How (Not) To Speak of an Earthquake

I’ve forgotten long ago why we keep giving him credence in American public discourse, but Glenn Beck spoke up again. This time, in his ignorance, he said that the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis were works of God. On his radio show this past Monday, Beck said:

“I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes — well I’m not not saying that either! 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.'”

Really? Is this really an accurate portrayal of the God we serve? When we act with the agency given to us by God, we are then punished for how we do it? Do we really believe that this is how God lives and moves in the world? God won’t save a mother from cancer, or a nation from hunger… but will cause an earthquake that irreparably destroys the life and livelihood of entire communities?

I have to imagine there’s a better way. And I have Skye Jethani to thank for helping articulate it. In a recent response, he says:

“Is the Japanese earthquake and tsunami an ‘opportunity for the church’ as some have said? Yes, but not the selfish sort of opportunity. It is an opportunity for the church to weep and repair; to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who need his healing presence.”

For me, these two quotes represent the difference between brokenness and redemption. It’s the difference between “I know why this happened and God did it.” and “I don’t know why this happened, but God can redeem it.”

There’s no way we could ever know why suffering happens. But there is a way we can respond to it. Right now the Japanese people don’t need our judgment and condemnation. They need our love and service. is giving you the chance to donate $5 to the American Red Cross and they will match it.


* Beck grossly misuses the name Gaia in his rant. Gaia is an ancient Greek goddess who represents Mother Earth. It has no associations in Asian or Japanese mythology. Just because it sounds Asian, doesn’t mean it is.

Please keep your comments positive. I reserve the right to delete rude or insulting comments. If your comment is critical, please make sure it is also constructive. Thank you.

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