Japan as Collateral DamageMarch 12, 2011
I wondered how long it would take.
A natural disaster strikes Japan. Thousands are killed and a nation is devastated.
While the rest of the world looks on with empathy and sorrow, it was inevitable that someone would announce that this was all part of God’s plan. Before Pat Robertson could figure out what historic sin had caused God to punish Japan, Tim LaHaye was first out of the gate to let us all know what this means.
LaHaye, who has made a career out of misunderstanding Jewish apocalyptic literature, was in Hawaii to speak at two “prophecy conferences” when the waves hit the islands. The author of the Left Behind series had this to say:
“The Bible tells us in Matthew 24 that one of the signs of the last days – one of the birth pangs to occur – is an increase in earthquake activity and intensity … We’re seeing that happen here. It’s not just earthquakes, but hurricanes and all kinds of natural disasters.”
Now, to be fair, this is not on par with blaming the Haitian earthquake on the country’s pact with the devil (a la Pat Robertson). But something is terribly amiss when your reaction to massive human tragedy is not to empathize with the victims, but to rub your hands together and say, effectively, “Aha! See, I was right. This is all unfolding according to plan.”
I know what the mindset is like, because I once held it. If you believe that great natural disasters must occur before Christ’s return, it blunts your proper moral reaction to human tragedy. If you believe that a particular evil is a necessary evil, you tend to rationalize it. You slot it into the “sad but inevitable” category.
And I don’t mean inevitable because of the random shifting of tectonic plates. I mean inevitable because it’s part of God’s coming apocalyptic judgment on an evil age. It’s a mere “birth pang” – an unfortunate but necessary side effect on the way to something great. It’s collateral damage.
This is not the message that a hurting world needs to hear from the church. Rather, as Rachel Held Evans proposes, “Let us weep, Let us hurt, Let us pray, Let us help.”
By the way, here’s a graph showing the frequency of earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater over the past 20 years. If you see a trend, let me know.