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While writing a post about Hurricane Sandy and its broader impact, I came across this blog entry from The Thoughtful Pastor. I was frankly aghast to read her first paragraph. I had to temporarily abandon my initial blog post and reply.

This was her first paragraph:

I guess I just don’t get the “Blame God for Hurricane Sandy” thing that is being tossed around. Although I suppose I should: it all fits with the “Divine Butler-god” that I’ve written about before. As long as we get what we want (good weather for weekends, sports events and campouts) then God has been nice and obedient and fitting well within the lines we’ve drawn. But the moment things get just a bit out of control (that would be our control, not God’s), then we are all over that Holy One with our complaints about what an awful person (!) God is and how terribly disappointed we are. Our next performance review will certainly reflect that disappointment, and we will strongly suggest God take steps to do better next time.

I will say that the blog gets better. She goes on to say some very beautiful and wise things (no snark…they are wise) about how the heroes who emerge in the wake of such a storm will be the ones who ask what God wants of them in the light of such tragedy. I’m posting my response on my blog (and not just as a comment to hers) because I know how easy it is to forget the perspective of the people we write about. I’m writing this on my blog as a reminder to myself for future blogs as well as a caution to the author of The Thoughtful Pastor.

My response:

Christy, I like many things about this entry, but I wish it was published a couple months later. The reality is that I agree with just about everything you said, but if I put myself in the shoes of people I know in New Jersey, I know I’d really struggle with your words.
I don’t know who specifically you were responding to, but the people I know who question God in this time are not angry because they can’t have a nice weekend on the golf course. They’re angry because 80% of their city…not just their house…THEIR CITY is under water. They’re angry because their jobs washed away with their homes and a lack of electricity matters–really, really matters–when it’s 42 degrees outside and you have an infant to care for.

I have a lot of family and friends in NJ. One of whose spouse just lost his job and whose infant shivers because there’s no electricity…all because of some storm that ripped mindlessly through her town. She has a right to challenge and question God. I think she is blessed because of it.

The people of God aren’t named “Abraham” after the paragon of obedience. They are instead named “Israel.” “One who wrestles with God. ” Questioning and challenging God, screaming at the Almighty over the roar of destructive wind is right and good and blessed.

“What does God expect of me?” is a critical question to ask, but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that many of the heroes of faith and the heroes who will emerge after this storm will first have to say, “God, I expected a lot more from you.” I can’t imagine saying to a mother whose children were literally ripped from her arms by the greedy tides that “you shouldn’t be pissed at God. Ask what God expects from you right now.” I think that all God expects of that mother is to survive.

This is going to sound patronizing of me so I apologize to anyone hurt by this storm who reads this. There is a necessary sensitivity to our words in the face of human suffering. If the victims (and yes, they are victims) stay too long in this place of challenge and struggle, then they miss the opportunity to answer the call to serve and rise up and rebuild and resurrect. Job wrestles with God for chapters and chapters and chapters until finally God hears enough and slaps him back into place. But God does give space for Job to wrestle.

I would humbly request, that you would give space to the victims of Sandy to wrestle as well.

Smoke rises after an Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip, as seen from the IsraeliAs the morning began in Gaza today, Israeli attacks destroyed a United Nations depot that contained significant amount of relief supplies and food.

As the morning began in Gaza today, reporters took cover from Israeli bullets that penetrated an Associated Press office.

As the morning began in Gaza today, shells exploded upon a hospital causing damage to structure, patients and what little security Palestinians had left in the one place that they thought was safe from Israeli fire and death.

For all that the Israeli government says about how it is doing its best to avoid civilian casualties, clearly their ability to do so is limited.  The UN estimates that at least half of all Palestinian casualties are civilian.  If Israel suspects that  a Hamas leader is in an apartment building, they will destroy the whole building, regardless of who is in it.  Even if that weren’t the policy (by the way, the US has a similar policy in which operations expected to kill up to 30 civlian casualties in pursuit of a known terrorist do not need White House approval), war is far less accurate than we think. 

The destruction of the UN depot reveals either the reality of how inaccurate war is OR absolute malice on the part of Israel to destroy United Nations relief supplies.  I choose to believe the former, but either scenario makes it clear that this war cannot continue.  Israel apologized for destroying the UN facility.  Will they apologize to the children who starve because the food was destroyed?  Will an apology make a difference?

Sometimes I just don’t understand.

In what is supposed to be one of the holiest places on earth, there is so incredibly much injustice, violence and death.

I have been to Palestine and Israel.  I’ve talked to Israeli settlers who sit in well-watered communities with green grass and swimming pools while Palestinians live beneath them with so little water that they are lucky to have drinking water through the week, let alone a shower.  I’ve met with Palestinian refugees–one man in particular sticks in my mind:  his deepest prayer was to have good dreams again, like he did when he was a boy, before he was forced off his land.  I met a Palestinian woman who cried because one of the members of our team said she wanted to purcahse souveniers from Palestinians. 

I’m also good friends with a Rabbi who studied in Israel.  The pizza parlor beneath her apartment blew up one day and human remains were stuck in the tree outside her window.  Before then, she ate there almost every day.  Few things decay our sense of security more than violence in the places we take for granted. 

I have been upset over the painful relationship between Israel and Palestine that seems to me to be nothing short of an apartheid government.  I have been ashamed of my country’s blank check that we give to Israel to do whatever it wants with the billions of dollars that we send them. 

Never have I been more appalled or more ashamed than I am now.

I never dreamed  the depth of indifference to human life that has been exhibited over the past weeks.  It grieves my soul when three hours is the most the government can muster to allow in food and fuel to people who are literally starving to death…when the world’s cries of human rights violations and injustice fall upon the deaf ears of the Israeli prime minister and American president…when the already frail credibility of the United states crumbles with each Palestinian building…when praise to God is silenced in Mosques by American missles fired from Israeli jets…when relief workers are killed, trying to bring food and medicine to a hospital.

The holiness of the Holy Lands erodes before us.

Hamas should not fire rockets.  Israel should not have closed the borders to sever Gaza’s lifeline to the rest of the world.  Hamas should not have instigated suicide bombings or rocket fire.  Israel should not have taken away water supplies.  Hamas should not have…   The list of “should nots” dominates the history of Israel and Palestine since Israel’s modern inception. 

When will the Holy Lands lead the world by demonstrating the way that the world should be instead of just the way it shouldn’t be?

When will the Holy Lands show the world, once again, what it means to be holy?

There are pockets of hope.  Christian Peacemakers Team, Women in Black, Elias Chacour, Foreign and Domestic Doctors–Palestinians, Israelis and worlwide citizens are out there offering hope.  I pray for the day when their story of should prevails over what shouldn’t be.

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