The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries
Earthquake, Tsunami and God
Many years ago, a youth leader in my church was killed in the crash of a small airplane. As the kids in the church youth group struggled to make sense of that tragic death, many of them gave voice to a theology they often heard from their conservative Christian friends. "God called him home," they said.
An Air Force chaplain who was a member of the church quickly set the record straight: "God has better ways of 'calling people home' than slamming them into the ground at 160 miles per hour." The chaplain pushed the church youth to think more deeply about human accountability and the reality of chance, and to be slower in blaming God for what they can't understand.
Tragedy and suffering are theologically difficult when you believe that God is intimately involved in every detail of our individual lives. On the other hand, "God" becomes theologically difficult when God is seen as powerless or disconnected from the events of the world. In between those two extremes, theology and ethics become difficult when the tension between God's involvement and disengagement is taken seriously.
Last weekend's violent earthquake in Sumatra, and the enormous tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean, are causing many people of faith to raise difficult questions. As I reflect on the events of this week, I am aware that an eco-justice perspective gets in the way of simple answers, and calls us into that very difficult place of tension.
Because eco-justice rejects any simple division between the human and the natural, because it sees God revealed in the natural order that we affirm as "good," because it calls us to wrestle with matters of faith and ethics that go beyond the personal to touch on institutions and systems -- for all those reasons, an eco-justice theological perspective is both wonderfully appropriate and painfully difficult at a time like this.
Without attempting to be comprehensive, let me draw on that perspective to offer some theological affirmations and convictions that are appropriate for this week's news.
First and foremost, this situation calls on all people -- people of all faiths, and those without faith -- to act on their most basic notions of compassion and solidarity. For most of us, who are far from the disaster scenes, that action means giving money to relief efforts. Loving prayers of compassion that don't also include significant giving simply won't cut it. Your denomination, Church World Service, or the Red Cross will make efficient use of your donation. This is the core ethical matter. Do it.
Beyond the immediate funding of relief efforts, we get into more philosophical territory.
In this time of great human disaster, may we first of all seek to meet the urgent and long-term needs. Then, in our faithful musings, may we not shy away from hard questions and challenging demands. For in that place of tension we will find real faithfulness.
Eco-Justice Ministries * 400 S Williams St, Denver, CO 80209 * Home Page: www.eco-justice.org
Eco-Justice Ministries ended all programming on July 31, 2020. This site is an archive of writings and resources.
To contact a representative of the agency by e-mail, please use the contact form