The Answer Lies Somewhere Between Pat and Bono

By now we’ve all heard Pat Robertson’s explanation of the tragedy in Haiti. According to him, the earthquake was the result of a pact that Haitians had made with the Devil 200 years ago. As soon as I heard what he said, I posted the following on my Facebook:

“If Pat is correct, and Satan is the ruler of this world, shouldn’t Haiti be the most prosperous nation on the face of the earth?”

Why do some Christians see the need to defend God with bad theology? Why do we feel that we have to have an answer for everything under the sun? If you and I had an answer for everything that took place in this universe we wouldn’t need faith.

On the other hand, there are those like Bono, the lead singer of the band U2, who believe these tragedies are a direct result of poverty. His solution? Foreign aid and lots of it. After all, Western countries don’t have as many disasters because they are rich. But, is that really the answer? According to Rabbi Daniel Lapin, “The problem is not poverty, it is priority.”

Take, for example, the continent of Africa. Since 1970, rich countries have given a staggering $2.74 trillion in aid to African nations, but to no avail. Most African governments are corrupt to the core. The leaders of these nations embezzle most of the foreign aid and the help never gets to where it’s supposed to go.

On December 26th, 2003, over 30,000 victims perished in a massive earthquake that struck the city of Bam in Iran. Being a victim-mentality government, Iranian authorities explained away the death toll inflicted by the quake as a direct result of poverty.

For many, it is very easy to blame poverty for such devastation, however the same people fail to realize that just a few days after the Bam earthquake, the United States had one of the same magnitude, which struck the California town of Paso Robles with almost no casualties. Why? Because it is more important for the corrupt Iranian government to spend billions of dollars on a large-scale nuclear weapons program than it is to retrofit buildings in an earthquake-prone region. People, in their minds, are dispensable.

Right after the quake in Bam, I sent several thousand dollars to one of our pastors in Iran, directing him to use it to help the people in the destroyed city. After a few weeks he sent me several newspaper clippings that showed the wide-spread corruption that was taking place in the midst of all that misery. For example, the German’s rescue dogs were stolen at the airport. Supplies sent by the US were sold on the black market. Iranians were stealing valuables off dead bodies, and to expedite the process, the thieves were cutting off bodies’ arms, fingers and ears with the valuables still on them.

So, if it isn’t the Devil or poverty causing this, then what is?

According to Rabbi Lapin, it is the lack of Biblical worldviews. Whether Americans like it or not, in the United States, the standard bearer of Western civilization, “We have two cultural imperatives embedded deeply within our national DNA. Both flow from the Bible with which our founders were intimately familiar and by means of which they sculpted their worldviews.”

The first cultural imperative is to leave ourselves less vulnerable to nature. Americans believed it was God’s will to developed medicine and medical technology to defeat disease. They found insecticides to protect the food supply and built dams to control rivers. They took God’s commandment to Adam and Eve (“Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.”) seriously. Americans knew they were pleasing God by making the nation safer and more secure for themselves and their neighbors, which then seemed to be blessed.

The second distinctive cultural imperative is the importance of preserving human life, which is driven from America’s Biblical roots and distinguishes her from the peculiar fatalism toward death found in so many other cultures.

As Lapin said, “Together, these two values enshrined in the West in general and in America in particular, are chiefly responsible for the vastly diminished impact that natural disasters inflict upon our society.”

Let me finish this post with Rabbi Lapin’s exact words:

God runs this world with as little supernatural interference as possible. Earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and yes, tsunamis happen. It is called nature, which is not benign. Fortunately God also gave us intelligence and commanded us to make ourselves less vulnerable to nature. He also implanted in us a culture in which each and every life is really important. That is why Deuteronomy chapter thirty states, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live.”

God may have allowed the earthquake to happen, just as he has allowed germs to exist and just as he has allowed cold weather each winter. However under the influence of Biblical culture, people have defended themselves against germs and they have learned how to produce energy to defeat winter’s frigid conditions. A long time ago, in His book, God provided the incentive and encouragement to survive nature. He isn’t to blame for the deaths in the Asian disaster. Many of the deaths are attributable to slowness in adopting the western values that promote technical and economic development along with profound respect for each human life.

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17 thoughts on “The Answer Lies Somewhere Between Pat and Bono

  1. so ive read all of your blogs, never commented, a lot of the times because i felt you were just whiny. i really like the quality of your last 3 or 4 posts, and just thought i should give you a little bit of encouragement. keep going sir.

    your fellow iranian american.

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  2. Once again, you have stimulated my thoughts! I see what you are saying about the lack of adopting Biblical worldview and how that contributes to the result of devastation… I guess I'm having a hard time with the statement “Many of the deaths are attributable to slowness in adopting the western values…” I realize that may be due to conditioning on my part to be skeptical of “western values.” Just something I have to think and wrestle with. Thanks!

