Friday 28 January 2005

"The Phantom Weapons" @ BAGHDAD BURNING

One Iraqi woman's views on the WMD that the Bush administration finally admitted never existed -- an excerpt from her Saturday, Jan. 15, 2005 entry titled "The Phantom Weapons" posted on her blog, BAGHDAD BURNING, at:

"...Terror isn't just worrying about a plane hitting a skyscraper…terrorism is being caught in traffic and hearing the crack of an AK-47 a few meters away because the National Guard wants to let an American humvee or Iraqi official through. Terror is watching your house being raided and knowing that the silliest thing might get you dragged away to Abu Ghraib where soldiers can torture, beat and kill. Terror is that first moment after a series of machine-gun shots, when you lift your head frantically to make sure your loved ones are still in one piece. Terror is trying to pick the shards of glassout of the living-room couch resulting from a nearby explosion and trying not to imagine what would have happened if a person had been sitting there."

"The weapons never existed. It's like having a loved one sentenced to death for a crime they didn't commit - having your country burned and bombed beyond recognition, almost. Then, after two years of grieving for the lost people, and mourning the lost sovereignty, we're told we were innocent of harboring those weapons. We were never a threat to America..."


Her post today (Jan. 27) entitled "Water Anxiety..." gives the reader a graphic sense of how the general population there cope with daily survival, and the intense fear and anxiety connected to the upcoming sham "election." Very poignant and heartreading stuff. I applaud her courage to post her own free thoughts to the world in this manner - but one must wonder how long she'll have access to the internet under such conditions. Long live the bloggers!


Thursday 27 January 2005

How can this possibly be called "an election" in Iraq -- are we insane?

Here are a couple of up-to-the minute "man on the street" interviews of typical residents of Iraq. They portray rather bluntly how this election is being jammed down their throats by the Americans with no good results likely to come from it this Sunday. Insecurity and fear have actually been heightened to unfathomable levels. There are indications from some sectors of the populace who fear if they don't vote they will have their food rations cut off. and

Its all being corroborated by another article posted yesterday (Jan. 26, 2005) by Linda S. Heard, staff writer for Gulf News:

"Iraqi Election 'A Done Deal'; Villagers Forced To Vote For Allawi To Keep Food Rations "

Forgive me if I cannot whip up too much excitement over the coming Iraqi elections. Apart from my innate scepticism as to US intentions after its pretexts for going to war were blown apart, the words of an Iraqi diplomat who insisted he was a close friend of Eyad Allawi add fuel to the embers.

"The outcome of the elections is more or less a done deal," he told me. "Allawi is set to continue."

I took this statement with a fistful of salt until I read this in last Sunday's Times: "fears of a takeover by Shiite clerics have prompted speculation that Washington might have been trying to strike a deal with Al Sistani to keep Allawi as prime minister after the election".

Tipped to oust Allawi is head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq Abdul-Aziz Al Hakim and he is clamoring for American troops to go home pronto.

Since Bush has promised the occupying forces will abide by the wishes of a sovereign Iraqi government, his call could prove embarrassing.

Let's face it, US troops aren't about to go anywhere especially since neighbouring Iran features large on the 2005 pre-emption menu.

We would have to be either naive or on Prozac to believe the Bush administration is poised to walk off into the sunset sans oil and sans face, leaving an Iraqi government representing the Shiite majority free to cosy up to the Iranian ayatollahs.

Even if the United States isn't engaged in manipulative hanky panky, the election is defective from the start.

UN monitors are understandably scarce on the ground and three or four Sunni provinces (containing almost half the country's entire population) will be virtually excluded due to rising levels of violence.

Allawi's attempt

Indeed, heralding the new Iraqi democracy are closed borders and airport, travel restrictions and curfews, while candidates and the location of polling stations will remain secret until the last minute.

Allawi's bid already looks suspect after he doled out $100 bills to reporters hoping for favorable coverage.

The Riverbend girl blogger refuses to be seduced. She says she found an "Elect Allawi" pamphlet promising "security and prosperity for occupied Iraq", which fitted nicely at the bottom of a parakeet's cage.

She complains: "People in many areas are being told that if they don't vote * the food and supply rations we are supposed to get monthly will be cut off," and asks, "what sort of democracy is it when you force people to go vote for someone or another they don't want?"

