Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Are Hurricanes Meaningful?

Usually hurricanes just come and go. As Ecclesiastes says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” (3:1, New Revised Standard Version, here and following). For the Atlantic Ocean, hurricane season starts each year on June 1 and ends on November 30.
The number of hurricanes, and their relative strength, vary randomly from season to season. Ecclesiastes has some perhaps surprising words to say about that as well: Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them (9:11-12).
Time and chance happen. Hurricanes are like that as well. But are there times when they are more than that?
To be meaningful, a hurricane would need to be a sign of the presence of Yahweh. To get a better sense of that, we’ll first listen to Moses. Just before he died, Moses told the people of Israel the blessings they would enjoy if they remained faithful to Yahweh and the curses they would suffer if they didn’t. If they wrongly turned from Yahweh and devoted themselves to the Olympian gods, then, Moses assured them, [Yahweh] will afflict you with madness, blindness, and confusion of mind; you shall grope about at noon as blind people grope in darkness, but you shall be unable to find your way (Deuteronomy 28:28-29a). That’s enough to give us all pause for thought.
Moses also told Yahweh’s people that, should they prove faithless, Yahweh would challenge their disloyalty with fiery heat, drought, blight, and mildew (28:22). The sky over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you iron (v. 23). They would lose much of their harvests to locusts and worms (vs. 38-39).
Centuries later, the people of the northern Kingdom of Israel courted destruction through just these curses because they had long abandoned Yahweh in favor of the Olympian gods. Yahweh sent Amos to point out that the whole series of natural disasters they had suffered were not simply a matter of time and chance. They were fraught with meaning. They had been means by which Yahweh had attempted to call them away from the gods and back to their senses. Yahweh was exasperated because, despite all his efforts, revealed through Amos, he was still forced to say to his people (more than once), yet you did not return to me (Amos 4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Hurricanes are usually just a matter of time and chance. But when they, along with a wide variety of other events, reach a level of frequency, intensity, and destruction, they we’d do well to pause and ask ourselves: is Yahweh trying to tell us something through all this? Do these multiplying disasters mean that we, especially we Christians and churches, have abandoned Yahweh for far too long to our harm?
Notice that the proximate causes of these varying disasters might be debatable. One might argue, for example, that more destructive hurricanes result from global warming and that, in turn, arises from the greenhouse gases generated by the Global Technological System.
It doesn’t matter. The meaningful question is this: is Yahweh visiting America with disasters of increasing severity as a last-ditch effort to call people, especially Christians and churches, away from the false gods of power and death and back to himself?
At this point, one would need not be a prophet like Amos to say yes.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.