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Posted by on Jan 3, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Is It Right To Say The Tsumani “Tests Faith?”


The Archbishop of Canterbury has gotten into a lot of hot water for saying — among other things — that South Asia’s deadly tsumani "tests faith."

That statement alone opens a theological can of worms. And London Calling’s George Miller doesn’t shrink in dissecting many of the worms that crawl out.

He says the Archbishop’s statement makes his eyes roll and explains why. A few excerpts (read his post in its entirety):

This was a "natural" disaster. Why should this unpredictable and unpreventable slaughter test one’s faith any more than does the mundane violence of human beings? Does the Archbishop suppose that the chance carnage of nature is a greater test of faith than is every premeditated act of human violence? If a Primo Levi can just about retain his faith in humanity through the holocaust, then I’m thinking British viewers full of Xmas turkey will manage it.

Indeed, my grandfather had a huge chunk of his family wiped out by the Nazis in Russia and elsewhere. And not once, as he stood there, going through a yellowed album of fading pictures pointing to men, women and children who had been murdered in the name of a racist ideology, did he question his faith. He maintained his faith and love of his God until the day he died. More from Miller:

The Archbishop seems to conceive of faith as something intangible. He might have outlined a plan of action for his flock, a programme of practical faith stretching years into the future and involving a sustained commitment to the rebuilding of wrecked lives. Instead, the Archbishop feels he must apologise for a God who presides over a world that is deadly.

Yes. The effective clergyman (of any religion) can take a deep breath and try to look beyond the earthly chaos and tragedy and present a hopeful view based on something he absolutely believes is bigger. And:

"What kind of God would let innocent people suffer," is an infantile response to disaster. Reacting like a child to a disaster is perfectly understandable. However, one would hope that an Archbishop would remember to remind his flock that no promise of physical safety was ever made by the Christian God to humanity (or by any other god that I know of). The race is not to the swift, etc, etc. If mere spectators to this disaster suffer a crisis of faith, then how will we offer hope to the man on the beach?

Can a man surrounded by many happy reasons to live, really say his faith is tested by witnessing the suffering of others? What is the test of faith, but the will to live when all hope is lost?

Precisely. And he hits the nail squarely on the head when he adds:

The Archbishop has managed to reduce our response to the suffering of others to the modern teenager’s whine: "How does it relate to me." Who cares whether the Archbishop is having a crisis of faith, or whether the British people are? Wring your hands in private, Archbishop. In public, encourage the already impressive generosity of faithless Britains who are digging deep into their pockets to try to alleviate the suffering. They are not mulling psuedo-philisophical questions of faith.

Miller sees the bigger picture — and perhaps the Archbishop should read his blog. Especially when he writes:

This disaster is too awful for spectators to beat their breasts about, or to worry about whether they have retained their own sense of psychic equilibrium. The shores of Asia hold enough human being who, having lost everything, are now forced to decide whether life is worth living at all.