The idea that Allawi has a mega following is frankly laughable. This is a former Baathist who fell out with Saddam Hussain and forged links with the CIA.

Few had even heard of him before he replaced Ahmad Chalabi in the Pentagon's affections. So low has Chalabi sunk that the interim Iraqi Defence Minister is threatening to hand him over to Jordan where he was convicted in absentia for embezzlement.

Allawi cheered on the flattening of Fallujah and supports the American military presence, so it is hardly likely he would attract a significant popular vote.

Iraqis know that Allawi perpetuates the lie their country is now a sovereign state.

Clearly aware who his masters are, Allawi's speech before the US Congress was ridiculed as being designed to aid Bush's re-election and probably dreamt up by Bush's own speechwriters.

"We are succeeding in Iraq," he said, before thanking his audience for "your brave vote in 2002 to authorize American men and women to go to war to liberate my country * ".

No condemnation concerning the use of cluster bombs, which are regularly responsible for small children losing their limbs. No condemnation of the use of depleted uranium tank shells responsible for a prevalence in birth defects and cancers.

No condemnation of the deaths of up to 100,000 Iraqi civilians and not a word about the torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Allawi is no patriot and if he remains prime minister after the vote, then, as far as I am concerned it was a sham, a pre-arranged set-up just as the Iraqi diplomat confided it would be.

The release of an audio tape by the elusive Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, which announces: "We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology" just days before the election, is strangely reminiscent of that released by the even more elusive Osama Bin Laden days before the US vote, said to have swayed voters in Bush's direction.

Fit the profile

"Evil principle of democracy?" Bush always said that they, the terrorists, hate democracy. It looks like Zarqawi is only too happy to fit the profile.

If you believe that anyone believes democracy is evil, I've got a nice Egyptian pyramid I'd like to sell you with a free camel if you purchase two.

Donald Rumsfeld was quick to acknowledge that this election will be far from perfect but believes a flawed election is better than no election.

The trouble is democracy isn't a loaf of bread. There is no such thing as half democracy. Elections are either comprehensive, inclusive, free and fair or they are not.

Iraqis deserve a prosperous, peaceful and democratic Iraq but I doubt this is possible as long as the occupation forces stay. They have their agenda; the Iraqi people have theirs and both are mutually exclusive.

A paper entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses" drawn up by the Project for a New American Century in 2000 and signed up to by several top members of the Bush administration suggests US troops need to establish a permanent foothold in the Gulf, while keeping a low profile.

Once Iraq is officially stamped a democracy and American soldiers withdraw to a series of permanent bases or behind the walls of the largest and most fortified US embassy in the world, the Strauss-cons will have achieved their objective occupation in democracy's clothing.

Although whether they will be allowed to get away with this giant con is an entirely different matter.

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at


It seems apparent to me this effort is likely to turn out to be one of the largest farces our government has ever "sponsored." The rest of the members of the world community are shaking their heads at us.

Tell me again, just what kind of freedom is it we are trying to export to the rest of the world? Smells exactly like tyranny to me, the very thing we supposedly are fighting against!


Ironic -- are we descending into "dispensable" nation status?

Here's a powerful analysis and provocative indictment -- all evidence-based. It was printed yesterday in the prestigious Financial Times (printed in both England and the US) regarding the rapidly deteriorating standing the US has now with the rest of the world, due to current Bush administration policies.

Written by no less than former neo-con and current writer/thinker at the New America Foundation, Michael Lind, it is entitled "How America Became the World's Dispensable Nation."

Definitely worth your taking the time to read:

It all raises important issues in my mind: If Lind is right, it's going to be a very challenging ride as we go downhill and deal with all the implications as a society... so how does one best prepare for such a journey? Furthermore, what will it take to repair the damage in our relationships within the international community?

So, what do YOU think?


Wednesday 26 January 2005

Jim Wallis and Jon Stewart - "behind the scenes" at the Daily Show

I have been filled with hope (and laughter) while enjoying all the recent interest and positive response generated by Jim Wallis' tour promoting his book "God's Politics."


And I'm especially grateful to read these notes this evening from Wallis himself --a link to which was included in the most recent email from -- proving once again that good humor really does get you a long way down the road!


