THE TSUNAMI- GOD’S PENMANSHIP OR SATAN’S DESIGN?
Christianity has never been immune to controversy, not since the birth and crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Issues stemming from the creation of the world to the existence of God and the debate over the validity of the afterlife have all been beliefs which, at one point or the other, Christianity has had to explain and defend vigorously. But the one factor that was always been evident throughout the rise and fall of those issues of yore is that, while the world has always been torn in their positions, the Christian community has always been united – for the most part – in the beliefs and support of those issues. So, at its worst, it has always been us versus the world.
That is, until now.
The recent tragedy that has been visited upon the coasts of South East Asia all through to East Africa is one that has created a moral and spiritual divide within the Christian community unlike any other. And even more disturbing, perhaps, is the fact that this Tsunami has not only defied all logic and expectation in the exigency and unexpectedness of its visit and the voracity of its appetite, but worse, in the manner in which it has left the leaders, clergies, preachers, evangelist and theologians completely befuddled and some have concluded, even ridiculed. The church is demanding an answer; an acceptable and logical explanation for this unscheduled disaster and telling the church “The ways of God are mysterious” is simply not going to suffice on this one. Not for the church, though she bears enough faith to move the earth and the heavens; and certainly not for a society that has long been clamoring through the crevice of the church’s persecutors with eager hands ready to asphyxiate – once and for all - this epidemic fanaticism that is our Christianity. And unfortunately for Christianity, unlike Sodom and Gomorrah whose iniquities and disobedience could be touted by every bible-carrying Christian as the valid reason for the demise of the people, what reason can we give and what iniquity is so found in a little girl or a group of toddlers barely old enough to know day from night that they, too, have been indiscriminately swept up and choked by the raging embrace of the restless sea? And while we are also quick to point to the time of Noah when the world was cleansed by the Great waters, Christianity has also had the advantage and privilege of being able to refer back to an incident occurring sometime back in 1450 B.C. Consequently leaving no witnesses but the historical account recorded in the Good Book. No mother left behind with the inconsolable wail of anguish and familial dispossession belching out of a belly that has fed on nothing but sorrow and hunger for days and worse, still alive to remember and recount the ordeal of her misfortune. And no father sitting on the shores staring out to the vast and incomprehensible stretch of sea with black holes of perplexity, devastation and a harrowing emptiness where once his eyes sparkled with hope and life as he sits there, marooned by the tempest; waiting incessantly for his wife, his sons, his daughter and his unborn child to be graciously returned back by the dictatorial hands of the wind and sea that have stolen them away from him in such a raging feat of personal vendetta for a crime, a sin or an injustice which neither his hands nor mind can ever recall. And perhaps the most telling indictment upon the movement of Christianity, the television, which never tires nor shudders from bringing us within an inch of the horror where for once, the number of lifeless, swollen, human bodies almost match the number of sand on the sea shore. And it is also here, inside this box, that the “Sauls” and persecutors of Christianity and our faith find their greatest body of evidence against us- the three-year old girl, sitting on the floor of what used to be her home, surrounded by the bodies of every member of her family.
“What kind of a God allows such a thing to happen?”
The world is asking, and we are yet to furnish any answers. And even our Christian brothers are shaken, not only emotionally, but more dangerously, spiritually. “How can God let this happen?” is the question being posed about, and for the most part, the church is still scrambling for answers, and at its best, reaching for inconclusive allegories from the past that neither appease the spiritual inquisition of the congregants nor the conscience and convictions of the leaders and clergy that offer them. So, if you ask me, Christianity is probably at its most vulnerable and its most powerful at this very moment- a paradoxical quandary from which their will be no easy liberation.
