Pastor of St. Louis Family Church in Chesterfield County, MO
(the church was destroyed in the flood of 1993)
What can you say to people who are like Job? What can you say to that kind of pain? My hope is that people will read the stories of the suffering and act.
My brother went down to Mississippi on Sunday night with a team of people from our church. Yesterday [Aug. 31] he helped pull a tree off an 81-year-old lady's house and tarped it up before it rained again. We need someone to adopt this lady.
A guy in our church got his company to donate 15,000 bottles of water and a bunch of chainsaws and he headed down to New Orleans to help. A bunch of us are on our way there now and are trying to figure out ways to help house the refugees for as long as they need it.
There isn't any rhetoric, there's no pat answers. And in a lot of ways this isn't the time for theological debates or speculation; it is a time for action. The Bible promises that "He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Nothing anyone says is going to make a difference for the people who are suffering; it is only what I do. It is doers who are needed now: Honor God, help people. Billy Graham
Whenever any disaster like this strikes, we often ask ourselves why. Why did God let this happen? I have been asked that question hundreds of times, and I have to confess that I do not know the full answer. I can recall walking through the aftermath of hurricanes in Florida and South Carolina, and a typhoon in India that killed tens of thousands, and earthquakes in California and Guatemala, and every time I have asked `Why?' Job in the Bible asked the same question thousands of years ago, and his only answer was that God's ways are often beyond our understanding, and yet He is sovereign and He can still be trusted. The Bible says evil is a mystery. Someday we will understand, but not now. I do know this, however: God knows what we are going through, and He still loves us and cares about us. In the midst of suffering and tragedy we can turn to Him for the comfort and help we need. Times like this will make us react in one of two ways: Either we will become bitter and angry--or we will realize our need of God and turn to Him in faith and trust, even if we don't understand. The Bible says, `He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds' (Psalm 147:3). The Bible also promises, `When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. ...Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you' (Isaiah 43:2,4). May this tragedy make each of us realize our need of God, and may we turn to Christ in repentance and faith and find our hope in Him.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor of Tikkun
There is one beautiful thing that sometimes happens during these kind of emergencies: the cynical realism that teaches us that people just care about themselves, a teaching that makes most of us feel scared to be "too generous" or "too idealistic" temporarily falls away, and people are allowed to be their most generous and loving selves. When the restraints are momentarily down, there is a huge outpouring of love, generosity and kindness on the part of many Americans. People do things like this that I saw yesterday: advertising on the internet's Craig's List that they are willing to take in to their own home for many months a family that has been displaced by the floods. This kind of selflessness is something that people actually yearn to let out, but under ordinary circumstances they'd fear to do so. So watch the goodness show itself. Not to deny that ugliness will also appear. ...It's hard to witness this perversity on the part of both looters and police without a deep sadness of heart about the depths of depravity that reveal themselves in these moments. For me, this is a prayerful moment, entering the period just before the Jewish High Holidays (starting Oct. 3), realizing that the Jewish tradition of taking ten days of reflection, repentance and atonement is so badly needed not just by Jews but by everyone on the planet. America, indeed the whole world, needs to STOP and reflect, repent and atone, and find a new path, and return to the deepest truths of love, kindness, generosity, non-violence and peace.
Founding Pastor of The Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia
Lama Surya Das
Buddhist Teacher & Founder of the Dzogchen Foundation
How to handle losing everything? No words will suffice. Yet Buddhist wisdom reminds us here again about impermanence and evanescence, and the benefits of being able to let go, patiently forbear and accept. One of the prime virtues of adversity is to take this naked moment to reflect upon what really matters and is most important in life, and learn to balance our grief, fear, anger, and loss with appreciation for the fact that we are alive at all. Let's realize that the most important thing, ultimately, cannot be lost; and that it is incumbent upon each of us to find and cleave to that, however we may conceive of it, beyond life and death. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Founder, American Society for Muslim Advancement
The Prophet Muhammad taught that among those receiving Divine grace are all who die by drowning, in an earthquake, in a fire, plague or epidemic, from a stomach disease, including women who die in childbirth. All these souls are considered to have witnessed the Truth, thus they receive a heavenly rank. But God anticipates our next question pertaining to the survivors of such calamity and hastens to remind us: "We shall certainly test you by some [combination] of fear, hunger, loss of worldly goods, of lives and of [labor's] fruits.but assure those who are patient in adversity, who when calamity befalls them assert `Certainly we belong to God and surely we are returning to Him [inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji`un]. Upon these shall flow their Lord's Prayers and Mercy; for they are the guided.'" This explains Muslims' urging their co-religionists touched by calamity to express patience [sabr]... Like college exams, we go through divine tests to achieve the rewards that accrue from doing well on them: Thus the spiritual tests facing the survivors and the rest of us include: how will we respond? Will we be angry with God? Or will we be grateful for the ultimate grace God has promised those taken into His mercy? And how will we contend with our fear, hunger, loss of worldly goods and of the fruit of our life-work? Can we remain steadfast in the face of adversity? Will we act in accordance with the best of what it means to be human: doing good, being compassionate and supportive to those who need our help? Father John Matusiak
Archpriest (Orthodox Church in America)
Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath have left us stunned and speechless, to the point that there is little of comfort that we can say, other than the three simple words that characterize so much of the Orthodox Church's worship: "Lord, have mercy."