"Notes from the Road" - A book tour blog by Jim Wallis

1/24/2005 - Thoughts on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

I really enjoyed meeting Jon Stewart last week. Before the show, Jon came back to the "green room" to say hello. I soon realized he had read God's Politics from cover to cover (as his producer told me he had) which, I can tell you, is not always the case with show hosts. Stewart asked some very smart questions about the global poverty issues, the up-coming G8 Summit in the UK, the roles of British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and Prime Minister Tony Blair (both of whom are discussed in the book). I felt Jon's warmth and receptiveness right away to both the issues of justice and the spiritual/faith dimension to it all. We had a good time on the show together, and the audience was very responsive. (It was great to see a youthful audience whooping and hollering for progressive religion!). Jon seemed touched when I shared with him the inscription I wrote in the book to him, "The biblical prophets used humor and truth-telling to help make their point - often satirizing the political leaders of the day. You do both very well and may be in the tradition of those Hebrew prophets!" Sitting there after the segment, we talked a little more and again I felt his keen interest in this connection between spirituality and social change. While Stewart described himself as "secular," I told him there was a moral edge to what he does and encouraged him to keep on. We both expressed a desire
to stay in contact. - Jim Wallis

To watch this "classic" 7+ minute interview go here:


In light of the name of my blog, I just couldn't resist re-posting this -- from today's "Borowitz Report" !




Revised Inaugural Address Offers Clarification, President Hopes Concerned that some in the global community may have been confused by his inaugural address last week, President George W. Bush delivered a simplified version of the speech today, asking the world, "Who's your daddy?"

Advance copies of the revised speech, totaling three words in length, were distributed to the press an hour before Mr. Bush delivered it.

The new speech, which surprised many observers with both its bluntness and its brevity, was "what the president wanted his inaugural address to be in the first place," said a White House aide.

"The president was very concerned that the way the original speech was written, his message about spreading freedom around the world might be misconstrued," the aide said. "For one thing, he was worried that countries might think they had a choice."

For additional clarification, the White House issued the following addendum to Mr. Bush's pledge to spread freedom: "Offer not available in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or China; see repressive regime for details."

Mr. Bush had argued last week for discarding the text of his twenty-minute inaugural address in favor of the simpler, more streamlined "Who's your daddy?", but was overruled because "you can't spend $40 million on an inauguration and just say three words," the aide said.

Response to the president's revised speech was muted in world capitals today, with only British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirming that Mr. Bush was, in fact, their daddy....

Will we only pretend to protect "the sanctity of human life" ??

The following paragraphs are excerpts from an article researched and written by Sharon Lerner, a senior fellow at the Center for New York City Affairs at Milano Graduate School, New School University. It was posted on the internet (at AlterNet) Jan. 22, 2005.

These harsh realities must be acknowledged and grappled with by those of us opposed to abortion (myself included.) It is a severe injustice to merely stand idly by, or to try to avoid these dramatic effects of misguided policies, especially when we enter into discussions (whether it be at the national, state-by-state, or local efforts) regarding overturning Roe vs. Wade. Otherwise, I fear the current Mississippi experience will get repeated all over the country -- and how can we possibly claim that such a reality represents moral or spiritual progress? -Clair


Thirty-two years ago the right to have an abortion was affirmed by the Supreme Court. Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi is marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade with an official proclamation declaring the seven days leading up to the anniversary "a week of prayer regarding the sanctity of human life." Barbour also authorized the placement of tiny white crosses on the lawn of the state Capitol "in memory of the unborn children who die each day in America," according to the decree. The crosses have been planted for the past three years... Barbour is a Republican, but it should be noted that the tradition of transforming the Capitol lawn into a symbolic mini-graveyard was begun by the previous governor of Mississippi, who was a Democrat.


With the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, Mississippi's low number of abortions is not an illustration of the "safe, legal and rare" ideal that many talk about, in which a decline in unwanted pregnancies creates a corresponding drop in abortions. Rather, it is the direct consequence of concerted opposition to abortion from the grassroots to all levels of government. Such concern for the rights of fetuses does not appear to translate into a commitment to promoting the well-being of the children they may become. The uncomfortable irony for an opposition movement purportedly concerned with saving "innocent babies" is that restrictions on abortion are associated with worse outcomes for actual babies. Indeed, children fare terribly in Mississippi.

