Monday, November 5, 2012

Act of God?

In legal documents such as leases, there is often a section entitled “Acts of God.” This refers to natural disasters such as we just experienced on the East Coast. Should we blame God for all the misery that the superstorm Sandy caused? Where was God in all that?

As I’ve said before, we live in an imperfect world in which there is sin, evil, and natural disasters. We are subject to the laws of nature, which can sometimes work against us. There was once a place where supposedly no bad things happened, and it was called The Garden of Eden. Oh, one bad thing did happen there, something about eating forbidden fruit. As a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience we now experience sin, evil, pain, suffering, death, and natural disasters.

Where was God in this terrible storm? God was present in the people who helped their neighbors in need. God was present in the relief workers and first responders who helped, often at risk to their own lives. God was present in those who evacuated when told to do so. God was present in those who did and will give money to organizations that will be helping rebuild people’s lives after the emotional and physical devastation.

As I’ve said before, it is people’s actions that often make natural disasters worse than they otherwise would have been. People build houses under the assumption there will never be a natural disaster to threaten their house. If you build a house on a sandbar just yards from the ocean, you are at serious risk. If you refuse to evacuate in the face of clear and present danger, you might just die. If tree branches near wires aren’t kept trimmed, branches are going to come down and you are going to lose electricity.

Sadly, the unthinkable happened and the destruction was massive. I’m hoping that any rebuilding that takes place will be done smartly. By smartly I mean build only on relatively safe pieces of land; build according to a strict building code; build on stilts if close to the shore; build higher sea walls; and take other precautions to protect what you’ve rebuilt. With higher sea levels and weather getting more ferocious, we have to plan for the worst.

I hope we all remember that this isn’t the Garden of Eden, and so we must prepare for natural disasters and other bad things to happen as best we can. Of course I don’t think you can easily predict that a tree will fall onto your house or car if the tree looks healthy. But with the accurate weather predicting we have today, we can prepare well in advance by stocking up on what we’ll need to survive for a week without electricity; filling up the gas tank well before the crowd; making sure you have enough full containers of gas for the generator; have plenty of bottled water; and maybe even buy some MREs to keep in case of emergency.

May God help those who have lost so much in the storm. I also pray that the rest of us learned something from all this and we will be even better prepared for the next disaster.