In my previous post, "Why God," the supporting arguments I used were so broad that the thrust of the piece was obscured. It became a discussion of whether mere human existence proves God or whether Galileo was a heretic or not. Lost in all of that was the central discussion of "why bad things happen to good people."
My reaction was inspired principally by two columns that appeared at roughly the same time: William Safire's New York Times column about the Book of Job, and a horrible "satire" that appeared on Slate entitled, "Send a Message to God: He has Gone Too Far this Time." When tragedy strikes, there is a tendency for people to think, "Either God is a complete jerk, or he doesn't exist."
What I wanted to argue is that accidents and tragedies are not necessarily all bad. They can have future consequences that are very beneficial, and therefore, I believe to some extent they are part of "the plan."
People want to know how God can allow people to suffer as they oftentimes do.
Some people assume that the tsunami victims must somehow have incurred God's wrath. Speaking at a breakfast before the opening of the 109th Congress this year during memorial remarks for tsunami victims, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) stood up to read from the book of Matthew, chapter 7:
"The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, but it did not collapse; it has been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine, but does not act on them, will be like a fool who built his house on sand: The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined."
Now you realize that the majority of tsunami victims were Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. It sure sounds like Mr. DeLay thinks that the Lord sent the wave to punish people who hadn't embraced the Gospel of Christ.
There's compassionate conservatism for you.
Copyright 2005, The New York Times
But that is not at all the meaning of that passage. It's a parable, like those we discussed earlier. The house is not literally a "house," it represents faith. Those that have a solid foundation in faith are able to maintain their faith when tragedy strikes. Those that have only a passing understanding of their religion -- shaky foundations -- end up deciding that there isn't a God, or that he's a jerk.
As for the people affected by this tragedy, I'd like to steer you to this AP headline: Tsunami Survivors Cling Tightly to Faith.
What does Christ say to us about the victims of tragedy and misfortune? Turn to Luke 13.
"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered so? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them -- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
It really couldn't be clearer. Christ himself says bad things sometimes happen to good people and it has nothing to do with whether they "deserve" it. There is one judgment and one alone, and it comes at the end of time, not with our earthly death.