Monday, March 21, 2011

Human Compassion..And The Tragedy In Japan

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2) NIV

It is an unusual occurrence for me to open a post with a Bible verse...especially because I call out people who take single verses out of context in order to use them for their own purposes...and here I am taking a single verse out of a larger passage to make a point. However, here I think it fits the story.

We have all been watching events unfold in Japan with a mixture of feelings. For myself, it was a unbelief mixed with horror...I live in a seismically active zone as well and know full well that all that happened to Japan could happen here. First a 9.0 earthquake, then the tsunami took thousands of lives,...but it did not end there. The nuclear crisis has gotten progressively worse while radiation, poor weather, and tsunami debris have severely hampered recovery efforts. For many there is no running water, and a rapidly dwindling food supply. Its a chain of tragedy that is almost too large to comprehend in it's entirety and will become one of those events that may effect the entire world as well as mark a major moment in history.

What has disturbed me lately are the number of religious folk who want to blame the Japanese people for the catastrophe they are still suffering under. Who would kick someone like that when they are that far down? on.

The story in Japan wasn't something we merely read about from a distance. The modern world being what it is, we got to see many moments first hand. The awesome and truly frightening moment as black waters overwhelmed the seawalls and washing away ships, cars, buildings, and peoples homes:

Yet there were nail biting moments such as the people who could be witnessed fleeing from the wave to higher ground and barely making it:

And the triumph of those who did survive:

This was not a disaster that took place an ocean away. This was an event in which you could see the terror in the eyes of those who experienced it as it happened to them. So would not the response to so much human suffering be to extend the utmost to help people get food, medicine, blankets and other essentials? offer your prayers or expressions of sympathy and encouragement? One would hope so.

Another instinctive response to tragedy is to search for a know "why" it happened. Unfortunately, we can go to some very negative places in our search for that meaning. Lately, that need to know why has been seized upon by some who see it as a sign of the end times....and others who would use it as a springboard for their political motives.

Here Rush Limbaugh uses the pain of the Japanese people to attack environmentalism:

And here a pastor makes the claim that the misfortune of Japan will translate into greater economic misfortune for America at about the 1:40 mark:

The theories about why this happened abound. For myself, I find it to be missing the mark to stand back and judge another persons misfortune and claim that it happened because of a wrong they did. None of us know why the terrible things that happen in the world do happen and engaging in this kind of post game analysis before the crisis is even passed is like watching a man who has been  beaten and lying in the street..and then claiming it was all his fault. I would hope that instead of offering our judgements, we could offer our help....for free...and not with a blanket in one hand and a sermon in the other. After all, what would we want to have happen to us if our lives had just been swept out to sea?...When you are heartbroken and grieving? Living in California as I do, I see what happened to Japan and know that it could happen here in a heartbeat....and we are not nearly so well prepared as they. Who would we want to be there to pick us up off the ground?

For ways you can help please visit this rather excellent list of resources over a Huffington Post:

Until next time dear readers....


  1. Bryan..we were talking about this at work today... The Japanese people are just SOOO resilient! They are helping each other..they are crying...but they are looking towards tomorrow and a better life. You really hear no stories about looting or crime. They are all about "helping your neighbor." I wonder..if this had happened here..if it would be the same?

    We have a lot to learn from them....

  2. You know I always find it interesting when people say its a warning from God... If there is a message from God would it not an opportunity for you to redeem yourself and reach out in fellowship to your fellow man. A chance for you to take those who are suffering and offer relief? Is that not truly the case, to offer refuge without question?

    As a person of faith and being gay its usually misconception and twisting of text to their own means that is part of the problem.

    You offer the right message Bryan. We should live by example and offer help without expectation of return. That is truly compassion and hospitality.

    Thank you for your reminder to us all.


  3. I agree with you Bryan. We all must help when there are such disasters happening. It was a nature disaster and these happen by nature. It has nothing to do with religion and God. But I have always wondered how people can live in these areas where a big earthquake can happen any time. How do they deal with that? In Japan they are used to have small earthquakes all the´s a part of there life. I would be a nervous wreck living there I guess:)

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