A Christian response to natural disasters


Neil Strohschein
The Neepawa Banner

Kenneth Storey is a Sociology professor—he’s no dummy. So he should have guessed that the remarks he made in an August 27 post to his Twitter account would not be received well.

In case you missed it, Storey’s tweet suggested that the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey was “instant Karma” which (he hoped) would help the people of Texas realize that the Republican Party doesn’t care about them and would “encourage the good people of Texas to do more to stop the evil their state is pushing.” He said this even though, as he admitted in the tweet, he doesn’t believe in instant Karma. It just seemed like that’s what was happening.

That was more than enough to convince administrators of the University of Tampa, Florida to respond. On August 30, they issued a statement saying that they were distancing themselves from Storey’s comments and that Storey had been fired, effective immediately.

Kenneth Storey isn’t the first person to get into trouble for presuming that plagues, epidemics and natural disasters are God’s way of punishing people for their sins; and he won’t be the last. Our world is filled with so-called “prophets” who claim to have received some form of divine revelation, telling them why certain events happen at certain times to certain people. But, when put to the test, their revelations quickly lose their credibility; as do those who gave them.

The facts speak for themselves. This is the season for tropical storms and hurricanes. True, there have been more of them in recent years and the damage done by those that touched land has been far more extensive. But to suggest that some god somewhere is punishing these people because of the way they voted is utterly absurd. There is a better way to respond to these tragedies.

As people of faith, we are convinced of three absolute truths. First, God loves the people of south Texas; just like he loves those in the Windsor-Essex region of southern Ontario who are also dealing with flooding after heavy rains; and the people in BC and northern Manitoba whose properties either have been or could be destroyed by forest fires. His love is unconditional. It is not based on how much money we make, which church we attend or which party we supported in the last election. God loves us because he created us and wants nothing but the best for us.

Second, God has his people in the right places with access to the resources they need to help the victims of these tragedies repair their properties, rebuild their businesses and move on with their lives. The road to full recovery will be a long and costly one. But God’s people will not turn their backs on those in need and will walk with them until they have fully recovered from this tragedy.

Third, nowhere in Scripture does God allow us to suggest that the victims of these disasters are somehow to blame for what they suffered. That’s not our call to make. Instead, we are to do what we can with what we have been given to help them recover, repair, rebuild and restore. This is what Jesus asks us all to do—to show our love for God by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

That is a Christian response to natural disasters—no judgment—no blaming the victims—just doing what we can to help a neighbor in need. Today it is our turn to help them. Tomorrow it may be their turn to help us.