Thursday, September 08, 2005

Katrina and the Cross

Much speculation in religious circles has accompanied the destruction wrought by Katrina. Some of it has to do with the event as a purification or cleansing of the area because of its immorality and unholy interest in evil spirits. I recently learned that there was to be a "southern decadence" festival in New Orleans over Labor Day weekend, which Katrina effectively cancelled (except, from what I've heard, for a few debauched die-hards). Perhaps this area was indeed a prime candidate for a powerful purification and warning. Let's see what this might mean.

When I was praying a couple of days ago about this whole situation, I saw in my mind's eye an immense crucifix suspended over the devastated area. Does that mean that those who suffered from the hurricane were innocent victims like Christ? Undoubtedly many were innocent, but surely many were not. The rampant sexual license of the city, as well as its renowned voodoo practices, make it clear that it was something not too far removed from Sodom and Gomorrah.

But what then does the Cross over the city mean? Shall we speak of the "wrath of God"? I mentioned that myself a few days ago, though I neglected to explain what that entails. Although the Scriptures often use terms like "anger" or "wrath," they do not mean merely what we observe or experience as human rage or anger. God does not get red in the face and lose emotional control and lash out irrationally at the object of his anger. God's "wrath" is a dimension of his love.

You see, God loves all people, even evildoers in a decadent place. But his love is not some flaccid sentimentality that turns a blind eye to the truth. So when God's love is faced with human wickedness, what happens (in one way or another) is that his "wrath" is exercised for the sake of both justice and mercy (for in God there is no conflict or opposition between the two). God's wrath includes his absolute intolerance of evil, his grief over its effects, his righteous justice, and his longing to heal, forgive, and save. Read the Prophets and you will see this.

So the Cross over New Orleans offers different things to different people. To the innocent victims it offers strength, hope, and a personal share in the deepest inner mystery of the Incarnate God. To the hardened sinners it offers an invitation to repentance, a sign that God requires truth, love, and righteousness of his people, who are now urged to turn to him and change their lives if they would see the salvation He longs to grant them.

"Katrina" means "pure," and the Cross has evidently accompanied her to purify an area noted for its iniquity. There were also many oases of holiness in that place. The Lord will see to it that their good fruit will endure and that the faithful will be rewarded beyond all expectation. But we still may have questions. The answer is always, in one way or another, the Cross, on which Jesus died that we might live: the answer to the questions of God's love and his wrath, God's justice and his mercy, man's wickedness and his hope, man's sorrow and his joy. If you wish to discover the profound answers to life's insoluble problems, go to the Cross of Christ.