Thursday, September 01, 2005

Caution: Unpopular Opinion Ahead

Watching the events of the past few days unfold, photo after apocalyptic photo, has placed a sadness and a heaviness in my heart for not only the people of these cities, but for our nation as a whole.

Riots, looting, fires, lawlessness --chaos.

What has happened to us?

Did these things happen after the Tsunami and we just didn't see it? I know the people of London were extremely calm after the recent terrorist attacks. Granted, their homes were not destroyed in London, but hundreds of thousands of people lost everything in Asia and I recall few photos or stories similar to those I'm seeing now along the gulf coast.

"We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," one report states. "Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."

So why have things suddenly come apart in New Orleans? I can't help but want to believe that it is because the people weren't held together very strongly to begin with.

I know this is not a popular thing to say at all. Perhaps I'm acting out of embarassment. I just don't want to believe that America is so fragile and ill prepared for something that scientists have said is coming for years. For goodness sakes, the place was below sea level!

The images I'm seeing are about as close to hell as any I've imagined could exist here on earth. It's as though many of these people have been eagerly awaiting this time. Mayhem. I've always wondered why you always see fires at looted shops. I don't know the answer to that, but I suspect it is symbolic of the explosive release of inner destruction. The fear of being caught is removed and the true nature of the "person" is revealed.

Unfortnately, at times the innocent are made to suffer at the hands of the wicked.
Be certain that God has not forgotten these people.

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matthew 9:36.

Harassed and helpless. Lines of people are waiting right now to get on buses that will take them to a place that is not their home, that will be filled with others who have lost everything. I hurt for them. The fear and sadness must feel like a second flood.

I pray they do not lose hope.

"For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.

For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men."

-- Lamentations 3:31-33

I also pray that we will soon see 'the America I want to believe in' coming to the aid of the people affected by Hurricane Katrina. I know I must also do my part before I can expect anything from others. I am an American. I am thankful to be so.

Am I the only person who feels disappointed by our reaction to this tragedy?


duncan said...

You are right, it is pretty horrifying to see the looting and violence in New Orleans. I've heard a great deal of conflicting information in the media about how much violence there is, how many police there are on the scene, etc etc. There doesn't seem to be any pattern to which media organizations are saying. It's kind of a truism that the media shows the sensational.

I think that, yes, a lot of this occurred after the tsunami but wasn't shown. I think there was already a lot of organized fighting before the tsunami and banditry afterwards, but I am not clear on exactly how much.

With all these qualifications, I agree that the social fabric of New Orleans has ripped apart and it does indicate something we may not want to admit - that there wasn't much cohesion to begin with. I have been there a couple of times and I recall that the crime rate is very high, although that was quite a while back.

Well, I'm getting carried away and I have to get back to work. Interesting post!

Mandy D said...

I found out today that a fellow seminary student lost his father in the storm. What a tremendous loss. I pray that the students and faculty at our sister seminary down there are safe and provided for. They have a difficult time ahead of them with the obvious question: "Why would a loving God let this happen?"

It's so easy to sit in the comfort of my home and turn off the TV when the pictures become too real. The responsiblity we face is asking God what our roles should be in all this.

Isaiah 43:2-3a says: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched; Nor will the flame burn you. For I AM the LORD your GOD, The Holy One of Israel, Your Savior."

I pray for God to be glorified amidst the chaos. I pray for the salvation of multitudes. And I pray that Christians represent our Savior with great love and support for the suffering masses.

flippnsweet said...

Duncan~ Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for not immediately dismissing me as a religious crack pot.

I agree, there probably was quite a bit we did not see surrounding the tsunami disaster. perhaps there was not more looting because there was nothing of value left to take.

I guess I worry that New Orleans is not the only city where tensions are at critical mass. I heard at least ten times today on the elevator and around the office about how "Bush is crazy!" and how this is all his fault. As gas prices rise... so does the anger and people are getting more and more vocal.