Perhaps the church and its elders cannot be blamed either for the seeming inability to readily furnish comprehensive answers that satisfy the socio-spiritual inquisition of today. After all, Christianity is a belief that rests not on the principle of logic, sight or even verifiable fact, but rather, upon the most scientifically inconclusive phenomenon, the collaborative effort and conglomerate of these five letters in the English language- FAITH. The same faith a family has in defending a son and brother who has been accused of being a thief all his life, and yet whose family refuse to subscribe to the allegations of the world, because they simply have “faith” in the integrity of the boy who has clearly declared to them, “I am not a thief.” No Thomasian-need to see the holes and scars of his crucifixion, all they need is his word and suddenly he has a nation of believers behind him. And then one day, there is their son running out of a store with a bottle of soda in his hand, while the proprietors give chase, yelling, “Thief! Thief!” after him. This same boy manages to escape and comes home as he always does. The proprietors are outside the house carrying picket signs and screaming “Send the thief outside.” But he is certain that if no one believes him, his family that has always been there will never lose faith in him. The only problem is that in times past, it has always been his word against his accuser’s and faith was an affordable commodity for his family since there was no verifiable damaging evidence against the boy. This time, however, the boy runs into the house only to find his family staring at him with a strange unrecognizable look of defeat, dissension and betrayal. And as he walks closer to his family, wandering why they are not standing up in their usual fashion to protect and embrace him, he sees the reason for this new cold hospitality- the television. A civilian with a camera captured him running out of the grocery store with the bottle of soda in hand. And that’s it. That’s the indictment. And because of this, the family feels they have been defending someone who has finally given them nothing with which to defend him any longer. He has committed the crime; not only that, he has done it in broad day light; not only that, he has now been captured on video for the world to see. How can they possibly defend such a thing? Though no one ever bothered to ask where the camera was when he was entering the store, nor imagine that he might have walked into the store with the soda already in his hand. And like this boy’s family, the family of Christianity has seen and reviewed the various footages of the devastation on television. So how can God possibly expect us to defend such a heinous act performed in broad day light for the world to see and judge?
Yet, will any man stand in judgment over God? Who can bring a charge against Him or dare charge Him with fault or wrongdoing? Is God man that He should be defended by men? So, like this family, this faith we have been defending so vigorously has finally been effectively challenged and the deeds of the very person we have been defending has crippled any defensive strategy we might otherwise have had. How can we now defend this God when before our very eyes and the eyes of our accusers, he has murdered women, men, the old and even the young, and done this so indiscriminately? So the world accuses, and rather than speaking back, Christianity droops its head and folds its arms in shame, as if itself disappointed and betrayed by the very faith it proclaims.
There are many accusations. And to give one answer leaves too many stones unturned. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but God Himself, and not I, will speak on His behalf. And if he chooses not to, who can possibly question Him? However, given the sensitivity and intimacy of this tragedy, we will visit the several schools of thought on this Tsunami incident and reach a conclusion using the simple principle of deductive reasoning.
A) GOD’S JUDGMENT ON A NATION:
One of the many views I have heard from a number of people, especially in the Christian community, is that the incident of the Tsunami was a consequence of God’s wrath on a people and nation who have chosen, despite the call of God, to continue in gross idolatry, including the worship of animals, deities and the like. And indeed, there is much to support such a theory, after all the very first and second commandments given by God in Exodus 20 deal specifically with God’s hatred of any form of idolatry, “punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”
Furthermore, if one were to consider the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, it will be self evident that the patience of God eventually wears out on an individual, just as much as it wears out on a nation. And because of the gross iniquities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and their obstinate refusal to shy away from their detestable practices, the Lord wiped out the entire land, cleansing it of both old and young alike in a baptism of fire and sulfur! One hundred and fifty thousand people is indeed alarming for this generation, but any research into the wrath of God and the nations with the misfortune of being its victims will reveal that it is not the first time the Lord has wiped away such an alarming number of people at once. The Book of Ezekiel 26, from verse 15, also offers a harrowing prophecy of doom concerning the city of Tyre that bears a very unsettling resemblance to the outcome of the cities affected by this tsunami.
