Thursday, January 13, 2005

Full marks

Mark Steel in this morning's Independent takes Christians to task for things they've said about the tsunami. And for the most part, he's right. We sound a pretty dopey bunch trying to explain why God allows, causes, turns a blind eye to, uses or otherwise interacts with natural disasters.

The proper response, I reckon, is silence. Gobsmacked silence. Awed, tearful silence. Then it's 'what can we do to help?' and get on with our lives. I have friends in Sri Lanka working tirelessly to bring relief, help and hope to their neighbours. I'm praying for them. Our church is sending cash and praying for them. What else can we do?

Mark Steel suggests that God's monopoly should be ended, the running of the universe broken up like British rail and sold off after a process of competitive tendering.

The trouble is, of course, God doesn't really have a monopoly. Any Christian making sense of the tsunami has to include the fact that when God created (however he did that), he made people his partner. We are stewards of the creation and responsible to provide sensible management of it under God.

What on earth does that mean? I'm not sure. But I did read one post-tsunami piece pointing out that had it happened in the Pacific the death toll would have been tens or hundreds. And that if seismologists had got on the phone once the quake happened on Boxing day, the casualties in Sri Lanka, India and even Thailand could have been cut ten-fold.

But there's no early warning system in the Indian Ocean. That's hardly God's fault. The one in the pacific was put in place by the nations bordering that ocean - America, Australia and Japan among them. No one so rich or influential borders the Indian Ocean. So the poor were left to face the movement of tectonic plates and ocean waters on their own. Not surprisingly, it wasn't much of a contest.

Perhaps one of the things that Christians can do at this time is to remind all of us that the human capacity to act in everyone's interests seems severely limited. Asked what the problem with the world was, G K Chesterton said 'I am'. It's a start. It's not an answer. But it is a pointer to the right sort of questions to be asking.

One of the amzing things about the tsunami's aftermath has been the response of people all over the world. What if such a movement of generosity could be harnessed by the Make Poverty History campaign - could the world be different at the start of 2006?

1 comment:

Ben Mizen said...

All is quiet on the westerm front!! South west London, that is!