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Opinion

The Japan earthquake and ‘punishment from God’

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

March 16, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Talk radio is full of angry reactions to Glen Beck’s sound bites on the Japan earthquake, but even Tokyo Governor, Shintaro Ishihara, told reporters Monday that the disaster may be “divine punishment.”

Ishihara’s exact statement as reported by Otaku Who News Radio was:

“The identity of the Japanese people is selfishness. The Japanese people must take advantage of this tsunami as means of washing away their selfish greed. I really do think this is divine punishment.”

Glen Beck’s comments, which are currently the subject of much controversy were similar to those of Ishihara, but more crudely presented and taken out of context by critics.  Beck indicated that the disasters in Japan are a message from God; that we need to stop doing the bad things we’re doing and start following the Ten Commandments.  However, the flippant manner in which Beck gave his message was taken to be very inappropriate given the tragic circumstances of Japan’s suffering. 

Here are Beck’s exact quotes:

“Now look, I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes. Well—I’m not saying that he—I’m not not saying that either.

God—what God does is God’s business, I have no idea. But I’ll tell you this: whether you call it Gaia or whether you call it Jesus—there’s a message being sent. And that is, ‘Hey, you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.’ I’m just sayin’. And—yesterday I got home and I was thinking about all the messages that I could bring in, all the things that I could tell ya, and oh I’ve got stuff on Hezbollah. Oh, I have stuff on radical Islam in America that’ll make your eyes fall out. Or I could just tell you the answer, and the answer is: Buckle up. Buckle up, ‘cause it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Make sure you keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times. Because, things are gonna get bumpy and, just a few reminders there at the beginning as this rollercoaster takes off, always a good safety tip: Keep your arms and legs in. Don’t do anything stupid, what do you say we follow the big top ten. You can call them Moses’ ten commandments, or ten rules of thumb. What do you say we start doing those things? Because the things we are doing really suck and they’re not getting better.”

I was asked to comment on radio Wednesday on Kitchener, Ontario’s 570 News in reaction to Beck’s comments and those of others, which are causing a stir. 

The Judeo-Christian perspective keeps in mind that God created this world perfect and that it was only after sin entered the world - when mankind rejected God’s natural order - that things began to go wrong.  Shintaro and Beck clearly allude to that consequence of rejecting or going against God.

At the same time, we don’t say that God doesn’t have control over what goes on in our world.  He knows, He sees, and yes, He even has the power to stop bad things from happening. 

However, by going against God’s plan for the good of mankind, which is called sin, we push God out of our lives.  Christians are taught that as we push God away, His protection is also pushed away - by us.

For true Christian and Jewish believers these are realities of life, not speculative theories or myths. And in our busy, very materialistic life in which we don’t seem to need God at all, we completely lose the sense of this reality - until tragedy strikes.

Moreover, Christians are also taught that the devil is what Scripture calls ‘the prince of this world’. The devil intends evil or harm to come to us. 

God permits much evil in the world, but the faith teaches that He does so because He can bring great good from even the worst and seemingly hopeless situations.

I find it most easily explained by taking a hard look at reality - eternal reality. (Yes reality. If persons call themselves Christians or observant Jews, they must believe that the spiritual realm is a reality, even more so than life on earth.)

But many, if not most, seem not to live a life that accepts the reality that God would have a role, or shall we say a deliberately intended message for us, in disasters such as the current one in Japan.

We are here on earth for a very short time. A blip if you will, in terms of the span of our real life after death which goes on for eternity.  Those who do not believe are prone to end up in the depths of despair when calamity strikes.

Seen in the spiritual light, life is primarily about deciding which path to take for eternity.  And from that perspective there can be a special hope regarding the plight of the Japanese victims of the earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdowns, and in fact hope for all victims of any tragedy.

Countless peoples when faced with such calamity turn their hearts to God, many for the first time, some after a long time of rejecting God.  And while their prayers and pleadings for safety may not be realized in this world, they suddenly become more open to a deep change of heart that they know will set them in a direction of being happy, safe and calm and with a loving Father forever in the next.

One of the unique, consoling truths in Christian teaching on suffering is that Christ suffers with us all of our pains and calamities.  He is there for us at all times, but closest when we are suffering.

The Japanese people are indeed suffering terribly and many of us are suffering with them in spirit and prayer. But many of them, who are of willing heart, are also being blessed at the same time with a transformative sense of the true purpose and meaning of this life and the overwhelming importance of being and doing good and not placing our hope in the things in this world.

Related story:
Why them? - Michael Cook - Mercator.net
This is the hardest question of all in the wake of the death and devastation in Japan.

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