The Bad Taste of Katrina

I know there will be barrels of electrons spilled today as we remember the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. There will be stories of the heroism that took place, the frustration that many faced, and the stories of the Next Big One will be there as well. Nothing like an opportunity to extrapolate the “what if” question into more fear mongering and hand ringing. I am OK with all those types of reports.

I think what bothers me most in my memories of Katrina was the way the tragedy was politicized. You may remember some of this. The first wave of politicized rhetoric came from the left as those who were bemoaning the government’s lack of response to the disaster and placing the blame for it on President Bush. There were even charges that he actually caused the hurricane to form and hit the gulf coast. I think most people discounted such charges. After all, Bush was just the president of the United States. The era of deifying our presidents had not yet arrived.

After the first wave of political rhetoric, came the second wave pointing out how inept the powers that be in New Orleans were. Fingers were pointed everywhere. This is what happens when you expect the government to take care of people when it was never designed to do so. This entire ordeal exposed the elephantine gap that exists between those of us on the right, who believe in self-determination and limited government, and those on the left who believe the government is there to hold our hands from the cradle to the grave.

On the right, we mistakenly think we have a right to self-determination. This view is actually godless. We plan our steps, but God directs them. We are dependent upon Him for even more than what the left claims for the people concerning government. And that latter point is the problem with the left. The left exalts government to a position that only God can occupy. I hope that some of you can see the real problem in what the left does. They are replacing God with Government, which ultimately makes the government anti-Christ in its nature. Government was never given by God in order to replace God to meet our daily or long-term needs. But the right replaces God with self and is just as sinful as the left. Both viewpoints are idolatrous in nature and both sides need to repent from such foolishness.

For those of us who believe in God, Katrina was not an accident of nature. God ordained the event from before the foundations of the world and, had He chosen to do so, He could have stopped Katrina from hitting the coast. By the way, have you thanked Him today for the hurricanes that have not hit the coast this year? Remember, He did not allow them to come into existence.

I know this seems harsh, but God is omnipotent, meaning, He is all powerful. If you wish to get your knickers in a knot over this reality, and sit in judgment of God, feel free. He will certainly allow you to do so until it comes to His turn to sit in final and eternal judgment of you.  The point is that the Triune God had His purposes in bringing the disaster to the Gulf Coast, just as He has in every disaster that strikes mankind. I cannot say what those purposes are since I do not know the mind of God in things which He has not expressed in His word. But I do have a few thoughts on the matter.

First, God allows such events to remind us that we are not home yet. We pray for heaven on earth, but that doesn’t mean heaven has arrived upon earth. For the Christian, we have not arrived and never will on this side of glory. Disasters like Katrina help remind us of this truth and reality.

Secondly, God allows such events to humble us. Whenever there is affliction of any kind, it is a reminder that we need to rely upon Him for all that we need. The reason there was such strife in the following days of Katrina, besides the grief over the destruction, is that far too many were trying to declare whose responsibility it was to rescue those who were hit by the storm. Very few were looking to God to provide, and He left us to ourselves. The entire ordeal is a deluge-size sticky note showing us what happens when we look to government or self-determination for deliverance from such events.

Third, and this one is difficult to swallow, God allows such events to judge the wicked. I’m not saying that all those who died in Katrina are numbered among the wicked. He can use such events to bring His children home just as He uses them to bring judgment upon those who are wicked (those outside of Christ). The believers who died have already had their sins judged, and paid for, on the cross by Christ. Those outside of Christ are now paying for their own sins in an eternal way. The underlying truth in all this is that God will judge both the quick and the dead. He will judge all mankind and all of creation. These events are small glimpses of the perfect judgment to come. God has to judge all creation, because all creation is sinful and has rebelled against Him due to Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. If God does not judge the wicked, then He is not just because He would be allowing those who deserve judgment to escape what they deserve. Yet, He is just and will judge the wicked. An event like Hurricane Karina is a reminder of that judgment.

Fourth, lest you think I focus on judgment too much, He allows such events to remind us of His love for us. Because of His great mercies, we who were spared the tragedy, are not consumed. He has shown all, who yet live and breathe, His great mercy and grace toward us. Since we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, deserving His condemnation, one more day without final judgment is one more day of His grace and mercy. For those who repent of their sinfulness and trust in Christ, condemnation has been lifted completely from us, and we rejoice in His mercy even more so, knowing the richness of that mercy in a more lasting way.

I do rejoice over all these mercies He pours out on us. But when I remember Katrina, the entire event, and the way so many responded politically, it just leaves the taste of raw sewage in my mouth. The response to the disaster from all sides was sickening. I know there were many good stories that took place. Many gave of their time and energy, at their own expense, to help get people back on their feet. But that entire event showed us how messed up our country truly was and is. May God have mercy upon us.


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