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FIRST-PERSON: The good and the bad of Katrina’s aftermath

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“Adversity introduces a man to himself,” someone once observed. In the same way, difficulty on a significant scale forces a society to take a long hard look at itself.

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina along America’s Gulf Coast, especially upon New Orleans, is in the process of revealing the good, the bad and the very ugly of American culture.

Under the category of good are those who have sacrificed, are sacrificing and will sacrifice, in order to reach out to their fellow man.

As time goes by, stories of tremendous bravery will emerge. We will learn of those who risked life and limb to rescue strangers from harm’s way. For every heroic story of which we are made aware, there will be several that will go untold.

Volunteers from sea to shining sea are heading to the storm devastated areas. They will provide hot meals and encouragement. Many will participate in the grisly clean-up yet to come.

The generosity of America is also on display. According to the Christian Science Monitor, more than $20 million in private donations has been given to the Red Cross. Some observers believe that a billion dollars could be given by Americans to help those in need.

While Katrina’s aftermath is revealing our nation’s good, it is also exposing the bad.

One of the negative aspects of American culture is the victimization ethic embraced by many. For those who practice this philosophy, someone is always to blame when adversity comes a calling. And scapegoats are never in short supply, even when the cause of hardship is a hurricane.

Among those being blamed for Katrina is God. Long ago King Solomon wrote that there was nothing new under the sun. Those who accuse the Almighty for their woes have done so for centuries.

Someone once said, “Man blames God for most of his misfortunes but feels personally responsible for a hole-in-one.” For some, in times of blessing, God is the last person on their mind. However, at the first sign of adversity He is the first to be cursed.

God has been blamed for all manner of adversity in the past. He will again be blamed in the future. And He can handle it.

Some in the victimization crowd are using Katrina as an opportunity to make political hay. It seems that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is blaming Mississippi governor Haley Barbour for the storm’s devastation.

Writing on his weblog on The Huffington Post, the environmental activist contends that Barbour crafted a memo which influenced President Bush not to regulate carbon monoxide and to also reject the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

According to Kennedy, the failure to regulate CO2 contributed to Katrina’s ferocity. And it was God who caused the storm to make a direct hit on Mississippi in retribution for Barbour’s flawed environmental views.

Kennedy alludes to the Bible in asserting that Barbour “sowed to the wind” by persuading the president against supporting certain environmental regulations. Now, the governor and his state are “reaping the whirlwind” in the form of Katrina’s devastation.

Some are defending Kennedy’s weblog as satire. Even if it is satirical, it is in poor taste and the timing is insensitive to those suffering the aftermath of Katrina.

It is a good thing Junior is a Kennedy and an activist. If he were a conservative, or a Southern Baptist, the media would have already slapped him naked.

The ugly that Katrina has exposed is very ugly.

Man’s inhumanity to man in the form of looting and price gouging are hideous.

When I refer to looting, I am not talking about those who are now scavenging storm ravaged stores simply seeking to survive. No, I am talking about those who, even before the hurricane had passed, were stealing electronics, firearms and alcohol. Their behavior is indefensible.

Complaints of price gouging abound. Those who take advantage of another’s suffering should have scarlet “G” placed on their establishment. Put their greed on display and let consumers decide if they want to do business with a price gouger.

Police have reported that rapes and murders have taken place inside make-shift shelters. There seems to be no limit to the depth of depravity to which the dark side of human nature will sink.

Katrina has placed a mirror before our culture. Some of the reflection is admirable. However, much of it reveals a society in need of a serious make-over.
Kelly Boggs is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore. His column appears each Friday in Baptist Press.

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  • Kelly Boggs