Saturday, March 12, 2011

When the Planet's Plates Collide

What do we say on the day after a disaster like the Pacific earthquake and the ensuing tsunami?

We might think about the existential questions, such as if there's a loving God, why does God allow such things? Natural disasters might be harder to reconcile than human-made disasters, which we can chalk off to free will and the human tendency towards bad choices. But why would God create a planet with tectonic plates that shift and hurt us so much?

My view of God is different. I believe in a God that set creation into motion, but didn't micromanage it all. I believe in a God that uses evolution as a creation tool. I believe in a God that might cause a big bang without being in complete control of the universe(s) that big bang would create--big bangs, also, as creation tools, much the way a sewing machine, a pottery wheel, and a table saw are creation tools.

I am not sure that these existential questions are useful, but perhaps I feel that way because I'm a 45 year old woman and I'm tired of these existential questions. For me, it's clear that the proper Christian responses are prayer and assistance.

As we know now, because of so many recent disasters, sending money to responsible agencies is the best way to send assistance. My personal favorite is Lutheran World Relief, which has people on the ground already. To donate through this group, go here.

And even if we cannot afford to give, we can afford to pray. We should pray for those who are hurt and those who must clean up the mess. We can pray for the ecological disaster that may be underway as the damaged nuclear plants explode and release radiation.

My heart breaks for Haiti, who hasn't recovered from its earthquake of last January, and now may face reduced resources. We should pray for all those people, known and unknown, who struggle in the face of chaos, both natural and human made.

Is your brain so numbed by images of horrifying disaster that you cannot compose a prayer? Here's one for you to modify as you wish:

Creator God, we know that you have made a marvelous planet that we do not fully understand. Help us to care for those people who survive in the face of chaos, both the chaos made by humans and the chaos that comes out of the natural world. Help those who are desperate. Be with the sick and the maimed. Comfort those who have lost the ones that they love. Guide the ones who must direct the clean up. Give us all the wisdom to discern the best ways to help.

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