Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

God’s Wrath and Natural Disasters: A Secular Perspective

I have heard many, many times over the last month or so (from various sources and in various disguises) that the earthquake, subsequent aftershocks and resulting tsunamis, massive loss of life and incredible destruction of many homes, businesses and otherwise complete devastation that is currently affecting Japan was ‘God’s Will’.

I’m going to stop for a moment so that you can re-read that paragraph. I want you to take off the God Goggles and really think about what that means. Go ahead; I’ll wait…

I am really curious as to what that means to Christians who profess such ideas. What does it mean to you that your god ‘willed’, either by direct action or inaction (allowed) such a catastrophic event to savage basically an entire country. I’m curious as to how you can write into law and agree that failure to act is a crime and worthy of punitive action, and yet hold your deity harmless in such times and under similar circumstances ‘because he is god’.

I cannot understand the willingness or desire to subscribe to a religion or mindset that advocates or requires paying homage or doing obeisance to a deity who shows such utter careless regard for His Creation. I cannot fathom why anyone would seek to justify these actions as the will and intent of an All-powerful and Loving Heavenly Father. Justifying it as ‘he is God; he can do what he wants to His Creation’ doesn’t fly for me; if my father caused the wholesale destruction of my family or sat back and allowed it to happen, he’d be hanged from the highest tree and flogged as the poster child for abusive or neglectful parenting. As creator or caretaker, we have the responsibility to take care of that which we bring into being. If you’re talking about a non-sentient item, and you choose to destroy it, that’s one thing, but we’re not talking about a bookcase here.

I am completely disinterested in indoctrinating my children into any belief system that encourages and supports the idea that those who are responsible for taking care of them are allowed to routinely, without warning, strike a death blow to them and all they know in the name of love. It’s not just Japan. China. Indonesia. Louisiana. Haiti. Australia. All of these places and more have recently endured catastrophic disasters that crippled their residents (believers and non-believers, the sane and the mentally divergent, criminal and law abiding citizen, those clean in the eyes of religious dictates and those tainted – all were equally affected) and economy. Entire regions have been permanently affected by these ‘acts of god’. I cannot see any way to explain such deliberately devastating acts to my children in the context of a ‘loving god’. There is no rhyme or reason for it (unless you buy into that ‘I’m going to punish you for things that happened years before your civilization was even formed!’ theory) and I am glad that I don’t have to try to fit this picture of deity into my children’s spiritual atmosphere.

So, you might be curious what we do tell them since we can’t/don’t/won’t fall back on the ‘acts of god’ thing. First of all, we’re not forced to explain this as a conscious act of someone. It’s just a terrible, terrible thing that happened, and we are free to be incredulous, sad, outraged, devastated and angry without having to try to temper that ‘because it’s God’s Will’. We can talk about our feelings and express our emotions over this tragedy, deal with them and move on into a helping space, rather than do mental gymnastics to try to fit this event into our image of what and who God is, or excuse it as ‘part of His plan’.

Due to our previous lessons about tectonic plates shifting, the kids know that the earthquake and aftereffects can be explained scientifically – and completely without action (or lack thereof) by an omnipotent being. Once we get past the ‘what’ and ‘how’, we move on to the bigger question of ‘why’… well, again, we’re free to explain such things within the context of science – where they have context and explanation that is rational and without either malicious intent or inactivity on the part of a deity.

Now, some of you will read that and say something to the effect of ‘worshiping science instead of god’. To that I say {raspberry}. One cannot worship science. One can accept that there is a reasonable cause and explanation for such events without relying on religious concepts to ‘explain’ away things we don’t understand. Indeed, I’d say that in today’s age of enlightenment, we’ve reached a point where we don’t have to rely on superstitious nonsense to explain the mechanics of the universe – we have enough knowledge and understanding of the way the universe is put together and how it comes apart that we know ‘why’ and ‘how’ things like this happen.

When my kids ask why this happened, it’s not because of some biblical prophecy that spouts gloom and doom and destruction for the many and salvation for the precious few. I think that the scope of the disaster is plenty wide enough without adding extra worry about the state of one’s soul (immortal or otherwise) and how one’s lifestyle fits into an archaic framework so loosely outlined that even members within its own factions cannot agree upon exactly how they should be exemplified. I am free to talk to my children about the tragedy of such events and focus on how we can help instead of using the time to focus on ‘furthering our ministry’.

If you’re looking for some crafty kid-friendly ways to get involved, here are some ideas:

Cranes for Kids – Osh Kosh B’gosh (Japan – through April 25, 2011)

YoungShelterBox (Japan and other disaster areas)

Plarn mats for the Homeless (local/community service)

Chemo Caps  (local/community service)

Not crafty? Nothing to donate? You needn’t be talented or wealthy, or thinking globally to help those in need. Never under-estimate the power of walking down your street and offering to help out where you see something that can be done. Bring dinner or help tidy the yard of an elderly neighbor. Offer to run errands for a neighbor who is ill or unable to get around. Bring cookies and a board game and visit those who are just plain lonely – there’s always someone who would be happy for a cheerful guest and a helpful hand. Personally, I find more value in actions that are prompted solely by a genuine desire to help than in those prompted by an obligation to preach or a religious agenda.

Warmly,

~h

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6 responses

  1. Elizabeth

    I only recently came across your blog and I LOVE it!!! It is refreshing. Keep it up!!!

    April 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    • Welcome Elizabeth 🙂
      Thank you, and thanks for commenting!
      ~h

      April 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm

  2. Thanks for an honest, clear-eyed view. I have also struggled with religious explanations of disasters. Answers like “God’s will” and “God’s plan” seem pretty similar to “Because I said so.”

    And the idea that these terrible things happened to innocent people because they weren’t faithful enough is beyond arrogant.

    It’s very frightening to think that random, unpredictable, and unexplainable events can happen to any of us. People tend to look for a reason, even if the reason is “Trust me, there is a reason.”

    April 23, 2011 at 6:41 am

    • “Because I said so” always reeked of inadequacy to me, too. I hated hearing it as a child and I rarely use it with my kids.
      I agree – arrogant. It’s sad, really. I prefer the idea of chance being the cause rather than a deliberate act, or failure to act by someone who is supposed to care. That’s unacceptable to me.
      ~h

      June 1, 2011 at 8:40 pm

  3. So many people have died because of “God’s will” or in “His” name that I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone would want anything to do with him.

    Great post!

    June 1, 2011 at 11:16 am

    • I know, right?? Being raised in it is like having a relative that you’d like to disown…
      Thanks 🙂
      ~h

      June 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm

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