US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Does God hate Haiti?

By Meghan Murphy-Gill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Let's get one thing straight. While we like to say many things about God from our extremely limited vantage point (usually from cushy armchairs or pricey computers here in the West), we cannot say that God hates Haiti, God caused the earthquake in Haiti, or that God is punishing Haiti.

When horrible things happen in the world, it's easy, and even natural, to seek an explanation. Explanations, good or not so good, give us a sense of control over a situation. They help us to understand what would otherwise be utterly mysterious. Ultimately, explanations give us a sense of meaning in situations that seem devoid of all meaning.

But explanations can also be dangerous. When we say, "Everything happens for a reason," and the thing that happens is something like the earthquake in Haiti, we run the risk of justifying the kind of death and devastation experienced by our Haitian sisters and brothers, or even worse, becoming complacent to it.

Dominican theologian Edward Schillebeeckx had a lot to say about God and suffering. Schillebeeckx, who died last month, could not see the kind of suffering that has resulted from the earthquake as having anything to do with the reign of God. So, he called such instances "negative experiences of contrast," a fancy theological term that describes the visceral reaction in our very souls that protests, "This should not be," and then moves us to faithfully respond with hope for the future.

I think that this kind of theology is especially important for today because it helps us to recover meaning, but in the right places. It gives us a way to respond, both in our reflections and in our actions, without resorting to a blame game with God. Because God is the very source of life, a truth proclaimed in the Gospel narratives, we have faith in the future of Haiti.