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Haiti Survivors Blessed?

Haiti Survivors Blessed?


Some Haiti survivors believe that they were chosen by God to survive the tragedy.  It's a common mistake.  Those who survive any treacherous circumstance feel lucky, even though someone has to survive.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Drumbeats called the faithful to a Sunday Mass praising God amid a scene resembling the Apocalypse - a collapsed cathedral in a city cloaked with the smell of death, where aid is slow to reach survivors and rescue crews battle to pry an ever-smaller number of the living from the ruins.

Sunlight streamed through what little was left of blown-out stained windows as the Rev. Eric Toussaint preached to a small crowd of survivors. A rotting body lay in its main entrance.

"Why give thanks to God? Because we are here," Toussaint said. "We say 'Thank you God.' What happened is the will of God. We are in the hands of God now."

In a huge disaster in an area densely packed with people, it is extremely likely that some people will be in the areas that happen to remain structurally sound.  They aren't blessed, they aren't lucky: someone had to be there, and it happened to be them.  The lucky ones who happen to be under a support that survives the tumble will be amazed at their incredible good fortune.

But when you are the one who experiences this “luck” it is overwhelmingly difficult separate one's subjective experience of the world from this objective analysis.  When a terribly tragedy befalls us, our instinct is to call foul believe an injustice has occurred.  Similarly, when we are fortunate beyond our wildest dreams, we must be “blessed.” My grandfather survived the holocaust by the barest of threads, and never understood that God need not have favored him in order for him to have experienced good fortune. Damage in downtown Port-au-PrinceMany died and many survived -- some just barely. His story happened to be one of the latter.

200,000 people may have died in Haiti.  But the capital, Port-au-Prince, where population was most dense in the earthquake's affected area, had a population over 700,000.  That means, yes, you were lucky if were among the survivors.  But you would be in the company of at least half a million other people.

If God had control over the entire situation, why would he callously exterminate the equivalent of a small city full of his children?  What father, however angry, could stomach such tragedy in his own family, let alone cause it?

I find it hard to believe how such a presence could be comforting to the religious.  I know the Earth is composed of tectonic plates, and that in their never stopping ballet, a missed step can destroy a city.  It is awesome, it is moving, and it is not at all depressing to inhabit such an Earth.  This is our home, and though we are the closest thing to Gods here, we sometimes fail to tame it.  That is a much more comforting picture than a jealous, secretive and unpredictable entity that enjoys sometimes destroying lives.

If God exists, he cannot be just and he cannot love us equally.  He doesn't care what we build here on Earth.  I would feel better knowing that as masters of our own destiny, we have incredible responsibility to make use of our power, and yet at the same time must tread cautiously, because nature is unpredictable.

If praying to God in a tragedy makes you feel better, no one should deny you your comfort.  But you might find more comfort knowing that there are other ways to feel good, without sacrificing your critical faculties.  Perhaps institutions of a new kind have not reached Haiti, and so maybe Jesus is all they have.

The Haiti survivors are not blessed, they are mathematically necessary.  If God can be given a role in these events, it is as the villain.  Events like this should shake, rather than reinforce any faith we might still be clinging to.



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