What more can we do about natural disasters?

A Christian Science perspective.

A recent media report lists hurricane Irene as the largest of a great many of natural disasters in the United States this year. More have been predicted. Is there no choice but to accept environmental upheaval as inevitable? Friendlier environs would surely be welcome.

It seems to me that as the highest, most intelligent creation, God’s sons and daughters, we have the capacity to master unthinking destructive furies – earthquakes, winds, floods, fires, volcanic eruptions – formidable as they are. Wise preparations and undaunted cleanup efforts have helped greatly to reduce the fallout from these catastrophes. Such measures have demonstrated people’s capacity to deal with untoward weather conditions in a levelheaded manner. And we should continue those efforts.

I’ve been wondering lately, though, just how “natural” those upheavals really are. Are they unavoidable overstatements of nature that just come with the territory? Do they have control over us? Or are there ways we could control them more, even before they occur? The tendency to define them as “acts of God” seems an injustice to the true, loving nature of Deity. It flies in the face of that ageless assurance in the book of Genesis that God gave us the ability to subdue the earth.

Shortly before hurricane Irene ripped up the coast of the Atlantic states, giving so many localities a severe drubbing, I noticed my wardrobe leaning over to the left. Instantly, dread gripped me. Just two days before, a magnitude-5.8 earthquake had shaken everything up considerably. Its epicenter was just 50 miles from my home in Virginia. This was a new experience in my vicinity, and people were worried over possible structural damage to their house foundations. The floor had finally buckled, I conjectured. But this lasted only a moment. What I’d seen was an absurd illusion – it wasn’t the cabinet that was off kilter but the framed picture above it. Somewhat embarrassed, I straightened the picture, and all was back in order.

Nevertheless, this awakened me to a more unsettling issue that often accompanies a disaster’s aftermath: the fear of vulnerability – vulnerability not only of our possessions but of our well-being and our communities. We have the opportunity to establish our safety and permanency from a more spiritual standpoint, even while we’re developing the human means to get a handle on cataclysmic events. We’ve barely tapped the powerful resources of our spirituality.

When relying on prayer to quell turmoil, we don’t have to offer up exasperated pleas for mercy. Our prayers can express the confidence, might, and supremacy that come from understanding the secure atmosphere of divine grace, which enables each of us, under God’s beneficent influence, to prove our inviolability and superiority over our environment. Increasingly, I’m inclined to think that Moses’ parting of the sea to bring his people safely to the other side was more than a tale, more than a miracle even – that it had a spiritually scientific basis, which he exercised through a purified faith and well-focused spiritual command. The same was true for Joshua when parting the Jordan River. And also with Jesus’ sudden stilling of the stormy sea.

At this point, we may not think of ourselves as residing in their faith league. But do weather conditions really have a mind of their own? Do they constitute some maverick power inexplicably residing outside our mental environment? Those biblical figures may well have illustrated what’s possible for us to prove today by invoking spiritual law to harmonize our surroundings.

Does this mean we can stop a storm altogether through divinely mental means? Just reducing its threat sounds like a worthy goal. In fact, the more collective effort we all put into prayer in this direction, the more effective our efforts will likely be in dealing with atmospheric threats, as well as developing more efficient remedial measures.

My hope lies in the prospect that it will become more commonplace to implement spiritual power in restoring our environment and keeping it under control. Sustained peace and protection will come with that. Surely this was God’s expectation when, as Genesis 1 says, He bestowed upon us the gift of dominion over the earth.

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