The state with arguably the least access to abortion also has the second-highest rate of child poverty in the country, according to the Children's Defense Fund. Mississippi's infant mortality rate - a good indication of the health of both women and children - is the highest in the country. For every 1,000 live births, 10.5 infants under age 1 die in Mississippi. In parts of the impoverished Delta region, that number ranges up to 18. (The national infant mortality rate, by comparison, is 6.8.) Interestingly, a post-election comparison found that "red" states had higher infant mortality rates than "blue" ones. In general, states that restrict abortion spend far less money per child than pro-choice states on services such as foster care, education, welfare and the adoption of children who have physical and mental disabilities, according to a 2000 book by political scientist Jean Reith Schroedel.

Schroedel also found that women in anti-abortion states are worse off than their counterparts in pro-choice states. They suffer from lower levels of education, higher levels of poverty and a larger gender gap in earnings. They are also less likely to enjoy mandated insurance coverage for minimum hospital stays after childbirth. Together, the conditions make for an abysmal reality for women in Mississippi, which came in 51st in a 2004 ranking of the status of women in the 50 states and Washington, DC, published by the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

The poverty of women in Mississippi both increases their need for abortions and their difficulty in obtaining them. In the poorest state in the country, where more than one in five women lack health insurance and live below the poverty line, girls and women are often unable to get birth control. Only about two in five women and teens in Mississippi who need publicly financed contraception receive it, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which does research on reproductive issues. Though the inability to prevent unwanted pregnancies makes women only more likely to want abortions, many of the forces behind the anti-abortion movement here also oppose contraception. Pro-Life Mississippi, for instance, regularly protests the only Planned Parenthood office in Mississippi, which is in Hattiesburg, even though it provides only birth control, not abortion.


Mississippi forbids facilities that receive public money from performing abortions and bans Medicaid funding for them. Though the law officially makes exceptions for cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly and danger to the woman's life, clinic staff say they have not once succeeded in collecting Medicaid reimbursement in these cases. "We've filed for it and we've never been paid for them, and so we don't even file anymore," says Susan Hill, the Jackson Women's Health Organization's president. Hill, who was a social worker before Roe, says, "Mississippi is like the rest of the country was before 1973." Women who arrive at her clinic "have that same look in the eye now," she explains. "They have to go through the same kind of struggles."


Virtually every possible restriction on the procedure exists here, from a mandatory 24-hour waiting period after counseling, to a requirement that minors obtain the consent of both parents to have an abortion, to 35 pages of regulations dealing with such physical characteristics as the width of a clinic's hallways and the size of its parking lot. The mounting restrictions (Mississippi passed six anti-abortion laws last year alone) have delighted anti-abortion activists all over the country, who have hailed - and copied - the state's innovations.

Meanwhile, pro-choice activists see Mississippi as a glimpse of what might become the norm in a possible post-Roe future. "It's the canary dying in the mine," says Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. If the Supreme Court were to reverse the decision, abortion would likely become illegal in 30 states, including Mississippi, according to a 2004 report by the center. Across what can seem like a great divide, the 20 other states have laws, constitutions or court decisions that would protect the basic right to abortion even if Roe falls. While some of these, including New York and Washington State, which both decriminalized abortion before 1973, will likely remain strongly pro-choice, others may pass restrictive laws like Mississippi's.

(end of excerpts)

We too easily write people off who don't agree with our personal position on this divisive subject of abortion. In my own experience, ameliorated over the years by direct, mutually-respectful discussions with a number of pro-choice friends and acquaintances, I have found most of them to be very thoughtful people exercising great conscience. (All will say they are pro-choice and NOT pro-abortion.) And to my recollection they all -- virtually without exception -- have been concerned precisely about the important moral and spiritual issues I've highlighted above.

The challenge is before us -- we have got to work together to find a better way...

Are there any readers here from Mississippi who might care to comment? Or who could verify the realities depicted above?

