Haiti and a Greater Good?

In the aftermath of the terrible earthquake in Haiti on January 12th, already some people are telling us that there may be a brighter side to this catastrophe.  For example, churchmen assure us that God never lets things like this happen, except for a greater good.  The Haitian ambassador to Washington says that he sees a possible “silver lining” to the tragedy, and former President Clinton finds hope in the fact that the world’s attention now is being turned towards that nation which for so long has needed our help.

But is this really the way God works?  Has God decided that he wants at least fifty to a hundred thousand or more souls dispatched all at once to heaven, regardless of their ages or readiness?  Or is this some kind of divine judgment (as TV evangelist Pat Robertson seems to have already hinted—with another destination in mind) against the Haitian people for their widespread addiction to Voodoo practices and beliefs?

Or if even Bill Clinton and the Haitian ambassador are correct, is this a cause for optimism when it takes so much suffering to capture the world’s attention to address a situation that has been increasingly going out of control for so many years?  Instead, one suspects that, at least from the secular side, we’re going to see more blame-laying against the Haitian people themselves for having done next to nothing to control their population growth or to conserve their country’s dwindling resources long after it became evident that they were headed for disaster, even without the added hazards of repeated hurricanes, and now, this devastating earthquake.

I wish I could be as optimistic as the ambassador or our former president. Instead, what I see is a world where either a large portion of the population is in denial that anything is going wrong in terms of our relation to the environment or else is content to let the disasters happen as long as the rich can continue to get richer, even at the expense of the world’s poorest. Haiti is only a small test tube example of what could and probably will happen, sooner or later, on a much broader scale, elsewhere.

Yet, at the same time, none of this shakes my belief in a God who not only wishes better for us, but has chosen to share in our suffering, even if we refuse to cooperate. To my way of thinking, those natural upheavals that afflict the world are a necessary part of the evolutionary process that led to appearance of free creatures like ourselves—in other words, without the existence of chance events, however catastrophic they may sometimes be, there would be for us no choice, no genuine free will, no possibility of real love or commitment. So while these disasters may try our faith, the only realistic response is to do our best to reduce our vulnerability to such disasters and to lessen the suffering when they can’t be avoided, aware that the only real or lasting evil is to have refused to contribute, the best we can, to the world’s betterment.

R W Kropf  1/19/10                          Haiti & Greater Good?.doc      10-01-19.html