29 April 2011

The Still, Small Voice of Human Generosity

marvin gentry, reuters
As a person of faith, I struggle mightily with the devastating storms that have taken killed several hundred people throughout the South and caused unspeakable damage and trauma to thousands more.  I don't believe God caused these storms to happen, willfully exercising Divine Judgment upon innocent, humble people.  Such a God is as cruel as any dictator mowing down lives clamoring for freedom and dignity.

Yet I remain haunted by the seemingly unending stream of disasters--natural and man-made that are plaguing our world.  On a fundamental level, it appears that Earth itself is undergoing a kind of revolt against its inhabitants, creating a reckoning of sorts that as its only presumed moral and ethical creatures (we humans are a complicated lot, aren't we?) must leave us wondering:  What have we done?

Certain disasters, like the tsunami in Japan, may or may not be scientifically traceable to such radical changes in our Earth's environment and atmosphere; but then, the domino effect of the disaster with wide-spread implications regarding the vulnerabilities and dangers of nuclear power make us stand at attention with an unusual focus toward immediate repair and "getting it right" for next time. 

Similarly, this recent mile-wide, two-hour long tornado that ravaged the South.  The devastation itself is as humbling as any act of nature can be; and sorting through the images can conjure a kind of grotesque fascination with power and its inherently destructive potential.  But that is what I like to refer to as the "Pagan Effect." 

Elijah's famous encounter with this debate is instructive for us.  If you're not familiar, read the story in I Kings 19.  Here Elijah the Prophet faces a theological dilemma:  Is God in the wind that breaks rocks?  Is God in the earthquakes?  Is God in the fire? 

The Tradition explains otherwise:  God was not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire but in a still, small voice.  Remarkably, after Elijah hears this, he feeds the people, an impulse we must see as an ethical or moral counter-force to the natural destruction that terrifies us.
robert ray, ap
Our faith, in the wake of such fearful damage, ought to demand the impulse to care, to comfort, to save and to feed. Rather than glare into the abyss of the most recent destruction, we should respond to the human need, and therein see the face of God.

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