It wouldn't take much...

flippnsweet said...

Mandy~ This tragedy touches us all. Hearing your story about a student losing their father makes it so much more real for me. I think I had still been thinking in abstracts and generalities up to that point. Thank you for sharing.
Your continued prayers and support are critical for the many people who are losing or have lost hope.

duncan said...

flippnsweet, I don't think you are a crackpot or even close to one. I have met a few, and have some basis for comparison :-)

It becomes more and more obvious that we are seeing the death of the society that was New Orleans, and most likely the physical death of much of the city. My engineer friend Rick, who went to Tulane (in N.O.) told me 20 years ago that "without levees, most of New Orleans would be just part of the bottom of Lake Ponchartrain". Well, that's now what most of New Orleans is this morning: without levees, and part of the bottom of Lake Ponchartrain. He also told me that this would definitely happen someday, that it was just a matter of time before a big hurricane would roll in just like Katrina would do. It appears that refusing to think about the unthinkable doesn't keep it from happening.

Big governments don't tend to be very nimble or responsive (isn't that one thing that conservatives argue? - I am not bashing them) and that appears to be playing out here. I have worked for some large companies, and I'm familiar with "headquarters mentality" - when ridiculous things are happening in the "field" offices - the real company - we would get memos from HQ explaining what the problem really was, and how it would be addressed by some strategic move or another - menos that showed no real understanding. Yesterday I watched a string of cabinet level officials in Washington pretty calmly explaining how the federal govt was taking steps to help New Orleans, how it had already done this or that, and while on a split screen you could see the most awful chaos, people standing around the Superdome without access to bathrooms and people would needed medication or their kidney dialysis and would die. On our local news last night (channel 9 in DC) there was a story about how Loudon County had assembled a large group of volunteer firefighters and medics, loaded up trucks with supplies and equipment, and was ready to roll to N.O. at 10 am yesterday, at the county's and individuals' expense. Yet they could not get authorization from FEMA and they waited all day until finally leaving last night with some kind of temporary authorization. It was implied, but not explained, that this authorization was required by law before they could leave.

This is a catastrophe beyond what our country has probably ever experienced. It's easy to blame individuals and this is frequently unfair, but on the other hand, without response by individuals who have power, things don't get done, and here, that magnifies this catastrophe.

So my rambling post here skims over a lot of topics, doing none justice, but with some of my thoughts.

tacot4 said...

My heart breaks for ALL of the people in New Orleans. Even the ones who are acting out there fears in a violent manner. Unfortanetly I have to admit I never thought anything to this degree of devastation would happen on American soil. I am extremely dissappointed in the ensuing behavior of those in N.O. But I have to remind myself that the hoodlums that are taking advantage of such a tragedy are not God fearing people. It is my prayer that this disaster will bring thousands to know and believe in Christ our Savior and that they find peace in Him thru this very difficult trial.
Please pray for family in the area, thankfully all are safe but we are sure at least one house has been destroyed in N.O. Also, family on the N.O. police force, they are working non stop so it has been very stressful due to the danger of the situation.
Talk to you soon Flippn.
Your "neighbor"

Mandy D said...

I have family in Oklahoma who heard an interview from the former Gov. Keating. In it, he reminded us that it is the state of Louisiana who is responsible for most of the relief efforts in situations like this. Yes, the federal government must step in the help. But at the same time, people so easily criticize Pres Bush for acting like a god. So, how can we expect him to be one in this case and make it "all better?" Maybe I don't fully understand how all the government proceedures flow...but, I do know that Bush doesn't deserve all our criticism. What good will it do? Will it make the poor people suffering right now feel any better? No. They need us to shut up and act...not just the government, but ALL of us. Isn't that what being American means?

It was 10 years ago this past April that we Oklahomans were devistated by the bombing of the Murrah Building. I remembered that federal help wasn't immediate. Rather, it was the people of Oklahoma and compassionate states around us who came to our aid first. I am encouraged to see my new state, Texas, step up and lend a hand. We welcome these refuges because we want to love and support them.

flippnsweet said...