Chaplain Clair Hochstetler, Goshen, IN

Wednesday 19 January 2005

The Transformation Of The American Republic Into The American Empire

I came across a powerful essay yesterday, written just a couple of days earlier by Sean Mayfield. Brace yourself before you read this; some of these concepts are likely to have a jarring effect. While it's certainly provocative writing (and one could argue that perhaps Mayfield is a bit too hard on Dobson near the end--or maybe not, if you read what's behind the link he provides...) this caused me to mull over what Jesus himself would feel compelled to say if he were here in our country during the inauguration this week -- when his name will likely get invoked to bless it all -- or at least his Father's name!

Actually, he is here -- and, true to character, challenges those aware of his presence to engage in a very important dialogue involving truth -- truth laced with love and respect, and rooted in faith. Think about it. Didn't he once say he will depend on his followers to speak the truth -- to power -- just as he himself did? And that we shouldn't worry...that the right words will be given to us at just the right time...

Anyway, after I read the following, and had spent some time, first trying to deal with feelings of "righteous indignation", then in reflection, then in more research -- I realized this missive shoots pretty straight about some of the very, very provocative stuff that really is going on at very high levels of power in our country, if we would simply OPEN our eyes! Unfortunately, many of us are either not yet aware of these sources of information, or are unwilling to allow them any credibility because it doesn't jive with our own perceptions of reality.

But I think that was precisely the nature of the work Jesus did -- and most other memorable prophetic followers of his down through history like Martin Luther King, Jr. (whose birthday we just celebrated again on Monday) -- to comfort the afflicted and to afflict "the comfortable."

My hope is this essay, and my "blog", will open some doors to much wider and fruitful discussion. I am very interested in readers' perceptions and comments regarding this revved up transformation of the American Republic into the American Empire. Differing opinions are also always welcome, and encouraged, but only IF one is willing to engage in a true, mutual conversation!


(Note: Highlighted phrases below are links to supporting documentation.)


January 15, 2005
Sean Mayfield, Antipas Ministries

Though struggling in Iraq, the transformation of the American Republic in to the American Empire is rapidly under way. In spite of current setbacks the Pentagon is charging full speed ahead with plans to revamp the military into a force more appropriate for conquest and control of multiple nations. These plans are in line with their agenda to extend US imperial control beyond their already expansive state and to clamp down on dissent and unrest in many "colonial" outposts.

One facet of that plan, not truly remarked upon in the link above is the effort to bring back the death squads, as used by the US in Central America during the 1970's and 80's. What one would think to be a clandestine affair is being reported upon right out there in the open... as recent reports confirm analysis made earlier by many that the US would soon resort to running Central American-style death squads in an effort to crush the insurgency. Sure enough, less than a year after John Negroponte becomes ambassador, news comes out of concrete evidence showing the US plans to subject the Iraqi people to the same terror, torture, and murder as Salvadorans were put through during their own "Negroponte Era."

What is really shameful is that Christians in the US do not really care about such things. There has been no real outrage at what happened at Abu Ghraib... much less Fallujah... and now there is nary a peep about what business Christianity has linking itself up to the running of death squads in conquered Iraq.

Fritz Stern would say this is because American Christianity is more fascist than anything else... and I would be hard pressed to disagree with him. Stern lived through the holocaust and has seen firsthand the transformation from "Christian nation" to fascist empire. The evidence of a transformation to fascism is evident to all who truly desire to see it. Take a look at this quote – which was provided courtesy of the blog, Reality Based Nation:

"These so-called ill-treatments and this torturing... were not, as assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual leaders, subleaders, and men who laid violent hands on internees... It is obvious that there were elements among them who would ill-treat internees, but this ill-treatment was never tolerated."

The blog's purpose for offering the quote was so that people could choose whether it was a statement from Alberto Gonzales or Rudolf Hoess. Can you guess who actually said it? Though it sounds as if something offered up at a US press conference it was in fact a quote from Hoess made during his trial at Nuremberg... for his part in the holocaust of the Jews. How long before America's holocaust begins in full force?

As a side note... I find it interesting that Monsanto is suing farmers over supposed acts of "seed piracy." It seems that when one enters into an agreement with Monsanto to use their seeds... one is not allowed to use new seed produced in crop growth for replanting the following year. This cuts into their profits, since their standing agreement requires farmers to purchase new seeds every year. Without going into too much detail... let me just say that situations such as this, where agribusiness bottom line interests supercede the rights of people to grow crops, are tailor made for having a part in bringing about the famines and pestilences described in the Bible as happening during the end of days.

