Commentary: In the winds of Katrina, a call to repentance
Sept. 14, 2005
Bishop Kenneth L. Carder
A UMNS Commentary
By Bishop Kenneth L. Carder*
". . . and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
— Micah 6:8
traumatic consequences of Hurricane Katrina validate the warnings of
history and the great religious traditions of the world. Authentic
security is found only in the practice of justice, which the Hebrew and
Christian Bibles define primarily as enabling the poor, the children,
the weak and the vulnerable to flourish as beloved children of God.
Hebrew prophets warn that nations that fail to practice such justice by
protecting "the orphans, the widows and the strangers" will
disintegrate and collapse.
trapped in the cauldron of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were
predominantly the poor, the sick, the children, the homeless and the
elderly. Public policies in the last several years have given
preferential treatment to the privileged and the powerful, while
services to the poor have been gradually and piously dismantled and
neglected. Safety nets have been weakened and removed by economic
policies and practices of local, state and federal governments.
is a tragic judgment upon our nation that public policies and personal
and corporate priorities equip us to destroy a foreign city within
minutes, but we cannot rescue the desperately stranded people in
flooded communities in our own homeland within a week. We are too quick
to identify those who take necessities for survival as "looters" and are
blind to the ongoing looting of the poor by unjust and exploitative
policies and practices by governments, corporations, institutions and
in the United Methodist Church share in the guilt and need for
repentance and renewal. We, too, have been "straining at gnats and
swallowing camels" and neglecting "to do justice, and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with God." We have pursued strategies of
institutional enhancement, personal comfort and narrow ideological
agendas while failing to extend hospitality, community and justice to
those whom Jesus called "the least of these."
nation’s invasion and occupation of Iraq in response to the terrible
destruction of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, was a serious
mistake, which has now contributed to our difficulty in responding to
nature’s assault on the Gulf Coast and to the unleashing of flood waters
on the poor and defenseless people in New Orleans. The misplaced
government priorities, policies and budgets in the name of defeating
terrorism have compounded the terror of Hurricane Katrina.
is now the aftermath of another tragedy that will define President
Bush’s leadership and his place in history. I urge him — and all of us
as a nation — to reorder our priorities toward policies and practices
that protect the nation’s most vulnerable citizens and enable them to
flourish as beloved children of God who are made in the divine image.
the same time, I repent of my own failure to provide leadership to the
United Methodist Church that faithfully reflects the message of the
prophets and Jesus; and I pledge to reorder my own priorities toward
that which brings true security — compassion expressed in justice for
and community with "the least of these."
the God who brings freedom from bondage and resurrection from
crucifixion transform the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina into repentance,
renewal and restoration.
is professor of the practice of pastoral formation and director of the
Duke Center for Excellence in Ministry at United Methodist-related Duke
University Divinity School, Durham, N.C.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.