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Why God? Why? Clergy respond to difficult questions in storm's aftermath

Local spiritual leaders discuss the difficult theological questions that arise in the aftermath of natural disasters and tragedies.
by Carla Hinton Modified: May 24, 2013 at 5:02 pm •  Published: May 25, 2013

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” — David in Psalm 42:11

The Rev. David Rivers felt his stomach churn when the weather forecast sounded eerily familiar on Monday.

As senior pastor of a Bridge Creek congregation that experienced the devastation of the May 3, 1999, tornado, Rivers said he knows all too well what many victims of recent twisters are feeling.

“You still have that thought in the back of your mind when the winds pick up,” he said. “We know that bad things happen real fast.”

The minister said not only is anxiety a familiar emotion these days, but questions about God's role in times of natural disasters also strike a familiar chord.

Why did a loving God allow such a deadly storm?

Why did some people survive and others perish?

Are the fatal twisters a result of God's wrath?

Rivers, 50, and local spiritual leaders said such queries are normal during times of tragedy and despair.

“I think if we're all honest, we all wrestle with these questions,” he said.

“I don't know what that answer is.”

Good God; bad storm.

The Rev. Bill Pruett, pastor of St. James the Greater Catholic Church, said the answers to questions about God's hand in the midst of natural disasters hinge on seeing Him as the loving and faithful Lord He is.

“The divine role is always a sustaining role. God is never the one who causes suffering and disasters,” Pruett said.

He said the Old Testament may hold several examples of God unleashing His anger upon a sinful world, “but evil seems to be a function of a flawed universe. It is the shadow side of human choice — You can't blame God because of the choices people make, and you can't blame God because the laws of nature are what they are.”

Pruett said: “It is the natural process of humanity to look for the bad guy, somebody with moral failure, but Jesus didn't do that. We do that,” he said.

“God is not out to settle scores.”

The Rev. Justin Lindstrom, dean of the St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, echoed Pruett's sentiments.

The Lord, he said, isn't vengeful.

“That's not the way God works,” Lindstrom said.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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