A Woman sits amid the rubble in the town of Natori, Myagi Prefecture
It appears that we have crossed the line from cataclysm to absolute disaster as three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant appear to be melting down top one extent or another. Japanese government officials have increased the evacuation zone following the latest explosion at the number 2 reactor which may have had its containment vessel compromised. Additionally a fire has broken out in unit 4 which was not active but contains spent fuel rods and according to the government is probably releasing radiation into the atmosphere. Even without such a calamitous turn of events the tremendous devastation caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami were beyond compare in any first world nation. Japan has one of the largest economies in the world and despite a long term economic downturn has remained one of the key industrial nations in the world’s economic system. It also has probably the best civil defense and disaster relief systems in the world but even still this highly advanced country has been overwhelmed by the dual natural disasters and now a probable nuclear disaster.
Thousands have been confirmed dead and many thousands more are missing as the tsunami swept everything before it and probably has washed many thousands of victims out to sea. Whole cities lay in ruin and hundreds of thousands are in shelters or homeless many without power or water. Thousands more are critically injured are being cared for in an advanced but now highly stressed medical system. Transportation networks to include airports and military airfields, rail lines, seaports and highways are damaged to such an extent that relief agencies cannot use them.
There is little good news other than the tremendous grace that the Japanese people have shown under such terrible conditions. In conditions which would have sparked rioting and looting in most other nations including the United States and Western Europe the Japanese people are banding together to survive and respecting their neighbors even when such necessities as fresh water and food run out.
The Japanese power company TEPCO has evacuated all but 50 personnel from the compound and has admitted that the containment vessel for reactor number two may have been breached. Radiation levels are rising and no one knows what will happen to the reactors as they remain in such an uncontrolled state. For days Japanese engineers have worked feverishly to restore cooling systems and when that failed have attempted to cool the reactors by pumping in seawater and boric acid. Nothing appears to be working and with each news conference Japanese government and TEPCO officials seem to be preparing the Japanese public and the world for the worst. Today people have been told to evacuate further or shelter in place as radiation levels have reached levels that could harm human beings. Should all three reactors melt down and lose containment there will be a nuclear catastrophe that will make all previous nuclear incidents pale in significance.
While many Americans and others across the world are reaching out to provide aid and assistance to the victims of this tragedy others make pronouncements which are simply idiotic or even full of hatred and evil. On a YouTube posting of the tsunami I read posts that simply were hateful in response to the Japanese as well as those that would offer to help them. Unfortunately most of these comments were bundled into domestic American politics in which the people posting them were attacking President Obama and “the liberal media.” I wonder where the humanity of such people is when I see such lack of compassion for those affected by a catastrophe of this scale. I saw one post where the writer said that the “Japanese deserved it because he saw some Japanese cheer the 9-11 attacks.” Such Schadenfreude is simply are reflection of the darkness that inhabits the hearts of such people.
Conservative talk radio and Fox Television host Glenn Beck alluded that the earthquake might be “might be a message from God.” Now Beck has been known for putting his mouth around his foot without thinking for years and frequently apologizes and then tries to make amends so it is par for the course. However when CNBC financial host Lawrence Kudlow says “the human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that” it shows the depravity of our own financial elites who only look at the economic bottom line. I guess the true morality of the economic Social Darwinism called Capitalism shows up in its starkest and most banal form in Kudlow’s words. Not to be outdone Rapper 50 Cent tweeted crude jokes to his followers about the earthquake.
There are also a host of supposed Christians both Protestant and Catholic who supposedly are in the know about “God’s prophetic plan” that the earthquake and tsunami are God’s judgment against Japan for criticizing Israel or even “Demon worship” in Japan. When I read such nonsense I wonder how such people can call this the hand of God or blame it on the victims. I guess if such people get hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami that wipes them out it is also God’s judgment on them? What about all of those Bible believing churches in the tornado belt of the United States that get wiped out every year? Is that God’s judgment too? I’m just asking.
While the situation in Japan is caused by unprecedented environmental factors which have overwhelmed nuclear plants, electronic grids and transportation systems and added to the misery the words of Larry Kudlow 50 Cent and the contributors to the YouTube video show a deeper problem in the United States. At its heart it is a moral and theological sickness that I think is beginning to overwhelm this country. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from his prison cell before his execution by the Nazis something that speaks volumes in reference to the crisis in the American spirit and among some that call themselves Christian:
We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds: we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?
Well I think that the question “are we still of any use?” is something that we as a people need to ponder before we go making such comments be they religious, economic or just plain evil or stupid.
Thankfully there are a great many American and other people around the world that do not think like this. Among them are the civilian rescue teams and military personnel who are now in harm’s way and those that contribute of their time, talent or treasure to contribute something to agencies providing relief efforts. Some celebrities most notably Lady Gaga have encouraged prayer for Japan and provided ways to donate to relief efforts. For those that desire to donate many organizations are providing relief supplies and assistance. People can contribute to the Red Cross and Salvation Army by donating $10 via text message with the money being applied to your cellular bill. To donate to the Red Cross text “redcross” to 90999 and for the Salvation Army text either “japan” or “quake” to 80888. The Christian relief agency Samaritan’s Purse which is part of the Billy Graham organization is taking donations online at https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/Project_Donations/
Many other churches across the denomination spectrum and secular relief societies are helping. If you are connected to one particular charity that is helping to provide aid to Japan that is another way to help.
CNN published a list of organizations on its website as well as other pertinent information at http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/11/tsunami-aid-and-relief-how-you-can-help/
We can all pray for the people of Japan as well. This is a crisis which transcends national boundaries and political or religious divisions. I have modified a prayer issued by the Church of England here:
O loving Creator, bring healing and hope to those who, at this time, grieve, suffer pain, or who have been affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters in Japan.
We remember those who have died and we pray for those who mourn for them and those whose fates are not yet known.
May we all be aware of Your compassion, O God, which calms our troubled hearts and shelters our anxious souls that trusting in your grace that we will not lose heart and stretch forth our hands to help the victims of this disaster.
May we pray with humility with our troubled and struggling brothers and sisters on earth.
May we dare to hope that through the generosity of your people around the world that the destitute might glimpse hope, warmth and life again and that you will preserve the people of Japan from further harm and deliver them from all evil.
Grant this through our Savior Jesus Christ who lives with us, comforts us and soothes us. Amen.