My brother pointed out that the oil spill should keep us humble, and remind us how limited our capabilities really are. In this sense, the disaster is a natural consequence of pushing too far. It is exactly the same to say that the oil spill is God’s wrath for our arrogance, and His warning to repent. After all, it is God Himself who established the limits of nature and the consequences of violating them.

The fact that this is “God’s wrath,” is supported by the fact that nearly everything you can imagine went wrong with the efforts. First, the blowout preventer failed to prevent a blowout. Then, efforts to dam the well with drilling mud and to clog the blowout preventer with junk both failed.

One news brief said, “BP’s ill-fated relief efforts to stop the damaged well hit yet another snag, underscoring once again the fragility of the containment effort: lightning struck the vessel that had been collecting the oil from the well, suspending operations for nearly five hours” NYT

Ill-fated is a mild way to put it, the whole effort seems cursed in a way that is beyond our capacity to cope. It was a newspaper article that pointed me in this direction of thinking:
“The oil has now reached four gulf states…turning its marshlands into death zones for wildlife and staining its beaches rust and crimson in an affliction that some said brought to mind the plagues and punishments of the Bible. ‘In Relvelations it says the water will turn to blood,’ says P.J. Hahn, director of coastal zone management for Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish. ‘That’s what it looks like out there- like the Gulf is bleeding. This is going to choke the life out of everything.’”

The Book of Revelations says, “The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.” (Revelation 16:3)

Some would say that because the water is not actually blood, the book of the Apocalypse does not apply here. Yet this is what Revelation describes. It is very significant that the only description big enough to cover what we are seeing in front of our eyes is the one written in the Bible 19 centuries ago. Only the imagination of God can grasp this kind of event, something too big for the human mind to fully comprehend or cope with. It is exactly our inability to cope which should force us to turn to God, and to live in the way that God describes.

We don’t fully understand the consequences of our actions, but God does, and when He tells us not to commit adultery, when He warns against lust and sexual perversion, when He warns against contraception and abortion, when He tells us not to kill and warns against war, we should listen, because we don’t comprehend the damage that our sin can cause. The hemorrhage of oil should remind us that each bad choice has very destructive consequences, and if this is true in the natural world, how much more true is it in our spiritual, personal, and public lives.

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4 Responses to Oil – another sign of the Apocalypse

  1. Dcn. Jim Gauthier says:

    I respectfully disagree…perhaps even strongly disagree. This disaster is a consequence of free-will. Your line of thinking supports the idea that Aids is God’s punishment for homosexual behavior; Teenagers killed in an accident is somehow a message from God that we need to be better parents, and on and on it goes. Did God give us free-will or not? How can God’s unconditional love support a theory that has God randomly interveening. This type of thinking leads us to believing that we somehow have to not only “earn” God’s love, but even worse, we have to “earn” God’s forgiveness. Yes, our actions have consequences. It is our job as ministers to point out the consequences of our actions…that’s being prophetic. Your much too young to have lived at a time when the Church was in the business of scaring us into salvation! Where’s the love?

  2. John says:

    It’s not only biblical, it is positively medieval to say that man-made disasters are God’s punishment for sin. What possible good could come from planting in people’s minds that God brought the oil spill, or that God is preventing the stopping of the leak? Who would interfere with God’s wrath by helping the victims if God is punishing them? I’m guessing you got a little carried away here, but maybe you should reconsider this post.

  3. Fr. Joel says:

    Sometimes it happens that I am late for something and find myself driving faster than usual, trying to make up lost time. Inevitably, some very slow moving vehicle gets in front of me. Sometimes it is laughably slow, like a tractor hauling manure or a little old lady who can’t make up her mind where to turn. I used to get furious about this, but now I see it as a reminder from God to slow down a little. When I listen to God’s little reminders, my life is much more peaceful.

    Is it so hard for us to grasp that the loving God might be interested in our daily lives? If God is genuinely interested in our well-being, might he be intervening in our lives in little ways in order to encourage us down a good path? Teenagers killed in an accident is sometimes a result of failing to heed these messages – a friend who says we are driving too fast, a ticket from the police, that little voice in the back of our mind that we drown out with ear buds, parents who care more about themselves than their children… I’m not saying that life would be disaster-free if we listened to God, but rather that we make such a habit of not listening, that the very idea that God is talking to us seems strange.

    What if we learn from this oil spill and become more humble, patient, and cautious? What if those affected draw closer to God because of it? The Loving God does not have to explain to us why he might choose to allow such a thing. Just because it seems like a tragedy to us does not mean that God sees it as a tragedy. Surely the God who made creation good only allows his creation to be trashed for the sake of a greater good.

    I would take issue with my brother in this regard: If this tragedy is truly a warning, than it is a sign not so much of God’s wrath, but of his Mercy.

  4. Fr. Benjamin says:

    It is not true that every careless driver has an accident, or that every accident is caused by careless driving. Nevertheless, careless driving (in general) causes accidents (in general) and every accident is a warning to drive more carefully. In the same way, it is a mistake to attribute personal suffering to personal sin, but sin (in general) causes suffering (in general) and every disaster is a warning to live more carefully.

    The Bible will not allow us to say that God is punishing BP or that the 11 people who died on the oil rig were particularly sinful, or the people of the Gulf Coast are being punished for their wickedness. So, in response to John, I am not arguing that God is punishing those particular people. (look at Luke 13:1-5)

    Appeal to strictly free will, as Dcn. Jim says, as if this were an automatic consequence for bad choices, is not a good solution either. It places ALL THE BLAME for the oil spill on the shoulders of the men who happened to be working that day and the government regulator who failed to be strict enough. Because this approach sees problems as the inevitable result of bad choices, it leaves no room for grace and removes God’s hand from the oil rig entirely. This is hardly a loving God, more of an absentee father.

    If we do leave room for grace, we recognize that God frequently prevents disasters, and this is the reason that not every careless decision causes an accident. We are forced to say that God could have prevented this disaster but chose to allow it. The fact that only 11 men died is due to His mercy, but the fact of the disaster forces us to look at why God allowed it. The Bible tells us that suffering (in general) is a consequence of sin (in general), and that every disaster is a warning to live more carefully and more obediently.

    We ought to be afraid, seeing how fragile life is and how easily spoiled, and recognizing that we cannot possibly manage all the consequences of our bad choices, and so it is very, very important to make good ones.

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