Showing posts with label opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label opinion. Show all posts

31 October 2012

Sandy storming in

Hurricane Sandy has caused devastation and continues to bring more trouble as it heads into Canada. Why do disasters like this happen? We consider some of the common views held by people of faith and by those who see no need to believe in any deity.

Hurricane Sandy in New York
The Caribbean islands and coasts and then the north-eastern coast of the USA took a major hit when Hurricane Sandy swept in. It has now weakened to post-tropical cyclone status but continues to drop large amounts of snow and rain as it heads north into Canada. Winds, although much reduced, remain dangerous and damaging.

Our hearts and thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Sandy. Loss of life has been relatively low, things could have been far, far worse. But for families who have lost loved ones this is no real comfort. The losses in terms of property and flood damage and infrastructure are, of course, immense. Rebuilding will take a long time, countless homes and businesses are without power. There's no denying the scale and seriousness of this storm.

Global warming - We are living in changing times. Not only was this a powerful storm, it was also the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. Nothing this size has ever been seen before. The storm surge flooded considerable areas along parts of the US coastline.

What are we to make of all this?

Although no single event proves or disproves the reality of global warming and climate change, this record-breaking storm adds fresh evidence to that already accumulated. It makes it that bit harder to deny that the climate has altered, that bit harder to conclude we are doing no harm by pouring large volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Sandy should, at least, give us all pause to think and reconsider the evidence.

Considering faith - And what should people of faith make of Sandy's devastating effects? No doubt there will be voices from some supporters of Islam claiming that the storm is Allah's retribution upon  the 'Great Satan'. But most Muslims will not think of it in this way or say any such thing, instead feeling sorrow and sympathy towards fellow humans suffering pain and loss.

Atheists, on the other hand, will take the view that such things happen from time to time. It's regrettable and very sad, but it's how the world works. It's up to us to do what we can to avoid problems - don't build on flood plains, create structures that will withstand earthquakes and violent winds. Don't live at the bottom of steep slopes or close to volcanoes. Commendably, many will help to rescue and support those who are hurt or suffer loss.

But what about those of us who follow the teaching and example of Jesus? The majority may not give a second thought to wondering why such things happen. They too will feel sorrow and sympathy and many will pray for those affected by the storm. Others, however, will give serious thought to the question, 'Why?'

In particular, a common thought following any natural disaster is, 'If there is an Almighty Creator in charge of everything that happens, and if this mighty and powerful person is good, why are such things allowed to happen? Why was the world not created to be a safe place?

Some will see disasters as the consequence of sin coming into the world. Others may see it just as the atheists do - this is the way it is.

Another way - I believe we can do much better than this. I was drawn to express my views recently in a comment exchange on another blog. In the next few days I plan to take my comment and expand it as an article here. Watch this space. (Posted 2nd November, Why is life dangerous?)

Meanwhile, here's an earlier article that seems relevant. It records some thoughts we had during a meeting soon after the Haitian earthquake in 2010.

See also:

29 September 2012

The case of Megan and Jeremy

The story of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest is major British news, but in France the story has struggled to make the headlines. Why the difference? One French news source explains differences in law and opinion between the two countries.

French news article
France and Britain are just a sleeve apart. On a good day the two nations can see one another across the world's busiest sea lane, the 'English Channel' to the Brits, 'La Manche' to the French (literally 'The Sleeve').

But that little stretch of sea water divides two great nations who disagree on just about everything.

The latest example is the case of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest. Opinion in the UK is certain that she is an abducted child and he a kidnapper. French opinion is expressed with a shrug and a smile, they are two people in love who made a foolish but understandable choice to run away together.

Compare an article in 'The Sun' with this from 'France 24' and you'll see what I mean.

So who is right? There are two ways of looking at this, according to the law on one hand and according to common sense on the other.

Legally, in the UK a fifteen-year-old is a child. Parents or legal guardians make decisions on the child's behalf, so taking a minor away from home (even down the road and back, let alone another country) requires parental permission. In France a fifteen-year-old is an adult and is therefore responsible for his or her own decisions.

And of course anyone who is professionally involved with children must follow strict standards of care and behaviour.

Common sense, however, suggests that around the ages of fifteen and sixteen there is some uncertainty about where to draw the line. That much is clear from the fact that the law differs from country to country.

There will be mixed feelings when Megan and Jeremy are safely home again. Both families will feel great relief, for sure. Megan may be less than happy, and Jeremy will be spending at least a few days in custody before possibly facing criminal proceedings. He is also certain to lose his job and will be unemployable in any work involving children.

Both of them will find family life is not the same as it was before, that's inevitable. And they will feel the pain of loss that those in love suffer when it's no longer possible for them to remain together. My heart goes out to Megan, Jeremy, and to their families and friends in what is just the beginning of a very difficult and distressing time for everyone involved.

Is this a legal issue involving distraught families and criminal behaviour by a man in a position of trust? Or is it a tragic story of young love that never stood a chance? Or is it somehow a confusing combination of the two?

Add a comment below. Let me know how you see the case of Megan and Jeremy. How do you justify your opinion?

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