A few years ago, I realized that I loved people too much be a Christian. This conclusion impacted my personal life so strongly, that I decided to write a book about it, a book which will soon be launched into the world. I’m not ready, I’ll confess. I’m scared to open my story and my thoughts for the world to read. I’m afraid of the negative, hurtful, and downright hateful comments that will inevitably poke their way into my previously safe worlds of virtual and real interactions. But I believe it’s a story that needs to be told. My love for my human family, my child, the earth, myself, the marginalized, and the oppressed outweighs my insecurity.
I wasn’t ready to start this blog, either. I’m both under-experienced and overwhelmed, a potentially hazardous concoction that is also my familiar prelude to new ventures. However, in light of Hurricane Irma and my love for those it is impacting, I have some thoughts that won’t sit quietly in a corner while I polish up on my blogging skills. I’m begging them to behave, and they’re blatantly ignoring me as I type this.
Hurricane Irma, following the tradition of many storms, has dredged up a smidgen of religion everywhere you look. Everybody is praying for somebody. That’s not too bad. (Is it?) Some are reminding the world that the end times are near and this is all part of God’s plan. (Hmmm.) Others are pinning the blame on specific groups of people that God is obviously targeting for their sinful ways. (Yikes.) While my loved ones are preparing to battle it out with Hurricane Irma, bracing for the emotional, physical, and financial devastation she will leave in her wake, many Christians are responding in one of those three ways, both in social media comments and in passing conversation. In response to a tragedy, not one of these approaches is helpful. In fact, each is harmful.
The notion that natural disasters are increasing, thus signifying the end times, is false. Scientists have not noted any change in the frequency of earthquakes over the last million years. The damaging effects of hurricanes have increased due only to the fact that more people live in coastal climates and there is greater infrastructure on which to wreak havoc (1 ). In addition, there are natural cycles in climate and weather that increase natural disasters for years, sometimes decades or centuries at a time. What appears to be a steady increase in stormy weather patterns, is often just part of this cycle. Lastly, the Internet itself harbors the most influential contribution to the “end times myth.” Our access to information has increased exponentially, feeding into the mistaken perception that there are more tragedies now than ever before. In fact, it is not the number of tragedies that have increased, but the number of them that come to our attention.
The concept, whether spoken or implied, that humans bring natural disasters upon themselves due to their sin, their lack of faithfulness to God, their religious affiliation or sexual orientation is appalling and unacceptable. It defies all logic that, in the year 2017, anyone would subscribe to this ridiculous and dangerous belief. Not only is it incredibly dismissive of another’s tragedy and sorrow, it also runs counter to every logical, scientifical, and mathematical calculation about our world. 161 million children under five face starvation worldwide (2 ). Many of these children are already malnourished before they are born. Please tell me what these children did to bring God’s wrath upon themselves. God doesn’t appear to stratify them according to their religious beliefs.
Ironically, prayer (which seems so benign) feeds off of this exact same notion. If we pray hard enough, God will turn the storm away from us. He will send it somewhere else. We will be saved, because of our faithfulness. God will strike down another family, someone else’s children, someone of another faith, someone who didn’t pray as hard as we did, someone who deserves it.
It’s cruel to thank God for saving you from a storm when that storm is bound for another region. It’s exactly like telling the victims, “God doesn’t love you enough keep you safe. Maybe you did something wrong. Obviously, he can save people, and he did. He saved us. You, on the other hand, are insignificant.” Likewise, praying for a storm to veer away, is perforce praying that the storm will strike elsewhere. Imagine, for a moment, that family that you are praying the storm will hit. Let’s say she’s a single mother, huddled in her children’s bedroom, hugging them, shaking and afraid. If prayers were scientifically proven to work (they aren’t), your prayers would be sending the storm to that mother’s house. If that thought weighs heavily on your heart, maybe you can embrace how improbable it is that a loving father God is sitting somewhere, picking and choosing who’s going to die, according to their prayer patterns.
Not because it’s ineffective (it is), but because it can also be emotionally hurtful to victims, I would suggest not responding to natural disasters with prayer. If you’re looking for a way to replace prayer, I will offer four effective strategies for assisting during tragedies like Hurricane Irma. I’m sure there are many more. (Please comment!)
- Reach out to at least one person who has been affected by the storm, and extend the availability of your home, your money, or your physical help.
- Raise awareness or funds for a group in need, through use of social media.
- Check the Internet for local charities that are collecting for hurricane victims, and donate clothes, food, or money directly to those in need.
- Equip yourself and others to be prepared for storms, seek shelter, and access aid, by researching, learning, and sharing what you know.
I hope you enjoyed my very first blog, and that you continue to follow me as I gently uncover and debate the logic and validity of Christianity. Please know that I respect your opinions and value your participation in this conversation. Let’s show each other respect in the comments, as well, by not making blanket statements about any group of people and avoiding (whenever possible) statements that directly insult the opinions, traditions, and moral codes that are so precious and unique to each individual.
Thanks for reading, and to those facing the storm, stay safe!