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Letter from the Editor

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Maybe Mother Earth is trying to tell us something. Our planet is shaking, blowing, flooding, burning, and erupting at a prodigious rate lately. The death toll from natural disasters in the last week alone is beyond staggering. We've had tornadoes in the Midwest, a cataclysmic cyclone in Myanmar, and earthquakes of varying degrees of calamity all around the globe, including Peru last summer and the devastating one in China this week. As I write this, out-of-control fires are blazing in California, Florida, and the Amazon.

All this on the heels of the rash of Caribbean hurricanes of 2005 and the horrific Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 that killed an estimated 225,000 people. That tsunami, of course, was caused by an earthquake.

These are reminders that the Earth is alive. It's not a rigid set-piece. It's a fractured and mobile vessel, composed of shifting land masses, oceans that can move in a heartbeat, storm-laden skies, volcanic mountain ranges — all simmering above a molten lava core. We aren't the landlords here. We're tenants on a volatile ball floating through the cosmos. And we can be evicted anytime, without notice.

So what do we make of this string of natural catastrophes? Some will see them as God's will. John McCain's spiritual adviser, the Rev. John Hagee, famously said Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to punish New Orleans because of its gay pride parade. This, of course, is ludicrous thinking, unless Myanmar and China have become overrun with homosexuals.

Too many leaders, political and religious, are using their interpretation of God's will to their own ends. God is not Republican or Democrat or black or white or gay or straight. God does not care who wins an election or a football game or who pitches a no-hitter. And I don't believe that God, in whatever form he may exist, sends natural disasters to punish people for their political, religious, or social views. After all, most of the victims are innocent men, women, and children.

When disaster strikes — and it can strike any of us, even here in the Bible Belt — we need to focus on helping those in need, without judging. And when Mother Earth sends us messages that she's feeling restless, we might want to start looking into ways in which we can become better stewards of our home planet.

That might be God's will.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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