What We Can Learn from Hurricane Katrina

Rev. Kit B. Billings

September 4, 2005



Gen. 7:1-7,16a-21

Ps. 78:32-38,47-50

Matthew 5:43-48


Reading from New Church Doctrine

Heavenly Secrets n. 3425  

It is frequently said in the Word that Jehovah or the Lord is angry, is wrathful, destroys, and casts into hell; when yet He is never angry, and still less does He cast anyone into hell.  The former is of the sense of the letter, but the latter is of the internal sense; and these appear opposed, but this is because the man is in what is opposed.  In the same way the Lord appears as a sun to the angels who are in heaven, and thence as vernal warmth, and as light at dawn; but to the infernals He appears as something quite opaque, and thence as wintry cold, and as midnight darkness.  Consequently to the angels He appears in love and charity, but to the infernals in hatred and enmity; thus to the latter according to the sense of the letter--that He is angry, is wrathful, destroys, and casts into hell.  When things are being treated of in the Word that are contrary to the Divine, it is inevitable that they should be presented in accordance with the appearance.

            This has been a terrible week for Americans, especially people living in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, after Hurricane Katrina ripped into the Gulf Coast U.S. states south of us.  One of thousands of examples of people who have suffered the worst calamities was of a man named Harvey Jackson, of Biloxi, Mississippi.  Harvey told a CNN affiliate that he believed his wife was killed after she was ripped from his grasp when their home split in half.  “She told me, 'You can't hold me, ... take care of the kids and the grandkids," he said, sobbing.  And then she apparently died in the wreckage.

            This is but one of thousands of terrifying stories about Americans living in the wealthiest and most powerful countries in history who suffered greatly in some unnecessary way this week.  Clearly, as 9/11 reminded us, as well as many tragedies that befall our country every year, we (like all people around the globe) are not immune to destruction.  Mother Nature can indeed howl down upon any one of us tomorrow, next week, next year.  There are still thousands of people today down there in terrible plight, who really need our deep and extensive prayers today.  I’d like to talk briefly this morning about what we can learn and not learn from Hurricane Katrina.  Does this deadly and enormous storm teach us something about God being a wrathful and punishing Lord?  Or does it reveal something else to us?

            There are many in our world that read and interpret the Bible only in a literalistic fashion, which creates some very unfortunate problems.  Those who read it this way believe literally all those passages that say that God can sometimes lose His patience and steadfast love for us, and then He gets angry, wrathful, punishing and condemning, able to destroy human life.  This is what has spawned hundreds of thousands of “fire and brimstone” sermons—perhaps you’ve heard one once or twice.  Do you believe that an ever-loving God, our Divine Father…our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…would create a storm like Katrina to get some point across to us…that He would wantonly kill and terrorize His own children?

            Well, this I can say for certain—I do not!  To believe such things is to be getting extremely confused about the real nature of love, about the real nature of God.

            One of the many reasons I chose to become a New Church Christian is because ours is one of the few churches around that preaches unequivocally that the Lord Jehovah, our Lord and Redeemer Jesus, never gets angry and never destroys human life out of such anger or wrath.  Why?  Because anger and wrath are finite human emotions.  They stem from impatience, non-mercy, and revenge.  Anger desires to strike back, to destroy, and bring evil upon others.  Divine Love and mercy and goodness, however, only want to help, heal, support, bless and strengthen.

Our teachings have many passages that bring forth the full nature of God and His Divine Love and Wisdom.  In reality, the Lord is goodness itself; He is mercy itself, peace itself, and love itself.  In Apocalypse Explained paragraph 726 we read: “The love of God reaches and extends, not only to men and things that are good, but also to men and things that are evil; consequently, not only to men and things in heaven, but to men and things also in Hell.  For God is everywhere, and from eternity to eternity, the same.” (emphasis mine)  It was out of this awesome and infinite universal love and goodness, which is God’s very nature, that God-incarnate our Lord Jesus spoke so powerfully yet gently that day so long ago, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons and your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mtt. 5:44-48 selections)

Furthermore, we read in Heavenly Secrets n. 245: 

