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John Drew

Tsunami Catastrophe

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: That's ridiculous -- how is that any more 'unnatural' or artifical than me building a

: house, or wearing clothes?

You are correct that building houses and making clothes are "artificial" activities; however, humans have been doing these things for tens of thousands of years, at least, and we have had time to adapt to these practises, the same way many of us have adapted to drinking alcoholic beverages or cows' milk, etc. Doing these "artificial" things is now deeply ingrained in our "nature".

: Or cinema?

True, cinema has been around for over a century now, and some of us have adapted to that, too, but with some of these other new media, I do think there is cause for concern that human nature may not be keeping up with the pace of technological change.

: I fully believe it was part of God's initial design for us to travel in space, since he

: gave us the raw materials to do it (and did not prohibit it).

"Prohibit it"?

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Compassion is fixed in history

Today, in the wake of the Asian tsunami, we are encouraged by the incredible outpouring of aid for its victims, yet also slightly mystified. There have been greater losses of life in recent years. If numbers alone don't determine our response to a disaster, what does? Why did this one command such a response? Looking back at Lisbon [which was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in 1755] helps answer these questions. Lisbon is called "the first modern disaster" because of the reaction it gave rise to. Before then, Europeans were largely indifferent to far-off catastrophes. When they thought about the victims at all, they didn't ask, How can I help? They wondered what the terrible sinners had done to make God so angry. That was how an Italian earthquake as recent as 1693 had been understood. Lisbon was different. It triggered an unprecedented outpouring of concern across Europe. As one historian has noted, stories of the disaster filled "newspaper discussions, entire books, essays, long poems, eyewitness accounts and theatre presentations." Some observers still took the old thunderbolt-from-God view. But the rise of science and the Enlightenment led Voltaire's generation to offer a new interpretation. Rather than see earthquakes as a form of communication between heaven and Earth, they were ascribed to natural causes.

Andy Lamey, National Post, January 15

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The dramatic jump in the number of deaths today was due to Indonesia's Health Ministry confirming "the deaths of tens of thousands of people previously listed as missing."

Story here.

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mrmando   
Before then, Europeans were largely indifferent to far-off catastrophes. When they thought about the victims at all, they didn't ask, How can I help? They wondered what the terrible sinners had done to make God so angry.

Interesting piece. I can't fathom why Christians in years past ever attributed natural disasters to God's wrath (or indeed, why Christians like Pat Robertson still do so) when that explanation was clearly refuted by Jesus.

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mrmando   
If we had lived 150 years ago, and the tsunami had happened 150 years ago, we would never have heard of it, or at least not until much late , and its effect would have been diluted.

In Simon Winchester's book about the Krakatoa eruption of 1883, he claims that the disaster was the world's first global media event. (There are plenty of parallels -- not the least of which are that Krakatoa is right next to Sumatra, albeit on the other end of the island from where the Dec. 26 earthquake struck, and most of the people who died in that disaster were killed by tsunamis.)

Winchester also argues that the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia is a long-term consequence of that eruption ... if that's true, one wonders what kind of sociological fallout the tsunami disaster might have.

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mrmando   
Christian right's compassion deficit

More than 100,000 dead in south Asia, but it's business as usual at the web sites of America's Christian right organizations

Falwell, Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family have all added donation links since this article was published.

And for the record, so has the DNC.

If your nonprofit doesn't have the infrastructure in place to send aid directly to victims, then it doesn't make sense for you to solicit the money. We discussed this at my place of employment (I'm the Webmaster for a nonprofit). We take 10% for administrative costs of any money that comes to us

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mrmando   
I fully believe it was part of God's initial design for us to travel in space, since he gave us the raw materials to do it (and did not prohibit it).

I fully believe it was part of God's initial design for us to make sure that widows and orphans have enough to eat, since he gave us the raw materials to do it and commanded us to do it (cf. "The Theology of Larry Norman"). We might be better off fulfilling divine mandates before we get around to filling the spaces left empty for lack of divine prohibition. We have the raw material for cigarettes, and no explicit divine prohibition of them, but that hardly makes them part of God's initial design.

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mrmando   
Yes, of course--but the context was the pace of technological change, not balancing compassion with scientific advance.

