Monday, September 14, 2015

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE: Mecca Crane Disaster

"This is great honor from God that every one wishes for but not many will be granted."

In the news on 9/11 this year was the memorial of the terrorist attack on New York City, where almost 4000 people died.  Also in the news was the story of a disaster in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  There, lightning struck a large crane and it collapsed on the Grand Mosque, killing at least 60 and injuring many others.  The crane was owned by the construction company that Osama Bin Laden owned (his father was a wealthy construction magnate in Saudi Arabia).
The timing and the location of this disaster has prompted more than a few reactions around the internet.  Many are crying "karma" as if some vast wheel of cosmic justice caused the crane to fall and kill worshipers on the anniversary of their co-religionist's murderous attack.  Others are saying that the hand of God must be involved: lightning, falling on Muslims, in Mecca, on that day seems a bit more coincidence than they can believe.  Even Muslims are responding to this event as if it is special:
Shockingly, a British imam and director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre, Dr Hojjat Ramzy, said he wanted to “congratulate” those who lost their lives for “going straight to heaven without any question”, describing the tragic incident as a “great honour”.

The Independent newspaper quoted him as saying: “Many Muslim pilgrims wish to pass away during the journey of hajj and to have honour of being buried in the holy city of Mecca.

“This is great honour from God that every one wishes for but not many will be granted.”

The half-Iranian, half-Iraqi imam said he was “very saddened” to hear of the deaths, but added: “In the same breath, I would like to congratulate those people who lost their lives for going straight to heaven without any question."
From what I know of Islam this seems like a dubious claim - unless you are given a special dispensation by an Imam before taking an action, or die in Holy War, everyone goes to hell for at least a time to pay for their sins in Islamic teaching.  But perhaps death on pilgrimage also qualifies.
Now, the "karma" reaction is ridiculous; even if there was a shred of reason to believe in some cosmic wheel of retributive justice and reward, there's no rational basis for tying the pilgrims who died in this disaster with the radicals who planned, funded, and executed the terrorist attack in 2001.  Simply being a Muslim is no more tie than being male.
But does the "vengeance of God" theory hold any validity?  Is this an act of God's judgment against people who not only reject His word, but Jesus as savior?  Is it a symbolic strike against a religion which has members who murder Christians specifically and deliberately?
Any time there is a major disaster, someone always claims they know what it means and that God is doing something against someone.  Generally they interpret it to mean God's vengeance against someone they particularly dislike or who has been mean to them.  This says much more about them than about God or Christianity, let alone truth.
But the fact is, we know for certain, without doubt, at least one reason this - and every other - disaster took place.  We know because Jesus Christ himself taught us, as recorded in Luke 13:1-5
There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Historically, the people were asking about an event in which Pilate had ordered soldiers to kill Jewish worshipers (presumably rebels and troublemakers - Pilate got the job of governor in of Judea to put down all the rebellion and was according to history quite successful).  They wondered why those people had died, what their sin was?  That question came up a couple times in the gospels, where disciples and others asked Jesus what the sin of people who died in disaster could have been.
Its not difficult to guess why they asked.  People still do it today: what did they do to deserve this terrible death?  Its human nature to assume that death or disaster which befalls us is unjust and unreasonable.  And certainly in the Old Testament, the stories of God's wrath falling in spectacular fashion always was accompanied by an explanation of the evil that person had done... except in one very noteworthy case.
That would be the case of Job, who was called a "righteous" and "blameless" man who suddenly was stricken by every horrific thing a man can experience and yet still live - even his wife turned on him.  And what did his friends say?  This must have been some secret sin, nobody has this happen to them without cause.  God eventually speaks directly and what does He say?
"I'm God.  Deal with it.  I know what I'm doing, and I do not have to answer to you or anyone else.  You must trust me."
That's not the answer any of us care to hear, but in these verses, Jesus explains more fully - the course of redemptive history and God's progressive revelation now coming to its fruition so that everything can be revealed.
Jesus says "they were sinners, sure.  Like you.  Like everyone on this earth and everyone who has been on this earth, save me.  They didn't sin any special way more than others around them.  You should be looking at your own heart, not others."
Jesus says the reason this happened - in part at least - is to make you stop and reflect on your own sins, repent of your own evils, and walk humbly and justly before God.  In other words, you don't point the finger of indignation at others when this happens.  You don't judge them as being more wicked than you.  You look inward, see your sin, and go to the cross of Christ to cling to His doing and dying.
None of us deserve anything except hell its self (see Romans 1-3 for more details on that).  The assumption that some disaster struck someone else is the assumption that we're better than them.  That we don't deserve that sort of thing, we're good people.  We don't sin like that guy.  Thank God I'm not [insert category here]!
But Jesus rejects that as arrogant, sinful, and presumptuous.  We do deserve that.  We are as sinful as they are.  Only the grace of God and the love of Christ Jesus prevents that disaster from happening to us.  Unmerited, unearned, through no greatness of our own.
So when a disaster like Mecca takes place, its time to check your heart: is there anger and vengeance in there?  Is there a lust for disaster against others?  What sins have we committed this week, this day, this hour that we should repent of ourselves?  That's the Christian response - that and prayers for the families that they find peace, and come to understand the gospel and the love of God themselves.
Certainly we want the world to be just.  Certainly we want those who hate God to love Him.  Certainly we desire for the world to be saved and terrorism to stop.  But to wish disaster, death and maiming on people because they are our enemies, that's simply not Christian.
Remember, Jesus said to bless those who curse you, to pray for your enemies and those who persecute you.  We are to reach out in love and compassion when something like this happens, not snicker in satisfied glee at their distress.  They had it coming.  Yeah.  So do I.  So do you.  Like William Munny said in the film Unforgiven "we all got it coming.
*This is part of the Christian Response series.

1 comment:

vanderleun said...

Well, upon reflection, I agree that this is not God's judgement on the Muslims. For that I'd be looking for tens or hundreds of millions.

But I'm a Christian so I don't include that in prayers.