For many, the memories of Hurricane Katrina and the destruction that it left behind in it’s path shed light into the dark corners of America. By dark corners, I mean the unspoken and hush-hush realities that often lie in the shadows of America’s prosperity. The media images of people waving from their roofs for help, the cries of people with infants at the New Orleans Superdome, or the indifference of state and federal authorities to react promptly to save people were a stain on American history that won’t soon be forgotten. Amidst all of the chaos, and bitter debates at that time, one long standing and well remember quote from a musical pop star/rapper, Kanye West, still stings – “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”. Kanye later apologized for the comment and admitted that it was a poor choice of words that spoke more of his personal frustration than of what he really knew or thought of George Bush. Regardless, the comment did capture the frustration of many who witnessed what they felt was blatant injustice related to societal disparities (racial, social, economic).
Around that same time (Hurricane Katrina – 2005) Evangelicals chimed in with their all too typical and predictable post-catasrophe, prophetic (but way after the event) commentaries. Pat Robertson, hypothesized to his Charismatic 700 Club crowd why it happened by mixing together a concoction of the then recent appoint of conservative Supreme Court nominee – John Roberts, America’s inability to curtail abortions, and it’s casual attitude toward the threat of terrorism.
Hal Lindsay, the pro Israel, anti-Muslim, Armageddon specialist who authored the book – “The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon”, chimed in as well. Declaring from the TBN Network that what he had warned of and speculated about for decades, he feared, was finally upon us. The last days were here and America’s judgment period had begun. It would be no time before the Roman Empire was revived and the West was doomed.
Chuck Colson gave his pitch for what the catastrophe was all about. This was a wake up call for America. Now, we had witnessed how easily a terrorist attack could take us under, and we had better win the war on terror, OR ELSE……!
John Piper, put some skin in the game as well with an Intelligent Design assertion. God, in his sovereignty planned the whole thing for his glory, as yet another precursor to his judgment. In other words, repent or be destroyed.
I won’t even venture to “guess” as to who was right or wrong on any one prediction or another, because I don’t know why God may have orchestrated himself or allowed the natural disaster to happen. But, what I do find interesting is that God, as always, was working on one single plan (quite possibly out of thousands) that may have gone unnoticed by anybody until recently.
As of today Fred Luter is likely to be voted in as the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). To the outside world, this may seem like another trivial appointment to an organization that few on the outside know or care about. However, for anyone in the Christian world that knows the history of the SBC, this is huge. Historically, we are witnessing the ultimate and redemptive work of the gospel in plan sight. Here’s a horribly simple one paragraph history lesson on how and why the SBC was formed:
Before the American Revolution Baptists and Methodists stood firm for the equality of all men’s rights and in many ways challenged the American status quo system of slavery. At that point in time Baptists even welcomed African American slaves as pastors into their denomination. Two decades later, generations later, Baptists began to acquiesce to the system of slavery and it’s acceptance in society. Their pleas for manumission (the act of freeing a slave from it’s owner) evolved into acceptance of slave ownership, and the eventual and well documented reversal into a “biblical” support for the practice. As a result, and following it’s logical conclusion post-Civil War blacks in large numbers began to form their own Baptist organizations like the National Baptist Convention. Black membership in the SBC declined even further to the hands of denominations like the Methodists that had long stood opposed to slavery and aggressively pursued membership via it’s network of black and white missionaries in the South. During the Civil Rights era, even though the SBC formally “supported” integration many of it’s pastors still defended white supremacy. Signifying the end of a bad era, and with membership declining, in 1995 the SBC formally apologized for their past. Here is quote from Richard Land (Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission) about the apology (from NPR interview): “Well, it says that slavery played a role in the formation of the convention and that too often we had not acted to promote racial equality, and we apologize for that. We lament that. We grieve over that and we repent of it and we ask for the forgiveness of our African-American brothers and sisters.” To cap it off in recent years resolutions have even been passed requiring it’s churches to include more black members and to appoint black leaders.
That leads us back to today, where the SBC is meeting and will soon appoint Fred Luter as the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention. What in the world does this article have to do with Hurricane Katrina then? Here’s the interesting tie-in. Fred Luter, and his rise within the SBC was a direct result of Hurricane Katrina. This is a terrific story about how God can take a natural disaster, for whatever reason, and use it for his glory:
Maybe in the future the question that we ask post-natural disaster should not be related to the “why’s”. Why did it happen and why did God do it? Instead, maybe we should be asking and questioning how will God use this for his glory. While we’re busy asking and debating the “why’s”, God is busy doing what only he can do. Bringing people together for his glory, by transforming the hearts and minds of people through the power of his Word. In this case, it looks like he may have used a devastating hurricane to force two pastors with completely different church demographics, but of the same denomination to worship under one roof, which ultimately led to a historic milestone. Indeed, God works in mysterious ways.