Another side note is the fact that stories about a pending draft just won't seem to go away. Among recent news items is the following gem from a local paper, which puts out the call for potential draft board members. Things like this just don't happen in a vacuum. Papers, even small-time "hick" papers don't publish stories like this without something being there to make them relevant.

Not too much fanfare was given to the news of the end of the hunt for WMD's in Iraq. This is just another point in the tin wheel of lies that have been offered unchallenged by the resident Christians running the US. The news itself made me feel like when I heard that OJ wasn't going to look for Nicole's killers any longer... I guess I shouldn't be surprised; and really I'm not. There is so much subterfuge being perpetrated by those in power that it can make one a little numb to it at times. Take the news about conservative pundit Armstrong Williams receiving essentially a quarter million dollars worth of payola to stump for Bush legislation on his radio show and other venues. This type of thing ought to engender at least a little surprise from me... but it really doesn't. I find it quite easy to believe that Williams, Leeden, Limbaugh, Liddy, Hannity, O'Reilly, and all the other right-wing media warriors are very much pushing an orchestrated message.

This isn't so much sad as is the fact that American Christians have lapped up their regurgitated utterances when in most cases they are in direct opposition to the clear words of the Bible.
Is all of it a part of some kind of grand plan? Is everything going on in Iraq part of some kind of larger strategy or are we just witnessing the muckity muck of war? Some folks are saying Iraq's further unraveling is part of a strategy to bring about a civil war... which would take the crosshairs off of American troops and make Iraqis place them on each other. Aside from being murderous and cynical if true, it also seems to be a bit of a stretch to think that at this point the US can do anything to turn the hatred earned from what has transpired onto other parties. I am more inclined to think that at best the US is looking for an excuse or avenue to replicate what was done in Fallujah on a larger scale. When measured efforts are not successful the most common option of conquerors is to up the ante.

Upping the ante is exactly what the US is in the process of doing. If they were really interested winning hearts and minds they wouldn't be replicating the nightmare of El Salvador in Iraq. The death squads (which were by the way, supported by US evangelicals) the US used in that nation during the 80's left a hatred and resentment of the US among the populace that still exists in large measure today. As stated by Robert Parry, "By employing the 'Salvador option' in Iraq, the U.S. military would crank up the pain, especially in Sunni Muslim areas where resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been strongest." Cranking up the pain is not something one would normally associate with a "Christian nation"... but then again, the US is no ordinary Christian nation.

The US is instead a nation that merely uses the name of Christ as a bludgeon to beat back those who oppose it... both within and without. This may seem a harsh statement... but what else can one say when such "luminary men of God" as James Dobson give themselves over to winning the battles of this world at all costs? Dobson, who obviously wasn't satisfied with merely mixing psychology and Christianity has now jumped into the ring as one of the Church's most powerful politicos... and in doing so has brought the name of Christ along with him. To men like Dobson morality and ethics are malleable subjects that apply in some cases but don't apply in others. His foray into the world of politics will not sully him, since he long ago passed into the realm of Nicolatia, but will instead further degrade the direction of the marriage between the US and its Christian Church.

What Dobson and his ilk are doing is transforming America into a nation of mindless fascism (there's that word again) who have adulterated the scriptures beyond recognition in an effort to justify their actions. The Bible characterizes this "adulteration" as the sending of "strong delusion."

"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie."
(2 Thessalonians 2:11)

The delusion is here my friends. One can see it everyday within America and its Church. No doubt the world too has been infected by this virulent force... but its roots are firmly entrenched in the "destroying mountain" spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah.

Sunday 16 January 2005

Putting the Tsunami Into Context

April 27, 1421 (Holland) – Sea submerged 72 Dutch counties, killing 100,000.

Nov. 1, 1530 (Holland) – Sea dikes burst, killing 400,000 people.

1642 (China) Floods killed 300,000.

Dec. 30, 1703 (Japan) Earthquake, killing 200,000.

Dec. 30, 1730 (Japan) Earthquake, killing 137,000.

1851-1866 (China) Repeated floods during 15 years. 40-50 million people died.