15 "Thus says the Lord GOD to Tyre: Will not the coastlands shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded groan, when slaughter is made in the midst of you? 16 Then all the princes of the sea will step down from their thrones, and remove their robes, and strip off their embroidered garments; they will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit upon the ground and tremble every moment, and be appalled at you. 17 And they will raise a lamentation over you, 19 "For thus says the Lord GOD: When I make you a city laid waste, like the cities that are not inhabited, when I bring up the deep over you, and the great waters cover you, 20 then I will thrust you down with those who descend into the Pit, to the people of old, and I will make you to dwell in the nether world, among primeval ruins, with those who go down to the Pit, so that you will not be inhabited or have a place in the land of the living. 21 I will bring you to a dreadful end, and you shall be no more; though you be sought for, you will never be found again, says the Lord GOD."
However, while all these evidence aggressively support the notion of punishment as an explanation for this tsunami, the question I pose to the proponents of this view is that in the same disastrous tidal wave that ransomed the lives of these so-called “idolaters,” an entire church and every single worshipper within its walls were also instantly consumed in the flood’s possessive spell. So, if idolatry was the primary reason for the wrath, then why was a church, a model of the very faith Christianity inspires, swept up in the wrath? Or perhaps they were just victims of the genocide just as one is a victim of a stray bullet. But can the bullets of God ever stray? For it is written in the Book of 2 Peter 2:6-9 “if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men…if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials.” The Book of Job also speaks concerning the powers of God- Job 36:32 - He covers his hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark.
So, from these verses, it is evident that the prowess and marksmanship of the Lord are without equal and of impeccable precision. Because Lot could have been destroyed with the entire men, women and children of the cities, yet, the Lord was able to rescue him before the judgment of his wrath was visited upon them. So, again, why was the church and its worshippers swept away with the lot? Perhaps the church was not righteous. Perhaps it was only a congregation of sinners hiding under the facade of Christianity. If so, then can any church on earth be excluded from the next cleansing, since we are nothing if not all a body of sinners seeking the righteousness of God?
B) AN EXPROBATION UPON THE CHURCH.
This quickly leads me to the second school of thought amongst Christians whereupon it is felt that the Lord has caused the disaster to be as castigation upon the church, an indictment, if you will, charging the church with a negligence of its primary evangelical responsibility of soul-saving. Some will argue that had there been a more active and effective Christian missionary into those particular areas where there seems to be an alarming reign of Christian-spiritual bankruptcy, then perhaps the Lord’s grace might have been won and more lives saved from this misfortune. And in that regard I will agree.
However the greatest biblical support of this school of thought is probably found in the Book of Ezekiel 9:1-6
1 He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand.
2 And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.
3 And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side;
4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
5 And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:
6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.
7 And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.
This particular reading is especially chilling, but only reveals God’s final loss of patience with these people. However reading the preceding chapters of the Book of Ezekiel, one learns over and over again how God patiently and repeatedly calls out for the repentance of these people to no avail. And at last, their gross idolatry pushes their iniquities beyond its limit and consequently the Lord orders the guardian angels of the city to withdraw, and then asks each one to take a weapon in his hand and go through the city to smite down all its inhabitants, old and young alike. But not before placing his mark upon those that were his in order to spare them from the disaster. And perhaps most chilling of all, the Lord orders the angels to begin at his sanctuary.
For as Christ has said in Matthew 9:12- “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…for I have not come the righteous, but sinners.” So, if this is true, then why does Christianity repeatedly choose the comfort of our lush cathedrals and air conditioned rooms over the heat of the outdoors and the calluses of dirt roads? Why do we continue to preach the same gospel over and over again to a people who are spiritually learned enough to become preachers themselves, rather than going out into those areas filled with the spiritually infirmed, like Sri Lanka and the rest?
