10 February 2005

At wit's end: some tsunami thoughts

The December 26 tsunami continues to make itself felt in me as a sort of hollow place. When I hear talk about God's purposes, scrutible or inscrutible, or about the propriety of evangelism in the midst of epic-scale disaster, somehow all I can do is be in that hollow place in silence.

Others have done some helpful thinking. Ekklesia has a link to Simon Barrow's collection of tsunami-related prayer resources: thank you, Simon.

Martin Marty has summarized the various viewpoints on the ethics of proselytizing in the context of disaster relief.

My own evangelism site includes a topic, "Crisis evangelism (mirror site)," that began with thoughts about September 11 and teachable moments leading to faith-sharing, and that has more recently included not only tsunami-related reflections but (thanks to Licia Kuenning and Bill Samuel) a series of posts on the compatibility of salaried evangelists with Quaker faith and practice. Something of a tangent, perhaps, but a very fertile tangent. If you have some leadings in this area, please go to that site, look for the topic "Crisis evangelism," scroll through and add your thoughts!

To me, the disaster says nothing new about God's goodness or responsibility for evil. We all die but once; some of us die before we get to threescore and ten years; in fact, in most of the world, most die before then. My sister Ellen was murdered at age 14. The European holocaust, Cambodia, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Central Africa, and other occasions too numerous to list, as well as natural disasters where people may or may not have contributed to the ultimate death toll, can be seen as huge scandals in the face of any doctrine of God's pure goodness and omnipotence. Or they can be seen as statistical blips, when the death that must come to all of us simply occurs in clusters rather than in a discreet and manageable tempo, a well-spaced series of private griefs, as most, no doubt, would prefer. Take your pick.

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