Haiti’s horrendous earthquake disaster
Should we help and why?
Due to the ability to receive almost instantaneous news and media coverage from around the world, the global community once again is in shock at the epic tragedy unfolding in Haiti due to an earthquake that rocked the small island nation.
Haiti is located in the Caribbean off the south east corner of the United States and is listed as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. At 4.53pm on the afternoon of 12 January 2010 an earthquake of 7 magnitude on the Richter scale hit the island at a depth of 13km (8.1 miles) with its epicenter located only 25km (16 miles) from the nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince. There have been over 30 aftershocks.
In recent years many Christians aware of the plight of the impoverished Haitians, particularly from the US, have been involved in aid programs and direct efforts such as organized mission trips to the nation. Many are wondering then why such a disadvantaged nation seems to have been ‘punished’ in such a way, and as usual at these times of massive tragedy people are asking the question, “How could a God of love allow such things to happen?” It even appears that some Christian aid workers may have been killed in the earthquake. No doubt many Christians may even say that the answer lies in Haiti’s pagan roots and its well advertised dalliance with voodooism etc. In reality, these are fairly trite answers, because how would one then explain when tragedies befall supposedly Christian nations (For example, read Australia’s 2009 bushfire disaster that shocked a nation below). Even if voodooism was widely practiced we are not in a position to attribute the disaster to such practices alone. Did these Haitians suffer this way because they were worse sinners than any others? (Luke 13:1-4). What we can know about such catastrophes lies in the book of Genesis.
Quite simply, we should recognize that this creation is fallen and cursed because of sin. Both believers and non-believers are not exempt from this curse, and conversely non-believers are not exempt from the blessing that God occasionally pours onto all mankind (Matthew 5:45). In Genesis 3:16–18 we learn that it was not only human beings that suffered the effects of the Curse, but also the ground (the earth), the plants and obviously also the animals. Romans 8 reminds us that the whole creation groans and travails today under this same Curse and is now waiting for the day when it will be released from bondage. This is when the new heavens and new Earth are created, restoring creation to its pre-Fall state (Revelation 21 and 22). At that time, believers, because they have accepted Christ, will be relieved from the pain and suffering of this world when they are redeemed into the next one.
We have written much on the subject of why bad things happen in this world—we strongly recommend that you read the following articles to avoid repeating it all here:
There is also a whole section on death and suffering answers in our Q and A section.
An outpouring of compassion
Because Haiti is a desperately poor country with a substandard infrastructure by western standards, its ability to rebound and recover from such devastation is also limited. Many leaders in its government have been killed. Similarly its police force and so on. There are no basic services operating such as electricity and running water. The hospitals that existed have been destroyed.
The fact that many Christians were already working in Haiti is a testimony to the Gospel, based upon the tenet of “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. The passage in Mark 12:30–31 reads as follows:
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Notice that these are specified by the Lord Jesus as the greatest commandments, but the second one is actually an outflowing of the first. Quite simply, if one does not love God and understand that the Lord Jesus Christ came to this Earth to reveal God’s love to mankind, then one is actually unlikely to display the same demeanor to one’s fellow human beings.
A logical consequence of a Christian worldview
For example, at such times of international tragedies it is usually those nations whose foundations and democracies were based upon biblical laws and attributes that are the first to respond with aid and financial help.1 Although many of them can hardly be described as Christian nations anymore, the foundational principles have remained as part of the culture. These include major western nations such as the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, France and so on. It was also noted that when the Boxing Day (December 26 tsunami of 2004) struck the coast of Indonesia that although it was a Muslim nation, once again it was the western nations who responded the most quickly and provided the most aid money. Australia, which has a small economy compared to the rest of the aforementioned nations, gave a staggering one billion dollars (AU). This was more than any other country. By contrast, Indonesia’s fabulously wealthy Muslim counterparts in the Middle East gave paltry amounts in comparison (although many did increase their aid after being stung by media criticism of their poor response).
