Thursday, September 01, 2005


There are plenty of people who see God’s hand in the devastation that has struck the U.S. Gulf Coast. Retribution, as it were, for the multitudinous sins of the denizens N’Awlins. Punishment for having allowed Riverboat Casinos to sully the shores of the mighty Mississippi.

There are even people who believe that the natural disaster visited on the Gulf is the result of God’s displeasure at the United States having supported Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan.

It’s possible that many of these same people believe that New York got what it deserved almost four years ago when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center. Just deserts, they said at the time, for being a nation that tolerates abortion and homosexuality.

And, of course, the tsunami that struck South Asia last December - why, that was Lordly Wrath visited upon the Muslims!

Forgive me if I say that that is all a big Crock o’ Shit.

I don’t believe God works that way, slinging natural disasters right and left at the objects of His displeasure. That point of view diminishes the Master of the World, reducing him to a petty tyrant. It’s something an omnipotent human might do, but God is better than that.

Our Rabbi joined the Minyan Boyz at breakfast today, and he and I discussed the whole Hurricane-Katrina-as-Tool-o’-God issue. He is, as am I, adamantly opposed to that kind of thinking.

He put it this way: God gave us an intellect and the desire to control the world around us: the tools for tikkun olam, the repairing of the world. We can choose to use those tools, or we can let them lay idle.

We can choose to build cities in vulnerable geographic locations, or make sure they are on high ground.

We can choose to evacuate, and to help those without their own transportation to do so.

We can choose to learn the ways of the weather and put satellites into orbit, so as to provide warning to as many people as possible.

We can choose to act like human beings and refrain from looting and stealing amidst the devastation.

Bad things happen, but to blame God for them or attribute them to “divine punishment” is insulting. Mother Nature has no conscience. If we do not choose to use our collective brains to deal with tragedy and disaster, to minimize suffering, to prevent or alleviate the evil effects of Nature, then we can blame ourselves, because we were given the greatest gift: the ability to choose.

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