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WHAT CAUSED THE EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI?

January 23, 2010

THE HORROR OF THE EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI IS INDELIBLY IMPRESSED IN OUR MEMORY.

It was to be expected that the mentally retarded dictator of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, would blame the earthquake on the United States.  Most people understand that the movement of the earth’s crust has been going on since the crust first formed into solid rock from the original molten state of the planet.  With movement will come earthquakes and tsunamis.  Es var immer so! Natural disasters are more easily understood than the evil humans do to other humans.

Here is Father George W. Rutler’s opinion on the subject:

It was a blessing for me to encounter the theologian Austin Farrer a year before his sudden death. With him, I was one handshake away from his friends Tolkien, Lewis, and Sayers. In reflecting on natural disasters and God’s action in the world, he said with stark realism that in an earthquake, God’s will is that the elements of the Earth’s crust should behave in accordance with their nature. He was speaking of the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, which killed about the same number of people counted so far in devastated Haiti. Most were killed in churches on All Saints Day, which gave license to rationalists of the “Enlightenment” to mock the doctrine of a good God. Atheists can suddenly pretend to be theologians puzzled by the contradictory behavior of a benevolent God. On the other extreme, doltish TV evangelists summon a half-baked Calvinism to say that people who get hit hard deserve it.

Nature follows its own course. By projection, humans say that inanimate nature “obeys” natural “laws.” Tectonic plates do not have free will, nor do wild animals, but they act according to their own natures even if they have no concept of laws. Tragedies are only tragic for humans who believe in a benevolent God. Without that revelation, we respond to calamities with the stiff upper lip of the Stoic, the smirk of the Cynic, or the grimace of the Epicurean accustomed to grinning. The Jews were bewildered that the pagan Philistines had killed four thousand of them (1 Samuel 4:1-11), and  when Eli hauled in the Ark of the Covenant,  thirty thousand more died along with Eli’s own sons Hophni and Phineas. Why? When Jesus was asked why God had allowed the Romans to kill a group of Galilean freedom fighters, He reminded them of the eighteen people who had been crushed by the fall of the Tower of Siloam in Jerusalem. They just happened to be there.

Some die by human malevolence, others by natural calamity. Guilt has nothing to do with every instance, but we are all going to die, and should prepare. Inanimate nature is morally indifferent: in Haiti, a cathedral was destroyed along with the archbishop and many priests and seminarians, but so also was a prison destroyed, and thousands of criminals escaped. Animal nature is also morally indifferent, which is why beasts are not arrested for doing what base humans do. There is nature “raw in tooth and claw” and nature ripe in smiles and manicures. This is a distinction lost on behaviorists, who deny the divine image in man while calling God inhumane. There was an earthquake when Christ died. Even the rocks acknowledged that the sinless Man had re-ordered moral brokenness. When the Body of Christ is fractured at Mass, the sound is greater than any natural earthquake, for it is the world coming back to its senses.

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