In light of some statements by thoughtless church leaders and religious fanatics I want to suggest to you quite clearly and firmly that the tsunami 2004 is not an act of God punishing the world for its materialism, violence and selfishness. It is not an act of God, sparing many Christians, but judging the Moslem and Hindu and Buddhist world. It is not an act of God issuing judgment on the sex trade in Thailand or the social strife in Sri Lanka or the military regime in Myanmar.
God’s power is not like our desire to move and shake the world. For Christians, God’s almighty power is the power of love. In each situation it seeks to save what is lost, liberate what is in chains, heal what is broken and lift up those who have become tired. God is a burden carrier. And it belongs to the miracles of grace that God gives us the opportunity and privilege to help in the work of solidarity, compassion and restoration.
The tsunami is not an act of God. It is a natural disaster. With all its terrible and catastrophic consequences, it was predictable and it is explainable. It has to do with plate tectonics. Continental plates grinding against each other, producing earthquakes and sometimes tidal waves. It is a disaster that has a history and such disasters will happen again.
The great earthquake of Lisbon on November 1, 1755 has lived on in the minds of Europeans ever since. 30.000 people and a third of the city were destroyed. Some thought that it was the judgment of God upon Roman Catholics. Others proclaimed that it was the judgment of God upon Portugal for being too tolerant to Protestants. “God” should not be used to fulfil human desires.
The country that gave us the name, “tsunami”, experienced one in 1703 that killed 100,000 people around the port of Awa in Japan. The history of humanity is replete with natural catastrophes and such catastrophes have served biblical authors to describe dimensions of divine judgment. But there is absolutely no reason for anyone, least of all Christian leaders, to identify this particular tragedy with an act of God.
Like everything in life, so also the tsunami 2004, calls for our response and interpretation. Here are a few points that from the perspective of Christian faith may be made:
a.. The tsunami has revealed the naivet