New Orleans Katrina Response Part I

Two people can say the same thing one as a friend of the object and the other a critic. Bill Cosby speaking on the need of better parenting in the black community and a skinhead speaking in essence saying the same thing comes across differently. Likewise, Dennis Prager, a Jew who is a radio talk show host, and an anti-Semite speaking on an issue related to the Jewish community might say basically the same thing but it comes across differently.

The experience of the speaker and the reason for saying it makes the difference. One speaks as a friend and the other a critic. Against that background consider this statement:

“It ought to be possible to live a Christian life without being a Christian.”

The speaker is asking why a non-Christian can’t have a life-style in many regards like a Christian without being one. That is, why is it that often the two don’t respond alike.

The maker of that statement was Roy Hattersley, a columnist for the “U.K. Guardian.” Hattersley, an outspoken atheist, reached that conclusion after watching the extensive faith-based organizations response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Notable by their absence,” he stated, were “teams from rationalism societies, free thinkers’ clubs, and atheists’ associations — the kind of people who scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity.”

Hattersley pressed his point by further stating that Christians “are the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in helping others.”

He then made a statement that challenges Christians. “The only possible conclusion,” he said after watching response to the Katrina disaster, “is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make (Christians) morally superior to atheists like me.”

Not all Christians are like those who responded to disaster relief causes resulting from Katrina and not all atheists are like Hattersley. However, his observations regarding compassionate response in this time of need is correct. I have been there helping to cleanup and cook for relief workers as part of the third largest relief group in America, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Agency. The group would be number two if number two didn’t include their numbers among their own. The media gives coverage to FEMA, the Red Cross, and Salvation Army but it is the Baptists who cook for most of them and have the largest number of trained chainsaw teams and counselors. They don’t seek recognition they are there simply because they are moved by compassion and want to help. It is inherent in their faith and that is what Hattersley is commending.

Having written this what is my motive? It is not to impugn those organizations that did not respond but to challenge those who normally do to live up to Hattersley’s observations. It is to commend the integrity of the statement of an individual observant of a need among many of his peer groups. Who said it resonates.