Finding hope from Harvey

Earlier last week, I started wondering about the possibility of a second civil war in our country. 

I felt absolutely convinced that it would be only a matter of time until the United States were engulfed by a second civil war. Only this time, there would be no physical battle lines. There would be no such thing as “the South” and “the North.” No, we could only wish that were the case! On the contrary, it would be a war of minds, of ideologies, of skin color, of faith (or repudiation thereof). 

But then reports started flooding out of Hurricane Harvey, which had reached its peak over the weekend. Those reports, though, not only told of total devastation but of thousands of people rallying to rescue and care for one another. Churches and their members mobilized to collect donations and people to send down to Texas (faith is not represented only by Joel Osteen, whether you love him, hate him or somewhere in between). Individuals and big corporations alike set up donations and fundraisers. The Cajun Navy came down. And neighbors all over ran, swam and paddled to the help of their neighbors. 

Over and over again, I’ve heard people talking about how this hurricane is different from Hurricane Katrina. The devastation is unimaginable, but the biggest difference is in the character of Texans and countless people from other states running to help their neighbors. There are some reports of looting, but there are countless more reports of people saving their children, parents, friends, neighbors, the elderly and the vulnerable. Even beyond this, people recognize their losses but are more grateful for the blessings — that they are still alive, that they are safe, that there are so many people trying to support them. 

President Donald Trump has advocated to send Texas more money for flood relief and, this past weekend, he visited the people who have faced this devastation and offered his support. While some reporters and people have been outraged over First Lady Melania’s shoes and outfits, the United States president and his family nevertheless reached out to help the hurting. 

Last week, I thought I’d be writing about how civil war is inevitable, and I wasn’t sure what kind of ray of hope there could be in such a prediction. 

This week, Texans have offered that hope. 

In a world where Southern whites and rednecks and Christians were becoming increasingly vilified, Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath seem to have put a stop to the anger and violence and destruction. It gives me hope that perhaps a natural disaster may have put an embargo on an escalating war. 

I saw this encapsulated in a post on Facebook on Saturday, which I believe was a screenshot of a Twitter exchange. One person asked how the Christians in Texas might explain their God allowing Hurricane Harvey to create such havoc — well, truthfully, the post made the implication that Christians point to their God as a loving God, and made the inference that a loving God would not cause (the word “cause” is closer to his original word than “allow) such devastation.

It’s a good question, and I thought the posted response was very insightful: “Yeah. I see my God bringing people together of every race to help one another in a time our country was on a verge of race wars.” 

To me, this bespeaks hope even in the midst of calamity. Perhaps, just as a natural disaster offered people the opportunity to care for one another and work to rebuild amid such unbelievable destruction, which will take months or even years to accomplish, there may be hope that the United States will turn around and rebuild rather than be destroyed as well. I imagine there will be a crisis (although I’m hopeful this sort of event may delay it). And if we can’t pull out of this destructive path ourselves, where faith and race and politics divide beyond hope of recovery, then there will be a crisis point that will be much worse than Hurricane Harvey. Perhaps we’re in the middle of it. 

But if anything can offer hope with this shadow looming over us, it’s Texas and the flood of love and giving that is resulting from a flood of destruction. It’s how people are able to not only see the positive through the eyes of faith but to see the need of their neighbors. 

And that’s hopeful. 

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