But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."
Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day."
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."
When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, "Listen to them and give them a king." -- 1 Sam 8:6-22a
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the failure of the local, state, and federal governments to adequately prevent, prepare for, or respond to such a disaster is evident to all. President Bush, who many have jumped to lay full blame on, has even himself admitted this. This is no matter of debate.
But is the disastrous aftermath of the storm truly the governments' fault? No. Its our fault, each and every American. The welfare state we created and were content to live with is lies squarely to blame for the ill-prepared state of New Orleans, the woefully inefficient response to the disaster, and even the maniacal behavior of the people in that city during the crisis. You can read excellent articles detailing these facts both here, and here (both links thanks to my beautiful and graceful sister, Robbie). I love the second article because it rings clear and true, being written by an incredibly astute black woman.
For my purposes, I won't delve much further into the political applications of the claims I just made, the articles do far better justice to the topic than I ever could.
But I would elaborate where I say that the blame for this tragedy lies on every American's shoulders. We are a sinful nation. Many would argue against this, but I once had a college professor point out an interesting fact when speaking about Vietname - a Godly nation doesn't lose wars. And even today, our nation is at war, and its one that I'm skeptical that we can truly 'win.'
Much like the people of Samuel's day, we have corporately forsaken the Lord to turn after our own lusts. It was never supposed to be the governments' job to take care of our poor. That responsibility lies on the community itself, and namely the church. Now, I am not condemning all churches everywhere - heaven knows I know of some wonderful churches and ministries that daily toil to serve Christ among the poor. There are even great ministries like Desire Street and the PCA church that are working as we speak to bring healing to the victims of this tragedy.
But the church at large, especially in America, has failed at the very least to be socially active in crying out against a nation that would settle for a government that would attempt (and so blatantly fail) to care for said nation's poor. We have settled for our luxurious lives, spent far from the ghettos of the inner city, complacent and satisfied to pay ridiculous taxes to a government that failed to do what was clearly our duty. I'm just as guilty as you are, before you respond angrily to that.
We need to change our culture, our government, and our nation. We need to pray that God would effect this change, because we cannot do it on our own. That's the macro level of this problem.
At the micro level - in dealing with the crisis we currently have on our hands, the church should be at the front lines. If you claim the name of Christian, you should be earnestly considering how you can be of the most service to the poor and needy in the South. Whether it be sending more money to Red Cross, dropping off spare clothes at the local fire station collection drop, or considering going there to volunteer yourself, we all need to be doing more, with hearts broken over the true grief of this situation. While it may seem a grave claim to make, I submit that unless you were there caring for the sick and dying at the Superdome in the days after the storm, you need to consider the fact that you probably don't radically understand and live out the Gospel message the way the church once did. I know I don't:
Acknowledging the huge death rate [in the plagues in the cities of the ancient Roman empire], Dionysius noted that though this terrified the pagans, Christians greeted the epidemic as merely "schooling and testing." Thus, at a time when all other faiths were called to question, Christianity offered explanation and comfort. Even more important, Christian doctrine provided a prescription for action. That is, the Christian way appeared to work...
At the height of the second great epidemic, around 26, in the Easter letter...Dionysius wrote a lengthy tribute to the heroic nursing efforts of local Christians, many of whom lost their lives while caring for others.
Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick. Attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves Â the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others transferred their death to themselves, and died in their stead...
-- Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity