Tsunami: a message from above?
Some of the best photographs of the tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004 came from the hands of amateur photographers. This photo, taken by Xeni Jardin, shows a group of people standing by a breakwater, watching the strange behavior of the sea. The tide was rushing out and then surging back in again. Then, of course, the inevitable, a massive surge came rushing in. The onlookers were unaware of the danger, since the surge was not really a wave, just a bulge of water, but it came with massive power. Hitting the breakwater, the tsunami pounded inland, carrying all before.
The response of the world community was very moving. We witnessed wonderful generosity by those who were far away from this disaster. Yet, as is always the case, the aftermath brings with it the inevitable question, why?
Amjad Mehboob, an Islamic theologian, observed that everything is from the hand of God - it is God's will. "Islam teaches that when we do suffer some misfortune, it is what our own hands have wrought, and we must seek the forgiveness of God." The point he makes is that human evil prompts divine retribution and so, rather than blame God for the disaster, we should look to our own evil as the cause.
Some Christians leaders took a similar line, arguing that the tsunami was an act of divine retribution upon a sinful world, even a particular people. The Bible certainly records such acts, but they are always accompanied by a word and a way of escape.
No, this disaster was like so many others; it was part of the "groaning" of creation, the frustration of creation as it waits to be "liberated from its bondage to decay." We were reminded again that this world, this universe of ours, this unforgiving and unpredictable natural environment that we so foolishly think we have tamed, is a permanently damaged system. Not only has human selfishness directly impacted upon the natural environment with pollution and the like, but the Bible tells us that our selfishness has actually disturbed the divine order of creation, bent its natural creative forces toward destruction. So, the creation groans, awaiting the day of its liberation, the coming day of "a new heaven and a new earth."