What Are We Thinking?

Last week, I was on vacation, taking the first real break in a while, but I spent hours, as did most Americans, glued to the television, watching with absolute horror at the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Now enough time has passed, perhaps, to reflect on some of the lessons Katrina—or maybe God speaking through Katrina—has taught us. First, this was a catastrophe of epic proportions. And it wasn't just the Gulf region that was affected. It was the whole nation, because our fuel supply is so dependent on the area hit. Katrina struck a direct blow to the nerve center of America. "Is this God's judgment?" many people asked. I'm always reluctant to speculate because it is too easy to blame God for things that we bring upon ourselves or to falsely read the mind of God. But we can say for sure theologically that an all-powerful sovereign God can prevent a natural disaster anytime He chooses to. So, in one sense, one would have to say: Yeah, God permitted it. But rather than blame God, as one columnist did this weekend, we should ask ourselves whether we are responsible. After all, the city of New Orleans was built six feet below sea level, surrounded by levies that everyone knew were sufficient only for a category-3 hurricane and could not stop a big storm surge. For years, people partied in the French Quarter, celebrating their "good luck" every time a monster storm missed them—almost as if they were playing the slot machines at the casinos that line the Gulf Coast. Talk about shaking your fist at God. Then consider our fuel supply. Energy experts have warned us for years that we lack refining capacity. But we have not built one new refinery in thirty years. Why not? Because no one wants one in their backyard, any more than they want offshore drilling. Everybody's for offshore drilling, of course, so long as it is off somebody else's shore. There are politicians who get elected and re-elected simply by promising not to allow offshore drilling in their state, even one hundred miles offshore. And what about nuclear power? We could end dependence on foreign sources of energy simply by resuming our nuclear power building program—but environmentalists have blocked it, as they have blocked Arctic drilling, which, to my way of thinking, would have minimal environmental consequences. So who do we blame for this direct hit on the nation's soft underbelly? Yeah, we can say God allowed it. And if so, good, it gets our attention, and it is a wake-up call, which we need. But I say, look first at ourselves. We've allowed ourselves to concentrate much of our oil supply in that one vulnerable area. We've ignored steps that could give us energy independence. And we have allowed New Orleans and the vital Mississippi delta, which affects commerce all through the Midwest, to sit there as an inviting target, hoping chance would spare us. What fools we mortals be. Now, this is no time for finger-pointing, which is unseemly, certainly while so many thousands have lost their lives. I personally am offended by the politicians seeking to exploit this tragedy for partisan gain. But it is a time when we ought to take a sober look at ourselves and turn to God daily, asking Him—not for justice, we might get it—but for mercy. We ought to be repenting for all of our sins as a people and for falling so short. The lesson with Katrina? Lord, have mercy and give us wisdom not to repeat our mistakes.


Chuck Colson


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