I suppose I could agree with your point about space travel and still observe that society pays too much attention to the technological side of God's design and not enough to the compassionate side.

The thing is, though, that I don't believe raw material + lack of prohibition = part of God's design.

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mrmando   

Fair enough. I'll refrain from further off-topic meta-discussion on this tangent.

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: The horrors may just be beginning . . .

Especially if the population here doesn't care much for DNA tests.

: Children accounted for a staggering 40 percent...of Sri Lanka's death toll...

There's nothing "staggering" about this if, as I suspect, children accounted for about the same percentage of the population, period. (Though I must admit I have no idea what the cut-off age for "children" is here.)

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MattPage   
If we had lived 150 years ago, and the tsunami had happened 150 years ago, we would never have heard of it, or at least not until much late , and its effect would have been diluted.

In Simon Winchester's book about the Krakatoa eruption of 1883, he claims that the disaster was the world's first global media event. (There are plenty of parallels -- not the least of which are that Krakatoa is right next to Sumatra, albeit on the other end of the island from where the Dec. 26 earthquake struck, and most of the people who died in that disaster were killed by tsunamis.)

I did think of Krakatoa, which is why I went for 150 years rather than 100. In any case that was slightly different. Wasn't there a black cloud of debris that went round the world (six times?) or something with that one?

Winchester also argues that the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia is a long-term consequence of that eruption ... if that's true, one wonders what kind of sociological fallout the tsunami disaster might have.

Interesting. One could argus as well for the effect that the two world wars (esp. the Holocaust) had on British religion

The horrors may just be beginning:

9 Women Claiming 'Baby 81' in Sri Lanka (AP)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - The infant dubbed "Baby 81" nurses from a bottle of milk and kicks playfully at a pink blanket as nine desperate, heartbroken women quarrel over him

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Link to a link for the article that was too "political" for this thread.

Religions Battle for Souls on Sumatra

Muslim radicals are handing out Qurans with the bags of rice and sugar they distribute to tsunami victims. Christian aid groups have also rushed in, quietly promising salvation in this predominantly Islamic region but fearful their presence could spark sectarian violence.

Associated Press, January 13

Muslim leader warns against Christian evangelism in tsunami disaster zone

A senior Islamic leader warned foreign relief workers Friday of a serious backlash from Muslims if they bring Christian proselytizing to tsunami-struck Sumatra along with humanitarian help.

Canadian Press, January 14

Muslims' suspicions of U.S. motives unlikely to be allayed

This and other stories suggest any hopes Washington may have that its speedy and unstinting support of the rescue effort in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, will outweigh in Islam opposition to the Iraq invasion are unlikely to be fulfilled.

Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun, January 17

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: Peter, I've removed your response so as to save everyone from the benefits of your

: sarcasm.

Alan, there is nothing sarcastic about my point that this thread has had quite a bit of political content practically from day one, and it boggles my mind that you would suddenly make an issue of it NOW.

: If you want inject partisan political rhetoric and arguments . . .

Please tell me what is "partisan" about saying that corrupt governments in the countries to whom we send money and aid have been known to hoard the money and aid and to prevent the money and aid from reaching their intended recipients? Isn't this the sort of thing you think people inclined to send money and aid would want to know about?

Honestly, I have no wish to "inject partisan political rhetoric and arguments" into this thread, but if you keep deleting my posts, you WILL inflame things here.

: Religious elements are appropriate anywere in this board--check the name of the

: website.

Oh, right, so THAT'S why we have a separate forum for specifically religious subjects ...

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Weblog: British Charity Oxfam Wants U.N. to Regulate Aid Groups

In an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, economist Keith Marsden argues that the world may be preparing to give too much tsunami aid to Asia. "If housing, food, health, and education services are supplied free or below cost to refugees for prolonged periods, they may lose the motivation to return to their former jobs or seek new activities," he warns. "Aid has hindered rather than helped the development process in some countries." But more than that, he suggests that aid agencies are overstating the problem just as (he says) they've overstated past emergencies. . . . The article from Marsden, who has worked for both the World Bank and the United Nations, is sure to be the subject of some debate, and his critique of the United Nations may resonate with some critics. But Christian organizations involved in tsunami relief may find themselves on both sides of the issue.

ChristianityToday.com, January 27

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