T~ My prayers are with your family and the people of N.O.

I'm thankful to report that I'm seeing lots of love from my fellow Americans and the outpouring has been amazing. My church is already on the ground running and it is very encouraging to hear the stories of the work that is being done. Shower stations, feeding stations, counseling, financial help. Many people are taking survivors into their homes. What a great opportunity to show Christ's love to the world.

Monkey said...

Well Flippn', here I am, your raging liberal friend. I always enjoy reading your blog. The way you express yourself is so refreshing. I agree with a lot of what you say, but here goes:

In Indonesia after the Tsunami, there was a tremendous amount violence, but in the most part it was their "army" attacking the people, their "mafia" and the rebel forces. Reports of rape, brutal beatings, shootings. The government in Indonesia is so corrupt that many people will never get their land or their homes back. I heard about much of the violence from my friends who live there.

In Thailand as Duncan pointed out, there were different problems. There has been fighting in Thailand for years. But it is less the free-form lawlessness we are seeing in New Orleans, and more the individual factions fighting. In Thailand too, the people are now fighting to get their land back. It is so different there, it is hard to compare the two cultures.

From the little I understand of New Orleans, you have hit the nail on the head. New Orleans has been on the brink of disaster for years. NOT the flood, but social disaster. I've heard there are places in NO where the police don't even bother to go. I don't know, because I'm not there, and it's hard to know what is going on in a community from scattered news reports and reports from those who live there.
So, essentially, New Orleans was a powder keg. Years of a "Lord of the Flies" existence, and you get the kind of complete breakdown you see here.

I'm rambling! My other thought is that I simply don't know what I would do if I were in that situation. No transportation, no communication, no money. If I saw my grandmother or my baby dying, would I killl to protect them? Would I steal TVs to barter them for a way to get out?

The spiritual side of me says that obviously something like that would be a test of my faith. And I would do better to trust in God. I like the passages from the Bible you have chosen. That is the God I believe in, not the wrathful one of my childhood.

In my own life, I have found that having faith and patience is the right path for me. It is what keeps me sane. But I just don't know if I would be able to keep to my values if I felt as helpless, as abandoned and as frightened as those people must feel in New Orleans.

So many big questions. Thanks for writing about this Flippin'. I love the way you make me think.

flippnsweet said...

Oh Monkey, you are my favorite raging liberal friend. I feel certain you would do the right thing when tested. That huge heart of yours cares too much about leaving a lasting legacy for the human child. :)
Your kindness to the meek is evident and inspirational to us all.

flippnsweet said...

Mandy~ Yes, a huge Yee-haw is in order for my home state of Texas! I just talked to my mom today and she tells me my tiny little home town of about 15,000 has taken in a hundred "refugees" and more are on the way. So, some of my old toys and things are going to the single mothers and children displaced by this disaster.

I'm excited. I'm also praying that all of the people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol before this happened, and that have been forced to quit cold turkey, are finding the support and help they need to make a brand new start. I know it has to be HORRIBLE! Stress like this will make them want to crawl further into the bottle.
I'm thinking about the best ways to help out with this. Anyone with ideas, please let me know. Monkey, do you know if the Salvation Army has a special group assigned to this need?

Monkey said...

Flippn'... you are so sweet! Good jaerb hamstray!

Hurray for Texas. Throught the organization MoveOn, I've heard that over 100,000 people have pledged to open up their homes and offer a spare bed or room to many of the displaced people.

As far as relief for alcoholics and drug addicts, it seems that several mental health agencies are trying to address this issue. I'm sure that more than a few deaths might be attributed to alcohol withdrawal, which can be fatal. As an AA devotee, I checked to see if they were doing anything, but there is no news. Maybe local chapters might do something, but it's doubtful due to the AA rules.