A doctor by the name Ganesan, happened to be the only psychiatrist for thirteen million Sri Lankans up until the visit of the tsunami. And before this terrible misfortune came about, his patient roster included people who had been long traumatized before the event- suicidal patients, paranoid schizophrenics, manic depressives, rape victims and thousands of torture victims from the civil war, including hundreds of people who had pencils jammed into both ears simultaneously during the war. Yet, when one such patient was interviewed after the disaster, his response was that the trials and hardships they faced and will continue to face in greater challenge now, were a part of the cycle of life and helped them cling on tighter to hope. “Hope,” he said, though his wife was somewhere rotting away under the pile of bodies that had been dumped in a mass grave and his children were somewhere at the bottom of the sea, gagged and suffocated by a hand they never saw for a sin that they were probably yet to commit. Yet, he spoke of hope. So, how dare we sit in judgment of these people and say they were being visited for their iniquities! We run into financial troubles and cannot pay our utility bills for the month, we quickly grumble against God, demanding that he look down upon our hardships. And if nothing happens, we abandon the faith for a second job on the Sabbath, and when approached by another church member, we quickly demand, “Is God going to pay my bills if I don’t work? So, it’s church or starve!” This is the height and complexion of the faith we so hypocritically profess, and yet we look at a fallen brother in a fallen city and rather than leave judgment and reason to God, we point fingers of dissension and say it is a result of their idolatry. Perhaps. And perhaps that man still holding on to the murdered cadaver of his hope does not even know enough about Christianity to spell the name, Jesus. And perhaps, he, too, is an idolater, lost in his betrothing to those lesser gods that can neither speak nor see. Perhaps. Yet, I tell you the truth, there is more faith in his words and actions that there is in the four walls of a thousand churches in some places in the world.
So rather than wonder why this people have been visited by this disaster, are we not better off going to seek such men of faith out and re-enforcing their faith with the truth of the gospel? Is there not more honor is saving such a soul than in the familiar applause of a fattened and complacent congregation of Christians? I dare say there is! Because these victims of this tsunami are the very sick of which Jesus speaks about in the cited verse above. So there are two indictments upon the church in this incident- one, be careful how ye judge, for so also shall ye be judged in the end. Yes, we know Christ and it is something to boast about. But not at the expense of the sorrow, defeat and suffering of others in Sri Lanka. And it is a wake-up call to leaders, preachers, evangelist, missionaries and all Christians alike; a wake-up call for us to go out into the world, not in those places where the light and comfort of life already abound, where the truth and name of Jesus have already become staples of the society and litanies in the mouth of every bible-carrying evangelist reaching out from the flat-screen televisions of almost every home, but rather into those dark corners of the world where even the sun has found too ignoble and paltry to shine upon; those cities and towns whose broken walls have been erected on the scars and tears of the belief that God and good fortune are allergies they will never catch, where children grow up with the inherited hope of founding their lives on the family heir-loom of poverty and inconsequence. It is here, upon these shores, that the flagship of our faith should be docked; and it is above all else, upon these sands, swollen with the tears and blood of its people, that the flag of Christianity should be boldly erected for the world to see.
C) NOT GOD’S HAND BUT SATAN’S.
This is perhaps one of the most interesting theories I have found diving the Christian church. And perhaps one of the most complex, because it is one school of thought in which any side would be equally right and just as futilely wrong.
On the one side of the debate, it is argued that it is impossible for this mass destruction or genocide to be the workmanship of God because God clearly stated, after the destruction of the world by water during the time of Noah, that he would never again destroy the world with a flood, as he says in Genesis 9:11- I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.
So, there it is- God says he will “never” destroy the world with water and so could not have been behind the disaster of the tsunami. Yes, he said that; and the advocates of this belief would love nothing more than to exit on this note. However, I fear the truth to be far more intricate and reaching than that. Yet, the Book of Isaiah 45:7 reads- “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, have created it.” Also in Deuteronomy 32:39 – “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” And finally, as a sermon of my father, Asst. Evangelist Joseph Olorunnisola revealed to me in the Book of Amos 3:5-6, it reads “Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground where no snare has been set?...When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?”
