How to respond to tragedy?

For the second time in ten months our attention has been commanded by a natural catastrophe—there was the tsunami this past December in Southeast Asia and now Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. As I write, Hurricane Ophelia is bearing down on the North Carolina coast, where my family has vacationed for decades.

Church response to Katrina has been strong and helpful: offerings directed to relief services on the ground, efforts at resettling displaced people, and lots of hands-on aid. The congregation I serve teamed up with Holy Name Cathedral and within a few hours filled a semitruck with diapers, peanut butter and granola bars to send to victims.

Meanwhile, there is pastoral and hermeneutical work to be done. There is nothing more distressing to the human spirit than the suggestion that in the final analysis nature cannot be trusted, and that if the creator God is involved in the natural world, it is not apparent how.


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