We exist in a technological world where Twitter and Facebook deliver pictures and stories of disaster wherever we are. As Hurricane Sandy neared the East Coast last week, people I know in England were messaging my wife and I, letting us know of their prayers for our safety. Though we live in South Carolina and were safe, we both have families in affected areas, and it was nice to be so connected.
At other times, however, it is quite surreal. While people were posting Scriptures and prayers for those losing power and struggling with the elements, others were joking about "Gangnam Style" dancing (a Korean-gone-global dance craze), which might be a rain dance, surmising that we've brought Sandy down on ourselves.
I suppose the disconnection between what we see online about disaster, and what we are experiencing brings about a bit of melancholy. It is strange to be captured by something so big, yet feel no real effects in the actual world. Though it feels like we, ourselves, emotionally, have gone through the tragedy with our brothers and sisters in Jersey and New York with this all access. How are we supposed to take this all in? How are we not to become overloaded by the gory details? How much can we really help?
As workers at a church, we are not immune to these issues, and at a staff meeting, our group discussed how such huge storms seem like a type of evil in our world. While we realize the natural world swirls and has processes that we seek to understand and find equilibrium with, we simultaneously have to grapple with the suffering disequilibrium brings. The devastation is astronomical: $20 billion in damages and the lives of at least 100 people lost. No time for grieving; cleanup and repairs to this huge swath of humanity begins.
Some say that the storm is punishment. They point to a sign of God's judgment on these people, perhaps not particularly those hit, but America as a whole. The same sentiments were expressed during the Haiti earthquake, the Asian tsunami, after Katrina, and in 9/11. Being Methodist, my response to this is very Methodist as well. The United Methodist Volunteers in Mission work in the midst of destruction, poverty and great need; its reflections mirror my own, and in an article on their mission, it points to the theology of the Incarnation:
"At the heart of this theology is the clear biblical expression of our loving Creator God who, in the words of Jesus, 'so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.' (John 3:16-17) God is in the business of salvation, not destruction -- offering healing and wholeness. God is about loving care, not supernatural punishment."
In the midst of all the brokenness in our world, the Incarnation is God's presence among us. This was in the person of Christ, and in the Holy Spirit among us today. We work to make God's Kingdom a reality today -- redeeming what was once broken and making it whole again. In this mission we become more like God, as a people -- humanity becomes stronger, and we exhibit God's light in the midst of dark times.
While there is certainly evil in our own times, God is not here to break us further. But he is our Redeemer, and we participate in this amazing mission to heal our world.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.