Of course all this seems to point to the stipulation that God in fact ordered the execution of some one hundred and fifty thousand men, women and children. Taking a peripheral view of those verses, one might be quick to conclude that God is an author of evil and disaster, and consequently, as stated in the quote from the Book of Amos, is behind the calamity of the tsunami. However, a thorough understanding of God and a critical spiritual examination of those verses will reveal a far different truth- which is that God, by nature, is not evil; and nor is he associated with evil as it is written in James 1:13-18. He also declares through the prophet Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And through the prophet Ezekiel, 18:32, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” It, therefore, becomes quickly evident that the God we serve as Christians is certainly not a despotic God who thrives on sadism, misfortune and evil. Heaven forbid. But rather, we serve a God who desires above all else, the welfare and prosperity of his children.
However, what the Lord was saying when he spoke through the prophet Amos, Isaiah and Moses in the previously quoted verses in this section, is that nothing happens without his knowledge. There is no calamity or disaster that has ever occurred without his foreknowledge and inherent authorization. While Satan takes pride and joy in our afflictions and disaster, the sight of our injuries cause nothing but anguish and discomfort for the Lord. However, where the Lord has power to heal and wound, to cause disaster and to withhold it, Satan is given authority to wound, destroy, afflict and also cause disaster. And the difference is that God possesses the ‘power,’ a self-governing puissance and vested ability within himself, while Satan has only the authority allowed him by God. Otherwise stated, power is owned, while authority is bestowed. So, while God will never visit evil upon a people, our actions or lack thereof may force him to allow Satan or evil to thrive or prevail upon us. Consequently, in the cited verse above in Isaiah where the Lord says, “I create disaster,” he is simply saying his very hands have formed the forces that inspire and wreak disaster and also his very hands have established or created the elements that are used in the instrumentation or execution of those disasters; just as a company manufactures baseball bats for sport and cannot be held responsible for the depravity of mankind that chooses to use them as instruments of destruction and murder.
Now, when one walks righteously and blamelessly before God, one is consequently indemnified in the impermeable fortress of God’s shelter. Now the moment we refuse to live according to his commands or worse, completely disavow his existence in our world, then such a world becomes vulnerable, naked and exposed to the attacks and afflictions of evil. So should Satan determine he wants to afflict your world with disaster, calamity, or mere troubles, you have no insurance, no security, no shelter, no protection. You are much like a naked man standing in an open field with nothing but fear and confusion for weapons, trying to wage war against the forces and principalities of Satan. It’s simply a no-win situation. For such a person, there would be no limit to the measure and reach of Satan’s imagination into that individual’s soon-to-be chaotic life. While on the other hand, had one been completely vested in the righteousness of God, even if Satan were to visit such a person or nation with troubles, it would have a definite limit, and certainly would not arrive without notice. As the Lord has spoken in Amos 3:7 saying “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants (and) the prophets”- a benefit that is particularly enjoyed by the righteous fold of Celestial church, where the prophecies and visions came, warning of imminent terrible deaths and calamity, though not specifying exact times and places. Yet we were warned, and the preventive spiritual assignments were prescribed. And glory be to God who – in his mercies and grace – has availed the church of this unspeakable tragedy. Now if Satan should still succeed in the element of surprise in the lives of the righteous worshippers, which is highly unlikely, then the effects and duration of the disaster would be mitigated at worst and subjugated or even vanquished entirely. The entire chapter of Psalm 91 illustrates this even further, and to quote verse 9: “If you make the Most High your dwelling- even the Lord, who is my refuge- then no harm will befall you, and no disaster will come near your tent. So, it is not that the righteous will never encounter some of the destructive machinations of Satan, it is just that when such people are faced with it, the Lord only allows Satan go so far- never exceeding the capacity or threshold of pain the Lord has given them as stated in 1 Corinthians 10, verse 13: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Moreover, in such circumstances, he only allows Satan to try them as a testing of the quality and making of their faith or as discipline and chastisement for disobedience (Deuteronomy 8:2 and Hebrews 12). And even then, the Lord is quick to ward off Satan, heal the wound and restore what was lost; that is, if at all he is allowed to get that far in their lives. Contrast that with the lives of those who have wandered away from the faith or even completely deny the faith; such an individual or family is like a house about to be besieged by armed robbers and thugs- there is no door, no guard, no dog to even warn, no security system, and no gun in the house. Just your butter knives and bathroom slippers to defend yourself against guns, knives, bats and the nefariousness of the wicked. What possible hope of survival is there? And the nation that abandons God or disavows his existence, is much like a nation besieged by terror without warning, or any preventive measure in place against the threat.
