Friday, January 29, 2010
How should we respond to Haiti?
Whenever a disaster of this scale occurs, it's natural to ask how God fits in the picture. Is He angry? Even if He is not, how can He allow an atrocity like this? Finally, how should we respond?
Since the Haiti earthquake less than a week ago, we've seen reactions that run the gamut. Most people have responded with compassion; millions have donated to charitable relief organizations; everyone is shocked by the extent of the damage and loss of life.
And then, some have criticized. A friend of mine recently asked me if I think the Haiti earthquake is God's judgment. After all, Haiti (like New Orleans) has been a center for voodoo and dark magic for years. Pat Robertson, now infamously, preached that this is God's punishment on a wicked nation that made a deal with the devil 200 years ago. A New York Times contributor surmised, "If God exists, he's really got it in for Haiti." The Washington Post reports that even some of the Haitians themselves view the catastrophe as God's judgment.
I don't believe that this is a special act of God, for many reasons. First, the conditions in Haiti were made by man, following anything but godly standards. Haiti is a country born of slavery, plagued by corruption and oppression, and impoverished to the point that she has devastated her land and, in a sad irony, sold her own children back into slavery. Second, it is always hard to understand God's reasons for allowing pain; but that doesn't mean that He has no reason. If we say that we believe in an all-loving and all-knowing God, we have to trust that He knows what He is doing when He allows disaster.
Finally, we serve a God who sends His mercy on all alike; Jesus told us to be like our Father, who "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good" (Mt. 5:45). If we are to bless those who curse us, how much more should we bless those who most desperately need it? The sad thing is, many people will give to Haiti to relieve a sense of guilt for living in a privileged country, and then do their best to forget that half of Earth's population lives in poverty. Instead, as true children of God, "let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 Jn. 3:17-18).