Written January 12, 2005:
Tsunami Coverage: Why Would God Allow Such Journalism
By Gerry Dantone
Newsday recently published a number of articles and columns that attempted to make sense of the tsunami tragedy in Asia. Other media outlets have done much the same in their own field. In most instances, only religiously based viewpoints were given a forum, and the resulting explanations were at best feeble and at worst self-serving. Objectivity and critical inquiry were not only missing but avoided at all costs.
For example, in the Newsday “Faith” section on 1/10/05 the question posed was “Why would God allow such pain and suffering?” Only clergy were asked in a column called appropriately enough, “Ask the clergy” ( http://www.newsday.com/mynews/ny-lsfaith4107422jan08,0,2990398.story ). Their answers were varied but uniformly unsatisfying. A Church of Christ minister offered that if God eliminated pain and suffering it would become impossible for us to change or heal suggesting that God could prevent tsunamis but has chosen not to. Yet she also said that God does not directly will tsunamis which kill some but not others and is not an omnipotent puppet master that pulls the strings of the universe. That would imply praying for some outcome to be changed by God wouldbe futile and that God is not omnipotent!
A rabbi offered that God was similar to the God of deists: God created the universe and then allowed to run it on its own. Tragedies occur because they are an inevitable part of this world, which would imply God is not either omniscient or omnipotent! If God were, then he/she would have known this would happen when the universe was created - that's what it is to be omnipotent and omniscient, isn't it?
The Catholic priest simply denied God’s responsibility but did not analyze any theological implications.
The best was saved for last, however. The pastor of the Center of Excellence Church International in Copiague noted that Jesus could and did calm storms and earthquakes, for example on the Sea of Galilee. God then allows tragedies to happen in his “permissive will.” Miracles are possible through his “perfect will.” It was Adam’s sin that caused “nature” to fall into “chaos.” Yes, the tsunami is the result of human sin!
In another Newsday article, on page 2 1/9/05, more of the same followed. Another rabbi offered that God allowed it but did not cause it, but empowers us to deal with it. This seems like a weak excuse for a God that presumably could have, if he had wanted to, prevented it altogether. But if God wants to test us, why empower us afterwards?
A minister at the “Circle of Love Ministry” suggested that the tsunami was a fulfillment of the bible and a portent of the second coming of Christ. So the tsunami was a “good” thing!
A Muslim cleric suggested that the tsunami could be seen as a punishment to disobedient people or a tragic event to test them. Without realizing it, this cleric has admitted that one could apply a universe of meaning to any random event.
Star Jones suggested on her TV talk show “The View” that God delayed the tsunami until after Ms. Jones had vacationed in the area, claiming she was "blessed" (and implying that the victims were not). Yes the deity is mindful of the vacation plans of the “blessed!” Does Ms. Jones understand the stupendous ego that is needed to make the claim that SHE is “blessed” and the victims were not? (It was later discovered that Ms. Jones vacationed in the Middle East - somewhat near the afflicted areas but NOT in any such area! She still had the need to insert herself and her buddy, God, into the story, though.)
On CNN an religious orphanage operator claimed God spared his children (but not others). Once again, this implies that God saw fit NOT to spare other children of the wrong faith. Would this God be a monster?
At the same time, some clergy have suggested that God was not responsible for the tragedy but WAS responsible for the outpouring of charity in its wake. Why God couldn't have used his magic to prevent the tsunami in the first place instead of making people respond kindly after the fact?
Newsday columnist Raymond Keating even went so far as to call an existence without a God belief "an empty, hopeless existence" but then immediately admits that "man simply lacks the capacity to fully grasp God's purpose." How does Mr. Keating remain so confident that there is a purpose at play in the universe and that a God is directing anything when he cannot identify the purpose?
Is there a journalist or employed commentator that dares to objectively look at what happened and ask and (God forbid!) attempt to answer these questions reasonably?
Probably somewhere there is, but objectivity and skepticism is still rare. It is this continuing gullibility and credulity that will plague American journalism and the American public and lead us into poor understanding and decision making. In other words, business as usual.