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Faith in Focus: Acts of God or purely natural phenomena.

Byline: Rev Ian Tutton

ALL I can say is: ``I'll never complain about the weather again!'' The graphic pictures of flood ravaged Central Europe that we've all seen this week have shocked us all.

One report described it as a calamity of ``truly Biblical proportions''. Biblical? Well I imagine the author had in mind that well known Bible story - Noah's Ark. Then, thousands of years ago, the whole earth was submerged and only Noah, his immediate family, and two of every kind of living creature survived.

While insurance companies still talk about ``acts of God'', nobody doubts that the present flooding is caused by purely natural phenomena.

Back in Noah's time, it was different. We are told that God caused the earth to be flooded in order to destroy evil and wickedness. We may think that to be ridiculous, but such thinking doesn't just belong way back then.

When the Aids virus first began to spread, there were those who described it as ``the gay plague'' - God's chosen way of visiting his judgement on practicing homosexuals. No doubt some still think that way.

Anyway, back to the story of Noah: at the end, we heard that God pledged never to punish the earth in such a way again, and he put the rainbow in the sky as a sign that he would keep his promise.

That story is not meant to be read in terms of geography, geology or meteorology. As far as we are concerned, it teaches a timely truth, however much we would like evil and wickedness to be destroyed, it just doesn't happen like that.

When dealing with evil, it isn't enough to try to destroy it, it has to be confronted and overcome. The symbolic significance of the continuing presence of the rainbow is to remind us all that we possess the capacity within ourselves to confront and overcome evil.

The problem is to try to destroy it always appears to be the easy option - the quick fix. The trouble is, evil is remarkably resilient. Try to destroy it and so often it ends up destroying you.

The consequences of attempting to destroy evil are hatred, bitterness and anger. Long after the particular circumstances have passed, these emotions remain. They haunt us to death, they destroy us from within. Don't try to destroy evil, confront it - with what? With courage. We have to believe that evil can be overcome, that it can never have the last word. Aids is not a judgement upon evil, it is an evil in itself.

Therefore we should not condemn those who suffer from the effects of the virus; many are already condemned to their fate. Rather we have to seek to overcome the evil that is Aids. We must be prepared to confront our prejudices and overcome our fears.

We must have sufficient strength to believe that the virus can and will be cured.

We must have the will to resource the necessary research, and the willingness to make already available drug treatments accessible to those poor countries who cannot afford to pay the inflated prices so often charged by commercial drug companies.

The impetus to deal with perceived evil in this way is more often than not supplied through a religious faith.

A faith sufficiently mature to realise that God doesn't act in such a destructive fashion, rather, being aware of the presence of God provides that inner strength of character, that ``Strength to love'', which of itself is so powerful that no evil can withstand it.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 17, 2002
Words:588
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