September 19, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      Whose fault was it?

      If you were raised in a family with siblings, that was the game-most-played among the kids. It didn't seem like a game, in itself; it was more of a post-game activity.

      Tag? King Kong Takes Tokyo? Cowboys and Native Americans? Checkers? Jump rope? It didn't really matter what the game was... if you and your brothers and/or sisters were "normal" (ie., born with the evidence of original sin), any "play" could lead to war. "Who" hit "who," first? There were no video tapes with footage of the first assault; after the second punch/hit/shove; mutual destruction was coupled with mutual culpability. It may have been someone's fault, first... but, after the initial seconds of the Big Bang, the mayhem was co-opted. When Mom got wind of it, she opened the investigation: "Whose fault was it?"

      It's no game, on the national stage right now. In political terms, it is a toxic football, being passed from elected hands to elected hands. The mayor and the governor had no plans to have plans... for disaster. Local response? The story is pretty garbled, from the sound of things. It seems that the folks in New Orleans and Louisiana were hoping that the President would be watching CNN, deduce that the levees would fail... and roll the federal forces into the eye of the storm, assuming the worst. The fact that that did not happen has resulted in the kids' game, as a national pass-time: Whose fault was it?

      One nationally-positioned news magazine has already called the winner. Their front-cover line says it all: How Bush Failed. Cute. Seems reasonable to everyone... or, at least a majority of Americans as reflected in the latest Whoever Poll.

      Whose fault was it? That question is certainly important to ask, and that importance goes beyond mere politics. I was in conversation with a man whose life has been flooded with grief (his marriage has been hit by a tsunami), and - in the midst of his own struggles - he asked the Question: "Why did God allow the destruction caused by Katrina?" Whose fault was it? Maybe Bush and God were in cahoots...

      Whose fault was it? No one seems to include Sieur de la Bienville in the list of possible answers. He was the Frenchman who, in 1718, founded New Orleans... on swamp land that was situated five feet below sea level. No one questioned that decision... Seventy years later, a fire decimated the city, destroying 850 buildings. Would they rebuild? Where would they make the investment of time/money/emotions as they reclaimed New Orleans? Same site. In 1794, another massive inferno swept the city, burning 200 buildings. Again, the ties to the territory reclaimed from the swamp was the overriding factor. Again, they rebuilt... below sea level.

      "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall because it had the foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:24-27).

      Rain. Flood waters. Wind. Sound familiar? Jesus' story is a story about common sense: when you find sand, it's reasonable to ask yourself where it came from. Sand is evidence of past floodwaters; if you're going to build, it's probably reasonable to look elsewhere.

      Whose fault was it? Well, if you live below sea level - and you're counting on old levees to keep you dry - you're at risk. When the rain falls, the winds blow and the streams rise... don't be too surprised.

      By the way, that's just a picture of life, according to Jesus. "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice" is the group to be in. There's a hurricane called the Judgment that will come one day... and if your life is built in the wrong place, your destruction is sure. Are you on high-ground with Jesus?

Bob Shank

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