Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

Who Should We Blame?


While many things grieved me in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the evacuation process was one of them. No one wants to see people suffer and die, especially when they should have already been rescued. Further, when people started pointing fingers, my first inclination was to wonder if they themselves in fact did not bear responsibility as those who speak the loudest often do so in an attempt to deflect attention from themselves. The verbal assault was unkind, unjust, and opportune. Then, when it seemed the President bore at least some responsibility, I was grieved when he seemed to not want to admit such. As a Christian, even as one in leadership, I've been taught to admit when I was wrong, repent, and get to work. The blame game is grievous to the heart of the Christian.


Of course, the Bush administration is being criticized by many for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina and for the non or under funding in regard to the levees of New Orleans. People have long known that the "the big one" would hit New Orleans and the President is quoted out of context as saying that no one knew such. In reality, he was speaking about the fact that Katrina had already passed and then the levees broke which no one anticipated. And they didn’t. But truth matters little in the blame game.


However, truth has a way of surfacing. Jeff Johnson reports that "research into more than ten years of reporting on hurricane and flood damage mitigation efforts in and around New Orleans indicates that local and state officials did not use federal money that was available for levee improvements or coastal reinforcement and often did not secure local matching funds that would have generated even more federal funding."


Yet, there is no doubt in my mind that FEMA has to answer some questions. At the same time, Cal Thomas has this to say: "The Washington Times reported yesterday that the mayor of New Orleans, democrat Ray Nagin, met with Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco and President Bush last Friday. Nagin said the president offered federal help in evacuating New Orleans before the hurricane hit. He says the governor asked for 24 hours to think about it. By then it was too late. New Orleans failed to implement its own evacuation plan. School and public transit buses were not used and many died as a result of the indecision and wrong decisions. Governor Blanco is critical of the president, as is Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, another democrat. But the president could not act without the governor's permission and she fiddled while New Orleans drowned."


It appears that local officials were too quick to point the finger. Even as Bush's seeming equivocation was grievous, even more so is the harsh lashing of the President by those who perhaps bear even more responsibility, not to mention those who are speaking out with no real knowledge or connection to the rescue effort in order to simply get their faces in the news. In the end, there will be enough blame to go around for all concerned.


Yet, for us, even this point is not the issue. As Christians, we should be reminded of our own fallen natures which are prone to the same thing as evidenced by our first parents. Adam pointed the finger at Eve and ultimately at God Himself while Eve pointed the finger at the serpent (Gen. 3:12-13). Blame shifting is as old as creation and is as evil as it is old. Let us not fall in the trap of blaming others. It is unbecoming of Christ. Let us rather follow the example of Paul when he confessed that he was the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). In that same text, Paul affirms that Christ came into the world to save sinners. Those who deny their sinfulness reject salvation (1 Jn. 1:8).


Cal Thomas is right as far as he goes when he says, "It will be good to investigate what went wrong, but part of the problem is the huge bureaucracy of FEMA and Homeland Security. The answer is not more government. It is leaner, more efficient government." But Christians should go further. It will be best to investigate our own hearts and where we go wrong every day. Part of the problem is the sin that lurks in our flesh which we often deny and thereby create huge problems for ourselves. The answer is not to deny our sin or point the finger at someone else. The answer is confession and repentance of sin and a rest in the sufficient grace of Christ.


Now is not the time to determine blame. The time for that will come soon enough. Even so, it might do us well to see the connection between Adam and us, the fall and sin, the fall and the resulting curse upon creation, and the fact that in some sense we all bear responsibility for Katrina as Adam is both our federal and natural head (Rom. 5:12-14). Sin is the result of Adam's transgression and we sinned in Adam. Moreover, the creation groans under a curse. Hurricanes are a result of the fall, our fall. The creation has been subjected to futility (Rom. 8:19-22). But like the creation, we wait for the day when we will be delivered into glorious liberty by the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:21). Let us recognize that we are to be blamed and then, by His grace and for His glory, look to the cross where that blame was carried away.


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