1887 (China) Yellow River overflow, killing 1.5 million.

1876-78 (India) Drought which killed 5 million. (China) Drought also killed between 9 and 13 million.

1896-97 (India) Combination drought and plague, killing 5 million.

1970 (Bangladesh) Cyclone-driven tidal wave, killing between 300,000 and 500,000

1976 (Guatemala) Earthquake, killing 23,000. Same year an earthquake in Italy, killing 900. Same year in Indonesia an earthquake, killing 9000. Same year in China an earthquake, killing 242,000. Same year in Philippines, offshore quake produced tsunami that killed over 5000.

2004 (Southeast Asia) Underwater earthquake causing tsunami, killing 150,000.

There were no videos, no cable TV, no reporting of personal loss to record all these other disasters. This is not to lessen the impact of what we are presently seeing, but it should help us to understand that catastrophe is not an uncommon experience of humankind on planet earth. In every age, people have lived at risk from natural disasters.

In a recent article on his website, Ralph Kinney Bennet comments:

“I would not dare presume the faintest knowledge of the mind or ways of God, let alone dare to discern His purpose in any disaster. Make no mistake; I acknowledge God’s sovereignty over creation and His power to do anything or cause anything. Thus it is possible for Him to send or withhold destruction. But who of us can pretend to know if or when, where or why?

“I am saddened by the ignorance of those who say such calamities ‘prove there is no God.’ I am astonished at those who would confidently ‘see’ God’s hand in a natural disaster.

“I only know that what is, is. Droughts and earthquakes and floods are physical realities of this earth, this imperfect way station for our souls on their journey into eternity. And when we react to these events with love and sacrifice and selflessness, we become gauges of God’s glory, instruments of His love.

“The advances in communications that have brought this disaster so close to all of us bid fair to create a distorted picture of its place in the greater scheme of things. Knowledge and technology have done and will continue to do wonders in helping us minimize the human cost of such ‘earth events.’ In some case we will indeed be able to predict approaching calamity, issue warnings, and facilitate evacuations.

“But earth abides, and earth surprises, and earth humbles us. And in the history God sees fit to yet give us, this terrible event will take its small place in the long gray columns of statistics that pay grim tribute to the precariousness of our physical lives.”


I hope you find Bennet’s words helpful, instructive, and encouraging. While all of these occurrences certainly do remind us of the brevity and precariousness of life, they do not prevent any one of us from asking the real question: “Where is God in each of these events?” It is not possible to say exactly, and it would be foolish to speculate. Admittedly, Old Testament scriptures allude to certain calamities sent by God on occasions as judgment on a people (the flood of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, Nineveh, Babylon, etc.). But calamities also correspond to natural forces that operate in the earth. Jesus pointed this out in Luke 13:4, where a natural catastrophe, though of a smaller magnitude, did not result from a special judgment of God, but was simply what occurs from time to time. It is not for us to give authoritative interpretations of such things. As Jesus himself said, it is for us to be warned by such events.

I think the message we must hear from all these calamities is this: Life is fragile, brief, and mortal. Every person should prepare now to meet God in the life to come. This is what we should understand when disaster strikes: It could have been us! Had it been, would you and I have been ready to meet the one who sits upon the Throne of the Universe?

Let us remember that God is still in control. No act or event can depreciate God’s sovereignty over the universe that God created. Calamities will come, and calamities will go, but God will always remain the same. Hebrews 1:10-12 says: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.”

It must also be said that God can be found in the midst of efforts to console, to comfort, to help, to alleviate pain, and to restore losses. These are all acts of human compassion that correspond to the loving heart of God, and when we participate in them, we are the instruments God uses to express such unconditional love to humanity. Christian people (myself among them) are motivated to respond in love and compassion because our scriptures say that “God first loved us” – we recognize a God of love sent Jesus, God’s only Son, to earth to live and die among us and to redeem all humankind from a plight far greater than natural catastrophes. In the Gospel of Luke (19:10) Jesus said he came – and he still comes to us – to be with us in our times of need as well as blessing, and to save us from a loss with eternal consequence.

-Chaplain Clair, Goshen Health System, Goshen, IN

(This is also currently posted on the bulletin board in the hall beside my hospital office door.)