It’s amazing how quickly after any kind of disaster people begin to claim to know why or how something happened or who is to blame, even in the cases of natural disasters. Whether it is Christian leaders, pop stars, politicians or athletes, people seem to trip over each other trying to be the first to offer up an explanation, often times not even stopping to think before they pronounce judgment. A quick sampling can remind us that people have said that terrorists attacked America because of homosexuality, the earthquake in Haiti was caused by a deal with the devil, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans because it is a city full of sin, and, now, among other things Japan has been hit by an earthquake, that then caused a tsunami, that then caused nuclear plants to move towards meltdowns, because of Pearl Harbor.
Whether seen through the lens of a vengeful God or karmic retribution these statements are reprehensible and show a greater concern to feel comforted and safe than they do for the lives that have been lost and those who teeter on the brink of disaster. We have such a great desire to feel like we understand something so tragic so that we can feel like we can avoid it. It gives us a sense of control over our lives when we have been confronted by something so far beyond our control or our understanding. We build our lives around the idea that we can control them, that we can understand them, and we cannot let go of this, even if it means laying blame implicitly or explicitly at the feet of the victims of such a tragedy.
This does not simply lay the blame at the feet of the victims, though, it also lays the blame at the feet of the God who is proclaimed to be a God of love. This problem shows itself in our language about tragedy, as we call what happened in New Orleans, Haiti and Japan “Acts of God”. It also shows itself when honest atheistic and agnostic people ask Christians to explain how God can allow something like this to happen, or possibly even cause it. I have sought an answer to this question many times, and while I think I can touch on the subject, I certainly cannot explain it beyond a reasonable doubt. Many of my answers, such as free will or God is there with those who suffer, fall short of what I wish I knew and could report to those asking the questions.
All I can say is this, God is big enough to take the blame from those seeking to discredit God but Christians don’t do any good suggesting God acts heinously; the victims deserve our prayers and help not our blame; I do not believe this or other tragedies to be “Acts of God”; and God is there with the victims seeking to comfort, heal and restore and we should be doing the same.