Have mercy on those who lost their homes, their jobs, their possessions, and their loved ones. Have mercy on those who are in danger of losing their hope as well. Have mercy on those who, laying aside their own losses, have reached out to others, have rescued the elderly and infirm and infants, the "least of the brethren" and the poor and the vulnerable. Have mercy on those who, in the face of human tragedy, have acted in less than humane ways. Have mercy on those share what little they have with those who have been left with less. Have mercy on those who, while not directly affected by the disaster, display empathy, offer prayers, and share their blessings. And have mercy on those whose hearts are hardened or who are indifferent, relieved that they had been spared while failing to relieve the suffering of others. Again, let us say, "Lord, have mercy!"
Litany for Katrina victims, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
who bore the Christ across the waters,
deliver us from the waters of this flood.
Good Saint Anthony, Patron of the lost,
lead all who are stranded or homeless
back to those who love them.
Notre Dame de Bon Secours,
patron of New Orleans,
be with those who suffer so greatly.
Good Saint Joseph, patron of Baton Rouge,
comfort those who have lost the ones they loved,
and bring them peace.
Lord Jesus Christ,
who descended into hell, and rose again,
raise up all who are fallen, broken or alone.
Professor of New Testament at Asbury Methodist Seminary
What should we say to those who are suffering from hurricane Katrina, or any of the other things that plague us quite unexpectedly? I would suggest that we be wise enough not to make snap judgments and glib pronouncements. Sometimes, but only sometimes, it is clear that human beings get themselves in a mess and are allowed to experience the natural consequences of their actions. But most of life's tragedies do not fall into this category, and hurricane Katrina certainly does not. Most events are a bit less transparent than that when it comes to connections between sin and judgment or between disasters and the Judge of all human beings. We would probably do better to follow the wisdom of Corrie ten Boom. When asked by a Jewish violinist who had had her fingers smashed in the death camp called Ravensbruck, "How can you believe in a God of love who would allow this to happen to me?" Corrie reflected and told the woman she did not know why that hideous thing had happened to her. But then she said "But what I do know is that no pit is so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." Our faith is based on grace moments that reveal God's character. We know that God can turn the worst disaster or tragedy into a triumph. Look at the cross and remember: "God works all things together for the good, for those who love Him" (Rom. 8). David Wolpe
Rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles The teaching of Judaism is that while the world changes, there is permanence. There is continuity in memory, in connections between people, in God. Although much in this world might be lost, it is reclaimed through recollection. Part of the understanding to be wrested from any tragedy is that everything has not been rendered meaningless by loss. Even something so fixed and durable as a home is not ultimately what lasts. The abidingness of life is found in others, and in God. There will be much to mourn for many who have lived through this terrible tragedy. Nothing can obliterate the horrible pain, the sense of life's work having been swept away, the helplessness and violation. Yet Judaism adjures us to remember that which lasts. It is in our power to ensure that no storm can blow away memory, and no floods wash away faith.
Life is a like a fast-flowing, turbulent river that we must cross in order to get to the other side. We hold the hands of our loved ones in this journey; we hold on to worldly attachments; and many of us consciously make God the Guide in this journey. In crossing the river of life, we may occasionally lose our footing; lose the hand of our loved ones; see our worldly goods washed away; and as human beings feeling deep pain, confusion, and despair, we are likely to forget the presence of God.
"The Supreme Lord is too near
To be abandoned,
Too close to be witnessed.
Behold Nature's splendor
And the Lord's divine poetry
Both are beyond decay and death."
(Atharva Veda. 10.8.32)
It is at these times, when we need God most, that we need to recall another side of our relationship with That All-Compassionate, All-Powerful, Loving Being--the relationship of surrender. It is almost like letting go (in swimming), so you can float on the water. In surrendering, we "let Go and let GOD." When we surrender, then the sudden showers of God's love rain on us, bathing the soul in celestial joy.
Dr. (Mani) Yegnasubramanian
Teacher of Vedic Scriptures
Loss of dear lives cannot be made up at all. Acts of god are always mysterious and peculiar. Questions of "why" can remain unanswered forever. Even if answered, that answer cannot bring the lost lives.
But there is definite hope and solace. Physical, mental, spiritual, and financial distress, during and after this great tragedy, though very challenging, can certainly be dealt with. There are around 5 billion humans around the world to share the emotion, and so many of them are willing to step forward with love and compassion. As the Bhagavad Gita affirms, the display of that love and compassion also is the glory of god only!
Hindu Scriptures reiterate that dharma always triumphs and helps humankind to look up and move forward. As the Hindus believe, the One Lord assumes various forms and comes from all directions to deal with calamities and re-establish normal life. With that conviction, let every one reassure themselves, rise up to the hour, assess what needs to be done, and keep moving on. Faith in the Lord, love, and determination will always help achieve all noble goals.