Of course, unless one has a Judeo–Christian worldview, which advocates such charitable works, then one has no logical basis for doing them. We are not saying that atheists cannot be charitable, but that they have no logically consistent reason for being so. After all, one might consider that in the Darwinian big picture of survival of the fittest then this earthquake, or even famines in Africa, for example, might actually be a good thing, because it will cull out the weak who are diminishing the human gene pool with inferior genes.
Atheists have been stung hard by creationists pointing out this obvious flaw in atheistic reasoning in recent years and as such are trying to rehabilitate their reputation. Some years ago, noted anticreationist Richard Dawkins was interviewed on radio and said:
“I’m a passionate Darwinian when it comes to science, when it comes to explaining the world, but I’m a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality and politics.”2
In effect, what he is saying is that he would like to live in a nice moral (dare we say Christian world?), without actually being a Christian or having the ‘spiritual baggage’ that goes along with living in such a nice world. Darwinian evolution can provide no such foundation in its dog-eat-dog scenario. In fact, in the last century many more people have been killed in wars and fights due to, or invoked by, leaders who espoused Marxist/Darwinian views of survival of the fittest. Read The bloodstained legacy of evolution. Now The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science has a website where it is encouraging non-believers (specifically) to give aid to Haiti.3 This seems almost to be an oxymoron. If you are a non-believer why do you believe you should give aid? After all, what does one believe in to inspire one to give aid? Indeed Dawkins has even defended the idea of eugenics—that is breeding people and only selecting those with favourable genetic traits.4
“Michael Shermer, the Executive Director of the participating Skeptics Society, notes: ‘It’s all well and good to say that we nonbelievers are just as moral as believers (we are, but that’s a philosophical point)—actions count more than words and real donations are where the theoretical rubber meets the practical road. This is our time to pony up and show the world our true character’” (Emphasis ours).5
When it comes to character the Lord Jesus Christ had a bit to say about that:
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:2-4), (emphasis ours).
There are dozens of verses in Scripture that advocate caring and giving for the disadvantaged. In the parable outlined in Matthew 25 there is actually a severe warning about the consequences of not helping others, which culminates in the statement:
“ … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Our motivation is the example Christ set. When He walked this Earth and healed the sick, fed the hungry and advocated clothing the poor, He was actually reversing the Curse and displaying God’s compassion for human beings—the very same ones that He shed His blood for.
Evolution says death is normal—‘good’, in fact, because it allegedly ultimately led to all life we see on Earth including human beings. In light of Shermer’s words (above), the atheists’ motivation for giving seems to be, in some measure at least, simply for show—to try and prove that the Christian foundation for ethics and morality is wrong. But please understand that it is not just creationists who have shown the logical consequences of an evolutionary worldview. The humanist professor of Biological Sciences at Cornel University, William Provine, has often repeated the following statement:
“Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposeful forces of any kind, no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be completely dead. That’s just all—that’s gonna be the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.”6
The atheist says at the end of it all we just get recycled as organic chemistry into something else. There is no meaning and purpose for our existence. By contrast, the death and struggle that we see in this world should be an indication and reminder that something is wrong with this world (Romans 8). Displaying Christ’s love through tangible means helps people to understand such things, that there is a God and that He loves us.
- New players seeking influence on the global stage notwithstanding. Whatever its motives, China is to be commended for being one of the first countries on the scene with aid. Return to text.
- Richard Dawkins, The Science Show, ABC Radio Australia, 22 January 2000. Return to text.
- “Non-Believers Giving Aid”,
, 18 January, 2010. Return to text.
- “Dawkins and Eugenics”,
, 18 January, 2010. Return to text.
- “Non-Believers Giving Aid”,
, 22 January, 2010. Return to text.
- Provine, W.B., Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy? The Debate at Stanford University, William B. Provine (Cornell University) and Phillip E. Johnson (University of California, Berkeley), videorecording © 1994 Regents of the University of California. (See also: Origins Research 16(1):9, 1994; arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/161main.htm.) Return to text.