Now the Lord knows how to castigate and rebuke with punishment for misdeeds. But majority of the time – if not all – the apparatus and modus by which such punishments are implemented simply involve the Lord lowering his level of security to allow an equal level of affliction into your life. The Lord needn’t design some exotic punishment like a Tsunami to get our attention. Satan is always waiting, eager and trying incessantly to get our attention with many machinations of mayhem. It is the love of God and the grace of Christ that perpetually keep him at bay; that is until we slip, we rebel or we completely reject their righteousness, and then the Lord turns his back and abandons the beach head and here comes Satan giddily riding the implacable waves of disaster into the heart of the city. And this is why the book of Amos cited above says when disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? That is, by not indemnifying that city, has he not allowed it to be condemned? Yet, the city forgets that it refused him first in the time of his courting, and being a God of reciprocity, he also refused them at last in the time of their hurting. “Those who honor me will I honor.” If a vehicle owner purchases a comprehensive insurance for the vehicle, he is pretty much insured against most, if not all, scenarios of disaster against that vehicle; be it of negligence, nefariousness or nature. However, should the same individual now purchase a lesser coverage like, say, liability, now the threshold of protection over that vehicle and its driver is diminished by almost eighty percent! Now imagine if that driver purchased no insurance at all; is there any limit to the jurisdiction of disaster and trouble that such a driver may encounter? And this sums the principle by which God also operates. The amount of insurance purchased is equivalent to the degree of our faithfulness, worship and obedience to him; and the moment we fail to pay our premiums in our service and worship, our policy gets terminated and we lose our coverage. Simple.
Now, within any act, good, great, terrible or devastating, there will always be equal and opposite reactions. On the one hand, this incident has shaken the faith of many and hardened the hearts of some; which for spiritual accountability is a great achievement for Satan. However, on the other side of the divide, this incident has stirred and awakened the faith and devotion of many and enlightened them to the brevity of life; which by all standards, is a glorious day for the Lord.
As for those who still question why God used a flood even after stating explicitly in Genesis that he would never, I point you to three imperatives that cannot be ignored- Firstly, the Lord stated without any ambivalence that never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. While one hundred and fifty-five thousand plus people is no subtle number, it is also by no means “all life” nor does that number – while tragic – denote “the earth” as indicated by the Lord in that verse. The Lord is a God of precision; consequently he says what he means and means exactly what he says. If the Lord had broken his oath and destroyed the world by flood, then we certainly will not be here debating the issue nor will I be sitting here typing out this article. We would all be grumbling somewhere in the afterlife, if we be so fortuned. In the time of Noah, the entire world, including every living creature, save Noah and his family and the few creatures he had in the ark with him, were completely swept up in the flood. No survivors discovered clinging to a tree and certainly none around to tell their heroic two-week survival tale. And if we insist on still calling the tsunami case a total destruction by flood, then the destruction of Pharaoh and his Egyptian army after the oath would also constitute destruction by flood. Why should that be any different from this? Number of casualties? There were thousands of the Egyptians that perished as well in the Red Sea, yet Egypt still lives. And there were thousands that perished in the tsunami, but many more still live to tell the story. Consequently what occurred was not a total destruction as was indicated by God in his oath to Noah, but a total devastation, which, while terrible, bears an entirely different implication. Yet, I say this only as a clarification to inquisition, not in consolation to this desolation.