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  3. Dear Thinker, Waahoo, thank you for your compliment, how be it a very left-handed one ;-)I was wondering when you were finally going to make a comment. I'm so glad I'm finally writing up to your standards.

    I HOPE YOU KNOW I AM JUST KIDDING. I'm always honored when people take the time to read anything I writ. You honor me immensely.

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  4. just keeping it real, man. i think my favorite statement in this blog is when you say:

    Why do some Christians see the need to defend God with bad theology? Why do we feel that we have to have an answer for everything under the sun? If you and I had an answer for everything that took place in this universe we wouldn’t need faith.

    i needed to be reminded of that.

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  5. Thank you so much for quoting my writing and radio broadcasts about how natural disasters cause far more damage in countries with no Judeo-Christian-Biblical heritage and cultural tradition. I would also thank you for quoting me so accurately as few do. However one tiny mistake: I am Rabbbi DANIEL Lapin not Rabbi DAVID Lapin. Funnily enough I have a brother, David, who doesn't much care to be mistaken for me! I, on the other hand, stand by my own statements and I would be honored and grateful if you corrected this. Furthermore, if you would direct your readers to my website http://www.RabbiDanielLapin.com I would be much obliged.
    warmest wishes to you.

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  6. Dear Rabbi Lapin:

    At first I wanted to blame Michael Medved for pronouncing your name so fast. Next I wanted to blame the Hebrew alphabet, both David and Daniel start with ד, but once I got an email from my son, a 2Lt. in the Air Force serving in North Korea, saying, “Did you see this? You should correct this immediately…” I knew I had to own up to my mistake.

    I hope you know I’m just kidding.

    I’m both honored and mortified simultaneously. I’m honored that a man of your caliber has taken the time to read what I’ve written, and at the same time I’m embarrassed to have made such a big mistake. If you notice I have corrected the mistake.

    On a separate issue, if you’re ever in LA area, I would love to buy you a cup of coffee and pick your brain. That is if you would like to hang out with an Iranian MBB–Muslim background believer.

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  7. Dear Henry:

    Thank you for countinuing to be such a great encouragement to me. Within this context, I'm only referring to things such as following strict building-codes as “western values” to save lives. God knows there are so many of our “western values” that need to be wiped off the face of the earth.

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  8. Dear Thinker:

    Thank you for the kind words.

    I don’t believe any of us, no matter how honest we might be, looks at the Bible without personal biases. We all have our own realities depending on our culture, background, upbringing and so on.
    For example, your reality tells you that I whined on some of my blogs. However, according to me, to quote your phrase, “I was just keeping it real”. Which one of us is right? Only God knows. However, for us the important thing is to respect each other's point of view. KEEP IT REAL BROTHER.

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  9. Dear Shah–
    no apologies necessary and I am pleased you made the mistake you did because it has caused us to meet electronically and I hope soon in the future to meet you in person at my absolute all time favorite Los Angeles kosher restaurant which just happens to be—-yes! A persian kosher restaurant. I'll enjoy meeting you. My warmest wishes to your son and thank him for his service which I greatly value. Sincerely
    Daniel (alias David) Lapin

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  10. Shah, I am late to the conversation, but I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your post on the Pat/Bono pendulum. Good stuff.

    I also, greatly enjoyed the David/Daniel conversation. Classic! Love your sense of humor. You could be Scottish too… 🙂

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  11. Kdavid, thank you for your kind words. I'm interested to see what you think about my latest post.

    Sense of humor is one of God's greatest gifts in keeping our sanity. I'm grateful to my dad for imparting that gift to me.

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  12. Hi Shah,

    I agree that it's hard to find a simple answer to hard questions such as “why natural disasters?” I know from the Bible that the whole world lies in the Evil One. On the other hand, we learn from the Bible that whatever evil happens in any city is done by God. My understanding of this is that God is all good and kind. But evil already exists in the world since sin has got in through Satan. Thus God uses this evil for the ultimate good- maybe to send a shaking, awakening message to a world that forgot about God and eternity and misread His kindness and generosity.

    Mariana

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  13. Thanks Mariana! This is one of those questions that will never be answered till we're on the other side. Then, we'll all have to stand in line behind billions of others who are waiting to ask the Lord the same question. Until then, all I can is to trust my God.

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  14. Shah – thanks for another very thought-provoking and insighful comment. However, I feel it is important that we as New Testament believers dissent from the views expressed by Rabbi Lapin. If 'God runs this world with as little supernatural interference as possible.' what did Jesus mean when he said that both he and his father are constantly at work?

    Also, the non-New Testament interpretation of Deuteronomy 29 & 30 is erroneous. The life and death that God was setting before the people that day was eternal life and eternal death.

    I would suggest if I may that chapters 16-18 of Book 1 of Calvin's Institutes (Calvin at his most ecstatic, according to one commentator) set forth the Biblical teaching on God's providence and the extent to which we can and cannot fathom it much more Biblically.

    Gratefully and sincerely yours in Christ, Ian

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