must give something, we must make like the Samaritan.

2. We Must Pray.

We have to pray for this nation. We must pray for God's mercy, to preserve those who are trapped, to cause the wealthy nations of the world to rise up and get there with all the help they can. The need is urgent. Time is of the essence. Maranatha, our Lord come! Have mercy Lord. Raise up the nations to help them!

3. Is there More Some Can do?

It seems to me that above all they need medics. Are there some here, who are on a beach, who can make a few calls, and get to this nation to help? I am no medic; I would just get in the way. Is this a time when a doctor, nurse or other can make contact with the powers that be to make themselves available. Perhaps the system and situation makes this more difficult; but perhaps some can try.

There are big theological questions that come out of this for me; tough ones!

1. How Can This Nation Be in This State?

As I look at a world map, I see that the USA is very close to this island nation. How can it be, that the USA is overflowing with wealth, yet here is a nation in such a state. Perhaps the politics of the region make the US helping such a nation difficult. Still, it is wrong. The US pours trillions into military development, invading Middle Eastern countries, space programs; not to mention their opulent lifestyles. This brings out the inequality of our world. Again, the west is exposed for its greed, materialism, consumerism and stands before God for it.

We should ponder this deeply ourselves. The Pacific is full of nations like this one, although not perhaps in as bad a plight. What are we doing for our island neighbours aside from recruiting their best boys for the AB’s? Are we doing enough? Sometimes I am ashamed to be part of the wealthy. I think of camels and needles. I wonder. Is it any wonder that the west is in spiritual decline? Is it God's wrath on us?

2. The Theological Problem of Natural Disasters.

I have to admit, as a theological thinker, that such events pose the greatest problem for me in terms of theology. Human-caused evil is easily explainable theologically. Human sin and the cosmic power of Satanic evil give a good account of things like war, poverty and oppression. We are to blame. We do it.

But, explaining earthquakes, tsunamis’, hurricanes, eruptions, floods and other natural disasters is the most difficult thing. At times like this I find my explanations weak and to be honest, inadequate.

My way of understanding these is that at the fall of humanity, whereby they rebelled against God, evil was released into the cosmos. It is as if corruption was downloaded into the A Frame of planet earth working its way into every crevice, including creation itself. My main clue comes from Romans 8 where the whole of creation groans under the oppression of death and decay. As such, cosmic disasters like this are a consequence of the fall. As such, disasters whether seismic, meteorological etc, are due to the corrupting of God's creation, due to evil being let loose in the world.

A scientific response might call this naive, arguing that such events are the norm in the world, and part of the fabric of life on earth. If so, then death and destruction is part of life on earth, always has been, always will be.

As I believe the biblical narrative to be our primary explanation point, I think that this is incorrect. However, I cannot defend it, I am appealing to a period in history when such things did not happen, and I cannot prove this. I also hope for the day when such events do not occur. They are to be expected according to Jesus (Mt 24; Revelation). And the day is coming when they will end. Earth will be healed and humanity will live in peace and harmony with God in a world free of such things (cf. Rev 20-22).

I am not sure how comforting this is to the people of Haiti. Reeling out theological lines like 'all things work for the good...' somehow seems hollow. For me, this must be sown into our hearts before an event hits or else it is of little use when it does. So, I hold onto this explanation, but I have to say at a time like this it is severely tested.

One thing I do not like hearing is American evangelists saying that it is caused by the sin of the nation of Haiti. Perhaps it is, I will let the prophets decide. For me, if I was God, and thankfully I am not, it would not the poor nation of Haiti that would be struck, it would be the arrogance of nations that consume consume consume, that oppress, that rape and pillage the poor to maintain their gross lifestyle.

Anyway, there endeth this rant. I am deeply grieved. God have mercy on us all. And send your salvation to Haiti, in Jesus' name.


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