D) THE ATHEIST VIEW
The view of the unbelievers and detractors of Christianity is that the indiscriminate annihilation of women and infants along with the men, and the sudden conversion of children into orphans, in their opinion, is further proof that God cannot possibly exist; and if he does, then he exists in an incompetent and malfunctioning sovereignty that continues to enjoy an interminable reign braced and encouraged by blind faith- a view that has tragically, by virtue of this adversity, been publicly adopted by some high ranking officials of the church, including the recent declaration by the Archbishop of Canterbury, where he states, “This has made me question God’s existence.” And perhaps this, above all, is the most challenging view for me because I fear there is no paper, time or memory-drive enough to provide a rebuttal against such a heinous belief and accusation, when the very people who are charged with the custodianship of the sheep are themselves led astray. But even Peter, the Apostle, the Rock upon which Christ built his church, was once, or more accurately, thrice, himself compromised in his faith. It will then hold that faith is not a making of rank or tenure, but rather of spirit and supplication. I pray, then, that the Good Lord, Majestic and Merciful, see the good bishop and any others back to the embrace of Christ’s grace and the height of true faith. And for those who remain undaunted in this faith, may love and strength of Christ continue to wax ever stronger in your lives and worship (amen).
As for the unbelievers and detractors, I offer a few explanations- Isaiah 45:9-12- "Woe to him who strives with his Maker, an earthen vessel with the potter! Does the clay say to him who fashions it, 'What are you making'? or 'Your work has no handles'? 10 Woe to him who says to a father, 'What are you begetting?' or to a woman, 'With what are you in travail?'" 11 Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: "Will you question me about my children, or command me concerning the work of my hands? 12
Now going further into Isaiah 57:1-2, it reads “The righteous perish and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” And finally, if you journey through the Book of Revelations 21 and Isaiah 65 from verse 17 to the end, it is evident in comparison that this world, while we cling to it for dear life, is a world of tribulation and much trouble. But these Books speak about a place where sorrow, hunger and misfortune are no longer remembered; a place where all live as kings, queens and emperors, where the joys and gladness of the heart know no bounds. It is the strict and unimpeachable belief of true Christianity that such a place exists; and it is into this life of interminable mirth that the righteous and the innocent shall enter and rest. So while I weep for the parents of these innocent kids, I rejoice for these children, because their life of hopeless affliction in this world is no more. They have entered into eternal rest, in a world where their joy far surpasses the greatest of any prince in any monarchy. It is they, now, who indeed weep and sorrow for us, wishing we could be there with them to experience and share in their life’s boundless abundance and comfort. And if the unbelievers still protest, then I offer these concluding words from God in the same Book of Isaiah 45-
“I made the earth, and created man upon it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host… By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.' 24 "Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed, all who were incensed against him.”
The debate over this issue will continue for far much longer than the length of this article. It is my belief that it will take its place along with those other volatile issues that have been plaguing both Christianity and society as a whole since time immemorial. Yet, having considered all the issues surrounding this seemingly insoluble misadventure, the inarguable truth is the perplexity of its occurrence and the chaos and sorrow it leaves in its wake will be a far more daunting task to overcome than any debate that may surround the reasons behind the tsunami itself. Yet, considering all the issues and questions surrounding it and the various opinions that have been put forward by the church and society at large, it is clear that there are legitimate reasons for some of those opinions, even where they are misconstrued or misdirected. And while I may argue the merit and comeuppance of each opinion, I would rather conclude on the single, unanimous opinion, which is that this incident, unlike others in recent history, has proven the fragility, brevity and indeed, vanity that is this life. And while the astronomical figure of one hundred and fifty-five thousand plus death-toll perplexes even the most hardened of hearts, what should be just as horrific in its perplexity, if not more, is the fact that over 2.3 million Africans have been wiped out by that heedless beast called AIDS, not to mention the 26.6 million victims that are currently infected and simply waiting for their lottery ticket to be called, so that they, too, like the others before them, can take their place in what has become a meaningless statistical litany of mortality rate in our society.
