DEATH OF A CHURCH-STATE CASE PIONEER
The woman who brought an early church-state separation case to the Supreme Court has died in Champaign, Ill. I hope someone writes a good history of these cases through the eyes of the people who helped make this history. I'd read it. Wouldn't you?
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RAISING STORMY QUESTIONS
As we mark the first anniversary of the remarkable Katrina hurricane (and worry about Hurricane Ernesto), we would do well to think about the theological questions natural disasters raise and the many ways faith communities respond to the disasters themselves.
Click here for Catholic Online's first part of its year-later coverage as an example of the stories being told.
It's hard to imagine how many people were affected by all this, either as victims or as responders. To put the devastation in perspective for folks who live in the Kansas City area, someone recently suggested that we imagine a six-mile wide tornado that hit the ground at Manhattan, Kan., and stayed on the ground all the way to Columbia, Mo. Whew.
It seems as if each of us knows Katrina (pictured here) victims or helpers. My church, for instance, sent a youth group to work in the Gulf Coast recovery work. And my cousin and his wife from Denver spent weeks and weeks working for the Red Cross in the Gulf Coast after Katrina. I also have friends -- columnists in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, for instance -- who lived through the trauma.
You may recall that after the tsunami struck in Asia late 2004 various people were asking how God could allow this kind of thing. In fact, I did a Kansas City Star story exploring that very question, which is the old question of theodicy. It goes something like this:
* An all-powerful God could prevent evil.
* An all-loving God would want to do that.
* But evil and suffering exist.
* So should we conclude that God is weak, not loving or simply nonexistent?
A remarkably honest answer came from John E. Thiel, professor of religious studies at Fairfield University in Connecticut, and author of God, Evil, and Innocent Suffering: "There are no easy answers to such questions."
In the end, Thiel said, he's concluded that "God does not cause death in any way, and there are no higher or mysterious purposes in death at all. Death is a tragic fact of life that God regards as an enemy that eventually will be defeated," and God demonstrated power over death in Jesus' resurrection.
Well, there are many ways to ponder the theodicy question, and that's what I invite you to do as you continue to remember the victims of such natural disasters -- remember and respond to their suffering in any way that you can.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
P.S.: Rep. Katherine Harris, whose exclusivist remarks about religion and politics I mentioned here over the weekend, now says her remarks were misconstrued. Yeah, well, maybe. But they seemed pretty clear when she said them.