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FIRST-PERSON: Christ, Katrina, and my hometown

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–In a very real sense, my hometown no longer exists. And I watched it all on CNN.

I am from Biloxi, Miss. My family members are there now, enduring the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina despite pleas to evacuate. The house I grew up in is a complete catastrophe, but at least it was not completely swept away. And as I spend most of the night praying and flipping from CNN to FOX News to MSNBC, I am reminded of how unnatural natural disasters really are.

The news reports, both nationally televised and through the south Mississippi grapevine, sound almost like a bad apocalyptic novel. Beauvoir, the Biloxi home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was destroyed. This old Coast landmark had stood since 1854. The home of my friend and former boss, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, was destroyed and washed away. He and his wife, Margaret, have lost everything. The mausoleums in some of the graveyards are said to have opened, with coffins and bodies floating down the streets. I watch the news reports, watching the place where I proposed to my wife, the place where I surrendered to ministry, the place where I ran down the beaches with my brothers, and all of it is gone.

As Christians we know something about Katrina that the rest of the world just can’t know: This is not the way it is meant to be.

The Psalmist reminds us that God originally put all things under the feet of Adam (Psalm 8:6). But the writer of Hebrews reminds us that we do not yet see all things under the feet of humanity (Hebrews 2:8), although we do see a crucified and resurrected Jesus (Hebrews 2:9). The apostle Paul likewise reminds us that the creation itself groans under the reign of sin and death, waiting for its rightful rulers to assume their thrones in the resurrection (Romans 8:20-23). The storms and the waves are one more reminder that the “already” has not yet been replaced by the “not yet.”

Against the backdrop of the hurricane, consider the contrast between the prophet Jonah and the Messiah Jesus. Like Jonah, Jesus is confronted by a seemingly murderous storm, with his fellow travelers convinced they would perish. Whereas Jonah the sinner could only still the storm by throwing himself into its midst, Jesus exercises dominion over the winds and the waves with his voice. Mark reminds us that the boat’s occupants remarked: “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).

The CNN meteorologists can explain the hurricane only in terms of barometric pressure and water temperatures. We know, however, that at its root this natural disaster isn’t natural at all. It is a creation crying out, “Adam, where are you?”

My hometown isn’t there anymore. But, then again, it never really was. The hope after Katrina is not for civil defense and architectural rebuilding. It is for Biloxi, Miss., and all of the created universe, to be redeemed and restored in Christ. There will come a day when the curse is reversed, and the Gulf Coast along with the entire cosmos fully reflects the glory of a resurrected Messiah. And John sees in his vision that, on that day, “the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1). He also sees that in the Holy City, “nothing unclean will ever enter it” (Revelation 21:27).

That includes the curse of Eden and all of its children: including a hurricane named Katrina. On that day, and not until then, nothing will ever threaten the New Jerusalem, our hometown.
Russell D. Moore is dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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  • Russell D. Moore