So when one weighs 2.3 million deaths against 155, 000, suddenly the latter seems so paltry and comical, doesn’t it? My puzzle, then, is, why are 2.3 million lives or more accurately, 28.9 million lives worth less to us than 155, 000? Could it be the fact that the 2.3 million are predominantly African versus the 155, 000 that spread through the coasts of South East Asia to Africa? Or is it that AIDS seems to be less calamitous or punitive in the sting of its invective than a tsunami’s? Or is genocide less perplexing when seven thousand people die everyday versus one hundred thousand plus that are snuffed out in a single moment? What about the ten to twelve deaths that were caused by the mudslide in California a few days ago? Is that even less a news to the world than any of the others? And if so, then, why? Could it be because the lives of ten Americans are worth so much less than ten thousand Sri Lankans? What about the scores of young men and women whose bodies are continually shredded by bullets at the so-called peace front in Iraq? Or is the beheaded American, Chinese or Briton’s life worth any less because they were individual incidents? One only need look into the eyes of the beheaded victim’s wife, or husband or father or daughter, and then I dare you tell me what the weight of any human soul is to any one. Yet, the message is still not clear to us.
See, it doesn’t matter how the harvest is done, nor does it matter in what exotic form death is come, for the same end follows after all. All of these tragedies, murders and disasters all point to the same indisputable conclusion- the end of things is near and this life, this world for which most of us toil and labor and cling unto so possessively is absolute vanity! Throughout the interviews of the victims following the tsunami, a common thread seemed to be evident in all their stories- a husband or boyfriend suddenly snatched away from his partner and swallowed by the deep; a child suddenly yanked out of her mother’s arm; an entire family suddenly separated, neither one to be seen by the other again…and while some were vacationing, some partying, some working, suddenly- a noise; a wail; and before they could turn to see what the commotion was about, they were swept up in an instant. And curiously, throughout all of this, no animal was so much as injured, because all ran to safety before time. Yet, we are supposed to be the smarter species, and we seem to be the slowest to comprehend the sign of the times- Matthew 24: 37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Interestingly, I find that there has never been a disaster, tsunami, earthquake, war, terrorist attack or crime ever visited upon the world that has not been recorded almost exactly in the Bible some eon ago. Every single event occurring today has proven to be only a fulfillment of a prophecy documented in the Bible. Wisdom, intelligence, scholarship or at least logic should tell us to cleave for dear life not unto this passing mist that is our world, but unto the words of the Book and the message it instills.
From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Let it, then, be surmised, that all opinions, causations and debates surrounding this disaster are only as relevant and consequential to the scheme of things as are the color and style of clothing into which the dead are to be dressed. “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.
In the end, whether you are an advocate of a side of one of the Christian opinions, a persecutor of the church and its subscription to God, or merely apathetic to all and every opinion on the matter, this truth is self-evident- that no man, no woman, no child and no beast, shall ever forget the day that God yawned, and the earth trembled, and the seas shuddered, and indiscriminately, death plundered- upon the faith of the church and intelligence of the wise, that now and forever, the sons of men shall slumber, assailed by this oppressive wonder.
May the lives of the bereaved and dispossessed be comforted; and may the souls of the departed be welcomed into the bosom of Abraham (amen).
Yours in Christ,
Asst. Evangelist Damilola Olorunnisola.
CCC-Voice of Grace Parish.
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