On Japan

What can one say on such occasions? Tragedies like this tend to render us speechless and numb. And that is not a bad thing. Better to meditate, ponder and pray than start immediately pontificating. A week has now passed and the horrors keep unfolding.

The earthquakes and tsunami have so far resulted in around 20,000 deaths, with the figure expected to keep climbing. The final number may be just a tenth of the 2004 figure for Indonesia when a similar pair of disasters stuck. But both numbers are far too high.

It is obvious that there are many things believers can do in these situations. We can certainly pray, and pray again. We can give financially as well. And for some, we can be there and help out in very practical ways.

Despite all the tangible things we can do, there will be questions that continue to haunt us. As always in such situations, a million questions arise, and very few answers, it seems, can be found. Believers cannot help but ask some hard theological questions.

One which always comes up, but can seldom be answered decisively, is if all this in any sense can be understood as the judgment of God. With a number of major natural disasters occurring recently, I have discussed these matters at length elsewhere. Readers are advised to go to these posts for more thoughts on this:

www.billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/11/tragedy-judgment-grace/
www.billmuehlenberg.com/2011/02/03/god-providence-and-natural-disaster/
www.billmuehlenberg.com/2009/02/09/on-wild-fires-and-other-tragedies/
www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/07/19/a-review-of-god%E2%80%99s-judgments-by-steven-keillor/

So, can we see God at work here, either in judgment or some other way? It is altogether possible, but I certainly cannot make any absolute claims here. Mind you, a case for divine judgment could be made if one wanted too.

Japan is largely a pagan nation, at least when it comes to biblical Christianity, and it has its share of morally and spiritually destructive practices and beliefs. It is clearly no hive of godliness, righteousness and morality,

Abortion was legalised in Japan in 1948. Around 300,000 abortions are performed there each year, but that number has been as high as 1.2 million per annum. That is a lot of blood flowing, and the lives of the innocents are crying out for justice.

However, that of course can be said about so many other nations as well. They too really deserve some divine recompense for all the shedding of innocent blood they are involved with. So given that not all the other abortion-rich nations are facing similar calamities, one has to proceed with caution here.

Then there are things like the grotesque, sexually explicit Japanese Phallic Festival which has been held for centuries now, where sexuality gods are called upon, if not worshipped. Even children are involved in this. To get the full impact of this rather debauched festival, see the photos here: www.odditycentral.com/pics/the-japanese-phallic-festival.html

But once again, the same can be said about plenty of other nations, including but not limited to the West. Sexual perversion and depravity is rife in large parts of the world, and if this calls for God’s swift justice, we could do no better than start with Sydney, San Francisco or Amsterdam.

And we must also recall that over 300 churches have been impacted by this tragedy, with many pastors and believers killed or missing. So if this was an act of judgment, then what about them? We must of course recall what Jesus said about God causing the sun to shine on the good and evil, and the rain to fall on the just and unjust.

Many other things might be mentioned. It seems that American atheist groups are demanding that all aid be given to atheist or secular groups, and not Christian aid groups and charities. Yeah right! And just how many atheist charity groups are there please?

We must remember that even rather secular groups like the Red Cross began as explicitly Christian groups. Wherever we find tragedy striking, we can always expect Christians to be there, often first on the scene, up to their ears in hands-on involvement.

That has been the case since the earliest days of the Christian church. Indeed, in large measure that accounts for the rapid growth and expansion of Christianity. When a plague or pestilence would strike an area, usually the pagans would get up and hightail it out of there.

But the Christians routinely stayed behind, tending the sick, the dying, and the needy. Their faith was not just pie in the sky stuff, but a faith which met the very real needs of very real people in very real predicaments.

Mention can also be made about all the media hype about nuclear oblivion. It is too early to comment fully just yet, but it seems that things are under control, and people are likely to get more exposure to radiation walking through Grand Central Station (with its radiation-emitting granite walls) than being in Tokyo.

Plenty of other figures can be mentioned here in this regard. It has been said recently that the highest radiation levels detected in Fukushima Prefecture was 30 microsieverts. Perhaps that sounds scary, but bear in mind that a single hospital CT scan produces almost 7000 microsieverts.

This situation of course must still be closely monitored, worked on around the clock, and prayed about diligently. But the anti-nuke activists should be ashamed for seeking to turn this national tragedy into an opportunity to score cheap political points.

As already noted, there will likely be far more questions than answers here for some time to come – maybe forever. But those who do know their Lord know that God is too wise to make a mistake, and too loving to be unkind. Indeed, it is exactly because he loves us so much that he often will intervene in our selfish lives, seeking to get our attention.

He knows that if our lives are not built on the rock, then we are instead simply on sinking sand, and that is not a good place to be when the storms of life come along. Thus out of his great love for us, he allows us to be shaken, so we can see what our foundations are really like.

He wants to break us free from all the false security, false gods, and false idols which we so very much turn to and shelter in. He wants us to turn to him, to depend on him, and find our security, comfort and fulfilment in him.

And in order to do that, he may sometimes use drastic measures to get our attention. Indeed, as the rightful ruler of this universe, he has every right to shake our world so that what is of him alone comes forth.

As the writer to the Hebrews put it, “‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:26-27).

If we don’t do a regular shake up of our world, in mercy he will often do it for us.

[1175 words]


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