May has been a horrific month of cyclones (100,000 possibly dead in Myanmar), earthquakes (55,000 reported dead in China) and thousands left homeless by the most-active tornado season ever in the Midwest. So, where is God in all these natural disasters?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin wrote, following December 2004’s tsunami, that when God commanded Adam and Eve to “subdue the earth” He was giving humans two commands:

    Our first distinctive cultural imperative is to render ourselves less vulnerable to nature. We believed we were following Divine will when we developed medicine and medical technology to dominate disease. We found insecticides to protect our food supply, and we built dams to control rivers. We knew we were pleasing God by making ourselves safer and more secure, and this knowledge lent added urgency and meaning to our efforts. Not by coincidence did the overwhelming majority of these scientific and technical developments take place in the West.

    Civilization`s second distinctive cultural imperative is the importance of preserving human life. This too derives directly from our biblical roots and distinguishes us from the peculiar fatalism toward death found in so many other cultures.

    God runs this world with as little supernatural interference as possible. Earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and, yes, tsunamis happen. It is called nature, which is not always benign. Fortunately, God also gave us intelligence and commanded us to make ourselves less vulnerable to nature. He also implanted in us a culture in which each and every life is really important. Many of those fatalities are attributable to misguided cultures.

In Myanmar, the government actually prevented aid from reaching hurt and homeless; in China lax building codes assured destruction. In the Midwest, however, early warnings and storm shelters have prevented thousands of deaths.

While in Mozambique in February 2001, I was amazed that residents were rebuilding on the exact flood plane that had destroyed thousands of homes just one year earlier. Our missionary host explained that many Africans view life as cyclical (“The Circle of Life”) and have no concept of changing the future through relocating or minimizing flood risks.

When God commanded that we “subdue” the earth, that may have included levies, strict building codes, Doppler radar and storm shelters. So, have a safe Memorial Day weekend—and put fresh batteries in your weather radio.