Sunday, September 04, 2005

Thoughts on Katrina

A few years ago I attended a network security conference held at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans. It was my first and last trip to the so-called “Big Easy.” One of the most striking aspects of the hurricane coverage, for me, was seeing the damage to the very hotel that I stayed at during my trip. Here are some before and after pictures:

My memories of New Orleans are not good. One afternoon I took a hotel shuttle to the French Quarter to see what the area was like and to find a good place to eat. For some reason I thought I would find New Orleans to be somewhat similar to San Francisco – a place known for the sin of its inhabitants but in other respects, just an interesting and relatively harmless place for a Christian to visit. After all, I had been to New Orleans Square at Disneyland. How bad could it be? Answer: Pretty bad.

The first thing I noticed was the smell. I don’t know if it was aroma of the Mississippi River or the dirty streets soiled with beer and who knows what else from countless nights of partying and bar hopping, but the place stunk to high heaven. Besides the smell, one could not help but notice the voodoo, the transvestites, the bars, and the overall red-light-nature of the place. I did not hear any music but that was probably due to the fact that I was not there at night and things were not really “happening” during the time I was there. The most incongruous thing that I noticed were the families with young children strolling through the area like it really was Disneyland. Why anyone would take a child into a place like that is beyond me.

At any rate, the city of New Orleans probably ranks right up there in most Christian minds as one of the most ungodly places in our nation. If God were to use a natural disaster to judge a city, surely New Orleans would be one of the most likely targets. We, of course, do not have direct revelation concerning all of God’s purposes in sending hurricane Katrina to the gulf regions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, but we do have some Scripture that I think does apply whenever disaster strikes a community.

The first thing to acknowledge is that God is in direct control of sending hurricanes and other “natural” disasters. Amos 3:6 asks rhetorically, “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” In Isaiah 45:7, the Lord Himself says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” While we may not understand God’s purposes in sending calamity on the just and the unjust, we must nevertheless trust in the revelation that God is both great and good.

The goodness of God in calamity can be clearly seen in one of the primary reasons that God sends disasters. Returning to the book of Amos, we see in 4:6-12 that God sent several calamities to the nation of Israel for the express purpose of seeing Israel repent from their wickedness and return to Jehovah. This section concludes with the famous warning in Amos to “prepare to meet thy God!” That God would do anything to convince a sinful nation to turn to God is an act of mercy and grace. Yes there is judgment involved but in God’s mercy He did not wipe out all of the inhabitants of New Orleans or the gulf coast. Those who survived ought to be motivated to prepare to meet their God, a God who can wipe out entire cities with just a whisper of His breath (cf., Job 26, especially verse 14).


At 2:16 PM, Anonymous dgszweda said...

I agree with your assessment of New Orleans. I was once there for a conference, and I can't think of a worse city. My wife really wanted to go with me, but after I got back, I told her she didn't miss anything.


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