The Haiti Earthquake
Who Could Deserve This?
The Haiti Earthquake. Why did it happen? Well there are a few ways to look at it. There is the purely scientific, the geological plate tectonics and all of that.
What in the World is Going On?
This 7.0 magnitude quake was especially bad because it was so shallow. The stress that had built up along the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system suddenly released. The Caribbean and North American plates slide past one another in an east-west direction along a strike-slip boundary.
While 7.0 magnitude is fairly strong, the intensity - how much the quake is felt - depends on distance to the epicenter. In this case, the epicenter was only 10 miles (16 km) southwest of the capital Port-au-Prince and only a very shallow (for earthquakes) 6.2 miles (10 km) below the Earth's surface.
Another factor for the poor country of Haiti is that they have very low building standards with lots of non-reinforced concrete and a high population density. This means many buildings crumble, many people are injured and it is very hard to get help to them.
The numerous aftershocks don't help and since - January 20th - they received a strong 6.2 magnitude aftershock causing further damage. The USGS measured dozens of aftershocks above a 4.0 magnitude and many more below that. See a scale describing the
intensity of earthquakes and a list of significant earthquakes since 2001.
The Haiti Earthquake - What Does God Think of This?
Many people are asking why did God allow the Haiti earthquake to happen, and another, smaller earthquake in Haiti and many aftershocks in an already poor and very vulnerable country? After each disaster, we question where is God?
Various Christian leaders in attendance at Jesse Jackson's 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Chicago shared their perspectives on this question regarding the Haiti earthquake. Gregory Livingston, National Chairman of Rainbow Push Coalition's Ministers Division, said "Human history has known catastrophes like the earthquake in Haiti through its entire existence. The devil and God are found in the response. Who we are as a people is defined by how we deal with the earthquake."
Carlton Pearson, Interim Minister of Christ Universal Temple in Chicago, said "God does not have an anger management problem; he does not throw tantrums by way of acts of nature. That is a mythical, pathological God that does not exist except in the minds of those who create it. The earthquake was not an act of God, it was an act of nature. When we belch or urinate, these are acts of nature and no one calls these acts of God. Likewise the earthquake was an act of nature."
Aaron McLeod, the Minister of Social Justice at Trinity United Church of Christ, stated: "We as the human race have turned our backs on God in allowing the country of Haiti to remain the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere for decades with no chance of having the adequate infrastructure necessary to sustain a 7.0 earthquake. We have not engaged the country with proper foreign direct investment and we have not come to its aid despite the fact that 65% of its population is unemployed. God is displeased with that. In light of this tragedy, we should embody the compassion of Christ and give of our resources unselfishly to rebuild the country and ensure that this natural disaster does not shape the country going forward."
A different viewpoint on the Haiti earthquake was given by Pat Robertson who expressed in his broadcast on The 700 club: Haitians "were under the heel of the French... and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story. And so, the devil said, 'okay, it's a deal.'
Clergy from many denominations have condemned Robertson's response about the Haiti earthquake, calling it un-Christian.
Under the present circumstances, Pat Robertson remarks may be unfortunate and insensitive but he may have a point (to a point). There is a Bible principle that when people turn from God and seek after other Gods, He - being a gentleman - does not impose His unwanted presence on them.
There are many examples of this in the Bible which follow, more or less, this basic formula:
- Because of sin
- God in "wrath"
- Leaves the sinner
- And trouble comes.
His "wrath" has to be understood according to its Biblical use, which generally means that God walks away.
Here are some examples:
"Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods" (Deut 31:17-18)
"And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight." (2 Kings 17:17-20)
When God's protective presence is removed, it is the destroyer (Satan) and/or the pent-up forces of nature that can then do a work of destruction. Don't think for a minute that God actively sends earthquakes and other disasters. He mourns too when His children are killed and injured in such tragedies, but what can He do?
More examples of this formula and an explanation of God's role in the sufferings of humanity are given
Haiti and much of the Caribbean has many people that are involved in Voodoo. When people turn from the Creator God to strange gods, the one true God, at some point, leaves them to their unfortunate choices. This may, in fact, be why Haiti is such a poor nation to begin with. Please note that God allowing people to make their own choices and receive the consequences that go with those choices (you reap what you sow, Gal 6:7) is a lot different than God punishing people for doing wrong.
However, lest we be too smug about our religion in the affluent portions of the west, let's remember that we have the means to help these poor people suffering from the Haiti earthquake out of their misery, and to help educate them to a better way.