By Carlene Byron
A sinkhole more than 300 feet deep swallowed a three-story building in Guatemala City Monday following a volcanic eruption and three feet of rain from a tropical storm.
Thousands of frogs closed a major highway in Greece last week.
An estimated half million gallons of oil – clumps of sticky goo and plumes of water-suspended droplets – have gushed from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well since April 20, making it the worst oil spill catastrophe in US history, with no end in sight.
This has been a year unparalleled in my experience for disasters both natural and manmade.
Two hundred years ago, if the sky had rained ice-volleyballs from a fiery volcano (Iceland) just three months after an entire city had been flattened by an earthquake (Port au Prince) and more than 30 earthquakes – including one of the largest in recorded history (Chile) – had shaken almost all of the world’s continents in the interim … well, two hundred years ago, churches and temples would have been full of people begging for their god’s mercy.
We’re smarter now, of course. We don’t consult gods. We consult biologists, geologists, seismologists. And they tell us that it’s no big deal at all. The frogs were migrating to find food. The oil spill was the unfortunate result of an incredibly improbable series of failed fail-safes. And there’s no more big earthquakes happening this year than usual. It’s just that they’re happening near centers of population, where we notice them, instead of under the ocean, where they usually occur.
Well. That’s a huge relief.
So we can all write off those Muslim clerics who said that the earthquake that hit Afghanistan was sent by God because women dress immodestly – they let their hair show at the edge of their head scarves and their ankles at the bottom of their skirts.
And if there are any Christians around who are blaming all these crises on sexual immorality or abortionists or even the coming end times, forget it. The scientists tell us there’s nothing unusual to blame on anyone.
What the scientists aren’t calculating (at least, not in public) is the odds of having so many serious crises happen near centers of population and enterprise. I’m not a statistician. But if we usually have a couple thousand deaths from earthquakes in a year, and this year we’ve had a couple hundred thousand, and the magnitude 7 and up earthquakes usually happen offshore and this year we’ve had two (so far) in populated regions … I’d say those are pretty long odds. The kind of odds that make me wonder if something unusual is happening.
I’m not looking for someone else to blame. Goodness knows, if God is trying to get someone’s attention, I expect God is rapping at my own door. As far as I can tell, I’m the one who needs to be running into my house of worship and crying for God to help me know what is true and just and right and most important. Instead, on the day that China was hit by an earthquake that killed 2,039, my husband and I were shopping for a car.
There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. And the question isn’t whether we usually have this many earthquakes. The scientists assure us we do. Nor is the question whether we usually have this many severe earthquakes. Again, science assures us we do. Just as science assures us that it was only an eclipse that caused the sky to darken at the very moment Jesus died on the cross.
The kind of question we must ask is: Why would an eclipse happen at just the moment Jesus died? Can it really be random that so many earthquakes — and other disasters — are happening in populated areas this year?
There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. What is God trying to shake up in your life and mine?