Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan's Earthquake, Divine Retribution, and the Tower at Siloam

What interested me about this is who made the remark:
"Ishihara apologizes over 'divine punishment' remark"
Kyodo News (March 15, 2011)

"Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara apologized Tuesday for his remark that the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck eastern and northeastern Japan represented 'divine punishment' of the Japanese people who have been tainted with egoism.

" 'I will take back (the remark) and offer a deep apology,' Ishihara told a news conference, adding he should have thought about the feelings of victims....

"...On Monday, Ishihara told reporters, 'Japanese politics is tainted with egoism and populism. We need to use tsunami to wipe out egoism, which has rusted onto the mentality of Japanese over a long period of time.'

" 'I think (the disaster) is tembatsu (divine punishment), although I feel sorry for disaster victims,' he said."
Then there's what a basketball player said - and regretted:
"Pondexter sorry for Japan tweet"
SI (March 14, 2011)

"New York Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter apologized for Twitter postings over the weekend about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

"Pondexter tweeted on Saturday: 'What if God was tired of the way they treated their own people in there own country! Idk guys he makes no mistakes.'

"She later tweeted: 'u just never knw! They did pearl harbor so u can't expect anything less.'

"Pondexter posted an apology Monday:

" 'I wanna apologize to anyone I may hurt or offended during this tragic time,' the tweet said. 'I didn't realize that my words could be interpreted in the manner which they were. People that knw me would tell u 1st hand I'm a very spiritual person and believe that everything, even disasters happen 4 a reason and that God will shouldn't be questioned but this is a very sensitive subject at a very tragic time and I shouldn't even have given a reason for the choice of words I used...."
Oh, boy.

That, I think, is right up there with Pat Robertson's "voodoo" remarks about Haiti. (January 16, 2010)

In the Hands of an Angry - and Procrastinating - God?

I can see how a person steeped in American traditions might assume that an angry - if somewhat procrastinating - God1 would wreak terrible punishment upon the wicked. Or on the more-or-less-remote descendants of the wicked. Or at least somebody living near the place where wicked people were. Or something like that.

Maybe my being ADHD-inattentive is divine retribution for something a Viking ancestor of mine did to a Gaelic ancestor of mine, a thousand years ago. Maybe: but I seriously doubt it.

Divine Justice and Me

I do think that actions have consequences, and that somewhere in the next few decades, I'll get judged on what I've done with the life God gave me. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1022) Can't say that I'm looking forward to that, but there's no way around the particular judgment, either. And that's another topic.

Here's a footnote in Chapter 12 of Wisdom, about divine justice:
"The brunt of God's anger and vindictive justice is borne by those who know him and yet defy his authority and might. Cf ⇒ Wisdom 1:2; ⇒ 15:2 but also ⇒ 12:27; ⇒ 18:13."
(Footnote 2 Wisdom 12:17)
I could cherry pick a verse like 2 Maccabees 6:13, and claim that a malevolent God was waiting for Japan to get really, really guilty before zapping them. But I won't.

I've mentioned the Bible, Magisterium, and Tradition and the Catholic Church before. There are good reasons why the Church doesn't sanction folks setting themselves up as minipopes, with 'new-and-improved' interpretations of what the Bible 'really says.'

And I'm getting off-topic again.

God Upholds Creation

Before I converted, I'd liked the 'clockwork universe' idea: that God had made the universe, wound it up, and then let it run on its own. I was wrong:
"With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:
For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.160"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church (301)
So God controls everything, even what I'm thinking right now?
"God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' cooperation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan."
(Catechism 306)
There's more - a great deal more - about how God relates to His creation. And I am not going to get started on free will.

Do I think I understand what God does? And why He acts as He does? No. I've read things like Job 38-40. I don't expect to understand. Which doesn't mean I won't try. More topics.

The Earthquake and Japan: It's Not My Call

Do I think God decided, last Friday, that he'd kill many thousands of Japanese citizens?

I think a better question is: Do I think it would do any good, if I said something like 'a vengeful God hath smitethed the unbeliever!' The answer to that is - no. I really do not think so.

I live near the center of the North American continent, on the other side of a huge ocean from Japan. I am not, I think, in a position to say 'Japan deserved this.' And, an important point: I don't think blaming Japan for this disaster would do any good. As far as the folks in Japan are concerned, I'm a foreigner with an at-best limited understanding of their culture.

Do I think the Governor of Tokyo had any business making that remark about egoism, populism and tembatsu?


The Governor of Tokyo is certainly in a better position than I am, to understand Japanese culture, and 'the mind of Japan.' Whether his statement is accurate or not? God knows, I don't.

Without, I hope, trivializing what's happening in Japan today: disasters can be opportunities for introspection and - if necessary - reevaluation of priorities and beliefs.

And that's as 'judgmental' as I'm going to get tonight.

The tower at Siloam, from this post's title? Here's that bit from Luke:
"1 2 At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, 'Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them 3 --do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!' "
(Luke 13:1-5)
And one of the footnotes:
"[1-5] The death of the Galileans at the hands of Pilate (Luke 13:1) and the accidental death of those on whom the tower fell (Luke 13:4) are presented by the Lucan Jesus as timely reminders of the need for all to repent, for the victims of these tragedies should not be considered outstanding sinners who were singled out for punishment."
(Footnote 1 Luke 13:1-5)
Not-completely-unrelated posts:
In the news:
List of 'Japan earthquake disaster' posts in this and other blogs:

1 "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is the name of a sermon by Jonathan Edwards, back in 1741. It had quite an impact at the time, and is an important landmark in America's cultural history. That sermon warrants a more detailed discussion than what I've got time for: and isn't a Catholic document.

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.