Archive for Saturday, January 8, 2005

Faith forum

January 8, 2005


How does your faith help you make sense of natural disasters?

The right question is not 'Why?' but 'What can I do?'

Doug Heacock is a member of Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 31st and Lawrence Avenue:

I have to admit my faith in Christ really doesn't help me make much sense of the death and destruction caused by natural disasters like the tsunami in Southeast Asia. But the fact that many people perceive such an event as wrong or senseless shows that somewhere, deep inside, they believe such a thing should not have happened -- even though there is a perfectly reasonable, scientific explanation for it.

All sorts of questions about God come up under these circumstances. How could a loving God let so many die? How could an all-powerful God fail to prevent this awful thing? Skeptics don't face such questions alone; many believers are troubled, too.

Perhaps there simply is no way for a finite creature to fully comprehend why a catastrophe like this occurs. I suspect that the important thing is not that I make sense of it, but that I respond to it in a godly way.

Author Philip Yancey ("Where is God When it Hurts?") was asked to update his book to respond to the question, "Where was God on 9-11?" After interviewing many who helped in the aftermath, he concluded that God was present, even in the midst of that horrible tragedy, in the heroism, kindness, generosity, love and grace of his people as they responded to the needs of those in pain.

Perhaps, in a situation like this, the most important question for the believer is not, "Why did it happen?" but rather, "How can I help those who are hurting?"

Christian recording artist Amy Grant sang at the memorial service for victims of the Columbine High School murders, "Somewhere down the road there will be mighty arms reaching for you, and they will hold the answers ..."

Perhaps we can save some questions for heaven.

Send e-mail to Doug Heacock at

Life must be given as much meeting as possible

John Brewer is a member of the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, 1263 N 1100 Road:

Some will argue that there can be no faith without theology, creed or religion, but Unitarian-Universalists stubbornly claim otherwise.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," reads the Christian Scripture (Hebrews 11:1).

My Unitarian-Universalist faith is that life has transcendent meaning, that there is more to life than being busy, paying bills and worrying about what's going to happen.

Like the Hebrews writer, I can only hope that this meaning is real. I can't prove it in court or a laboratory.

Geophysicists can give us an explanation of the forces that produce tidal waves, but they can't tell us the meaning of the resulting loss and destruction.

Is it God's tough love? Is it evidence that all of nature is in a state of decay?

That's not my faith.

Earthquakes (and tornadoes, for that matter) are among the unavoidable risks of living on the thin skin of a planet whose internal boiling has both destroyed life and made life's continuation possible.

We will mourn the lost thousands from the tsunami, send in the Marines and the Mennonites to assist the survivors, improve warning systems for future tidal waves and (maybe) address the forces that push populations into inhabiting marginal areas. But risk of a catastrophe will always be there.

Our species has a seemingly miraculous ability to muddle through misery. After the December tsunami, the rest of us are still here, benefiting from the life-giving aspects of our violent planet.

Our lives are precious and fragile gifts. They deserve as much meaning as we can invest in them.

Send e-mail to John Brewer at

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