Jehovah God or the Lord never curses anyone, is never angry with anyone, never leads anyone into temptation, and never punishes, let alone curses anybody.  It is the devil's crew who do such things.  Such things cannot possibly come from the fountain of mercy, peace, and goodness.  The reason why here and elsewhere in the Word it is said that Jehovah God not only turns His face away, is angry, punishes, and tempts, but also slays and even curses, is that people may believe that the Lord rules over and disposes every single thing in the whole world, including evil itself, punishments, and temptations.  And after people have grasped this very general concept, they may then learn in what ways He rules and disposes, and how He converts into good the evil inherent in punishment and the evil inherent in temptation.  In teaching and learning the Word very general concepts have to come first; and therefore the sense of the letter is full of such general concepts.

            Adding to this, our teachings reveal that in the days the Bible was being written, there were times when the writers themselves encountered God seeming to slay, condemn and punish people in wrathfulness.  The outward appearance is that God must be angry and punishing…right?  However, something else is really going on.  The truth is that when human beings choose to be evil, sometimes the Lord permits (or allows) that the furry and anger of the demonic spirits being welcomed by our evil be allowed to have the field for a time.  Indeed, if the Lord did not allow humanity’s evil, greed and struggles with intensely stormy false forms of thinking to surface and have release in many ways, they would build up, fester and ultimately destroy us all.  Unfortunately, the truth is that humanity in general has fallen greatly in love with evils of many kinds (beginning thousands of years ago), such as deeply wanting to reject belief and faith in God as the supreme Being and Lord of life, or the importance of a universal love of all mankind (instead of wanting to control and dominate others for one’s benefit).  Thus, Hell was created long, long ago, in part out of a dangerous “flood” of false forms of thinking imaged symbolically in the story of Noah and the Ark.  And with Hell’s creation by twisted human beings, its own influx of harmful energy was born.  And it is Hell’s force and inflowing energies that create diseases of all kinds, not to mention many poisonous animals and plants, as well as destructive weather patterns, like………hurricanes.

            It is true that the core or the essence of every human being is God’s home, thus we are nothing but good down deep inside.  This is why when people are brave enough to go way down deep inside of their being, all they find is love.  But we are a many-leveled creature.  We have a natural degree of heart and mind too, and that level of us is highly susceptible to the influx of energy from Hell.  Why, I suspect that some of the nice folks we know (perhaps even ourselves) if put into extremely desperate and hostile situations like those down south in New Orleans might encounter our “ugly” side.  It can happen quite easily.  And the Lord needs us to be willing to see and acknowledge whatever ugly, hurtful and destructive things are whirling about within our own natural mind.  And this is partially what we can learn from the deadly forces in nature.  They exist, in part, to remind us that humanity still has major issues with Hell, and that most of us, if not all of us, have much more spiritual regeneration to traverse with the Lord’s great help.  They exist also to remind us of the pure and simple goal of hellish spirits and forces, which is to destroy, especially anything good that has to do with God.  They remind us that we, as a planet of human beings, are better off when these dark forces are allowed to leak out into creation in various ways, rather than have them grow and fester down deep within our natural subconscious minds like some form of “psychological gang green”!

            We may take some refuge in the truth that the Lord and His goodness is ultimately in charge of the universe, of all life everywhere, and He will always make sure that His love and goodness shall in the final analysis lead in creation.  And this is why, along with the cooperativeness with so many millions of people around our globe right now (especially those willing to get their whole bodies in the middle of harms way down south in New Orleans), we see and hear and feel the Lord’s lovingkindness and passion to help and protect starting to win the day on our American Gulf coastal regions.  But things are still very desperate, and there is a long, long way to go before order and restoration return down there.  I believe that folks like you and I can help them out in two major ways:  first, if we are able, we can give monetarily to one of many good support agencies like the American Red Cross or Church World Service.  Also, we can pray for them (extensively)…for prayer is powerful.  Right now, I’d like to invite you to join with me in some extensive prayer work.  Will you join with me please?

Let us pray together in the Lord’s mighty love…