Summary: Faith overcomes fear, even in the midst of the fury of Hurricane Katrina.
Fear and Katrina
Because of the events of the week, I have changed the verses, I was going to preach on. I invite you to turn in your Bibles to Psalm 27 and follow along as I read verses 1-5
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh-- my adversaries and foes-- they shall stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
4 One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.
Amen. The word of God. Thanks be to God.
Initially, this week I had planned to preach on a Labor Day topic, but after the events of the week, I felt that we needed another scripture and another topic today. On Monday, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. The initial reports were bad enough. About 50 people dead, millions of people refugees, billions of dollars in damage. But then we began to realize that it was much worse than that. In Gulfport and Biloxi, we saw block after block of leveled buildings. Reporters said it looked much like the tsunami in Asia last year. Then, two levees broke and made New Orleans uninhabitable. By Thursday, they were saying that possibly thousands had perished, about 2 million people were without power, and there was looting in New Orleans.
I was watching coverage of the disaster on CNN. They were showing video of dead bodies floating in the water. One segment showed about thousand people camped on the raised portion of an interstate. It looked like a scene from a science fiction apocalypse. Some of these people had already had health problems and some had died. Their bodies were just laying there on the highway. Reporters kept saying, This should not happen in America.
There was a female news anchor interviewing both government officials. The news anchor was from that area. and she obviously was disturbed by the reports. She asked the officials, “Can we ever rebuild? Can we ever recover from this?” They replied, Well, maybe not. Her questions were getting more and more shrill, and the people she was talking to seemed vague and indecisive.
I thought, Take a deep breath, lady. Take several deep breaths. Calm down. I know Katrina is a catastrophe. I know a lot of people lost everything, but certainly we can recover. and the last thing we need right now is news coverage dominated by fear and pessimism.
At 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, the President addressed the nation. His speech was larded with statistics. He talked about how many trucks we are sending to the strickened area, how many generators, how many bottles of water, how many tons of food, how many ships and national guardsmen. The President’s intention was to make us feel that measures have been taken, action is underway, and we can feel confident that the immediate problems at least are being addressed. The President was right in that we need reassurance, but I though we needed a better speech.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President in 1932, in the very depths of the depression. The economy was almost dead and many people were ready to bury it forever. One third of the people were out of work. Thousands upon thousands of people were on the move looking for jobs. There was social unrest, even talk of revolution. Those were the circumstances when Roosevelt became president. In his First Inaugural Address , he said,
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Now I suppose that no one would ever compare George Bush to Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt struck the right chord for his time, and for ours. Of course, the nation will endure. The Gulf Coast will revive and prosper. In 1906, the city of San Francisco was leveled by earthquake and fire. It was built right back again. In 1900, a Hurricane hit Galveston, Texas. Our records are fragmentary, but as many as 12, 000 people might have been killed. Galveston rebuilt bigger and better than ever. The Gulf Coast can also be rebuilt. It will take time and money and effort, but it can be done. Roosevelt was right. The only thing that can stop us is fear itself.