The thoughts and prayers of The Universal Anglican Church are with the people of Oklahoma and all those impacted by the tornadoes of the past few days. Our hearts go out to the injured, the missing, those who have lost their lives, those traumatized by the events; as well as their loved ones, friends, and family members. It would be disingenuous of me to say that I know what they are feeling, but I can see the pain in their faces on the many images from the tragedy.
At times like these there will be many who ask why God allowed this to happen, why some survived and others were lost, and a host of other similar questions. I would like to respectfully suggest that these are the wrong questions. If you must have a theological answer, I do not believe it is the nature of God to either send disaster or spare people from it. We live in a world that has an atmosphere that produces cataclysmic weather and seismic events. Unfortunately, these events have the capacity to disrupt lives in a powerful way – as we have seen over the last few days. I would like to suggest that events like these might lead us to ask a different question: How might the knowledge that life is uncertain cause us to engage in relationships differently?
In the grind of everyday life it is easy for the mundane to become significant. We allow petty differences to evolve into fractured relationships, we write each other off and vow never to see each other again, we break off a relationship because our partner snores. We live in a culture that seems to value profit over things of the spirit, that devalues educators, that sees people of other ethnic backgrounds as so vastly different that we refuse to even try to understand each other. At times we seem more motivated to identify the things that separate us that the things we share in common. In times of tragedy, all of that seems to fall away and we come together. That indicates to me that such things are completely within our control and a matter or choice.
Mature, competent human beings are capable of change. We must want to change, we must choose to change, and we must work to change – but if we are to survive as a species then change we must. We must change not just temporarily in light of tragedy but permanently on a daily basis. We must come to see that we are all brothers and sisters, that what happens to one of us happens to all of us, and that the principal spiritual skill and value is not salvation, not doctrinal purity, not memorized passages of scripture, but rather compassion. The teacher at right, reunited with his student, summarized in actions what is often hard to put in words. If that picture doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, I am afraid there is something very wrong in your world and encourage you to address it.
I pray for all those impacted by this terrible tragedy. I also pray that we might start right now to create a world where love and compassion are the principal values – values that know neither limit nor exclusion. May we have the courage to create such a world for our children, and in doing so redeem these tragedies the only way possible – with love.
Presiding Bishop Craig Bergland, EFR