So many unthought of disasters springing from one huge disaster. It's unfathomable. I agree with you though. One way to feel less overwhelmed is to do something, no matter how small. Several local kids have set up Lemonade Stands and things. The response has been incredible. People are basically good. I have to believe that.

Mark Pettigrew said...

Years ago, I visited New Orleans, and I found it to be a decadent, hedonistic city. "The Big Easy"? It seemed to me that "The Big Sleazy" might have been a more appropriate nickname.

In subsequent years, I've seen nothing to change that opinion. While I'm sure there are exceptions insofar as individuals are concerned, it seems to me that New Orleans as a city has long been a place where people have flaunted their aversion to Biblical standards of behavior. That's particularly true during the riotously carnal celebration known as Mardi Gras, but it isn't limited to that annual event. New Orleans has long been home to strip clubs, voodoo practitioners, and corrupt politicians.

None of this is to suggest that New Orleans is the only American city characterized by godlessness. Las Vegas is not nicknamed "Sin City" for nothing. (Why anyone would want to brag about living in a city known for its sinfulness is beyond me!) For that matter, Chicago, the city in which I currently live, is hardly an oasis of virtue. (Gangs have ruled portions of this city from the days of Al Capone until the present day. Only the predominant ethnicity of those gangs has changed. As far as sexual morality is concerned, recent titles for dramatic presentations here in the Windy City include "Naked Boys Singing", "The Vagina Monologues", and "Puppetry of the Penis", if you can believe that!)

I won't deny that there were many good things about New Orleans prior to the most recent hurricane. For example, in terms of cuisine, the city made indisputable contributions to American culture. Also, as a jazz piano player, I would be foolish to deny New Orleans' positive contributions to the world of music. Without New Orleans, it's doubtful that the world would have ever heard of Louis Armstrong, Harry Connick, Jr., and many others.

Nevertheless, I think it is certainly true to say that the city of New Orleans has long been in need of a spiritual revival. It should hardly surprise anyone that people known for their out-of-control behavior during the annual Mardi Gras celebration would demonstrate a pronounced prediliction for lawless behavior (rioting, looting, etc.) during a crisis such as the one which has occurred there in recent weeks. (I would be hard pressed to think of anything more stupid than shooting at the very people who are trying to rescue one from a disaster, yet some people in New Orleans did just that.)

In light of the above comments, how should Christians such as myself respond? Should we remind folks that God has sometimes judged and punished cities (such as Sodom and Gomorrah) and even nations (such as Rome) for their continual refusal to live according to his laws, and that there is a good reason why natural disasters are often called "acts of God"? Yes, I think that we should. But we should also understand that events such as these can be an opportunity to spread a positive message of hope and forgiveness, provided that we demonstrate the love and compassion which ought to characterize all Christians.

Ultimately, a city is not its buildings or its land. A city is its people. Whether or not New Orleans is successful in rebuilding in its original location, the survivors will eventually rebuild their lives. The question is, will they rebuild on the shaky moral foundation on which they have built their lives in the past, or will they rebuild on the solid foundation of faith in Jesus Christ? The answer to that question will vary from one individual to the next, but it is up to us to do whatever we can to bring redemption to the people of New Orleans.

Therefore, despite the fact that I've never much admired the people of New Orleans, I applaud those who have rushed to their aid, and who will do so in the coming days. Moreover, I would encourage those who share my Christian beliefs to think about the possibilities this event offers in terms of evangelism. While there will be some who will obstinately refuse to consider the possibility that God might have been trying to send New Orleans a message when he sent Katrina their way, and while there may even be some who will abandon their faith in God as a result of the tragedies they have seen, there may be others who will be led by recent events to reevaluate the general direction of their lives, and perhaps some of those people will "turn over a new leaf" by choosing to serve the Lord. Let us pray that they do.

P.S. For my opinions on these and other subjects, feel free to visit my own blog site (which I started recently) at

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