‘After The Disaster’

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Now, here’s a thing. About six months ago I wrote an academic paper on how communities recover from natural disasters and how we might apply the lessons from that to what happens once the covid-19 pandemic ends.  It drew on things such the UK Emergency Response and Recovery guidance[1], Chapter 5, for example, is focused upon ‘Recovery’. It is written from the perspective of there being a catastrophic event such as floods, or a nuclear accident. It defines the ‘Recovery’ phase as:

“The process of rebuilding, restoring and rehabilitating the community following an emergency, but it is more than simply the replacement of what has been destroyed and the rehabilitation of those affected [2].”

In the event, my article wasn’t published (at least not in the form I wanted – although you can read a blog based upon it[3]).

I am not sure why that came to mind this morning, but it did occur to me that we would do well to look at the Bible and what that has to say about such times. There are plenty of instances to look at – the flood, the collapse of the tower of Babel (both clearly instigated by God) are two very early ones that occur  in scripture along with the calamities that befall Job. Famines, enslavement and exile for the people of Israel also occur in the Old Testament. 

It is worth noting, though, that events such as the flood and the collapse of the tower of Babel occurred before the calling of Abraham and the identification of Israel as the people of God, and they were caused by man’s pride and hubris (a useful word that means ‘characteristic of excessive confidence or arrogance, which leads a person to believe that he or she may do no wrong’).[4]

There are fewer such references in the New Testament.  In part this is because the people of God are now revealed to be the community of believers, regardless of their origins and locations rather than being the People of Israel living in the promised land. 

An exception is the collapse of the tower of Siloam to which Jesus refers in Luke chapter 13.  When asked about some murders carried out by Pilate Jesus makes the point that when tragedy occurs it does not mean that the people affected were somehow more wicked than others and that all need to repent . He says:

“Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” – Luke 13.4-5

But I digress.  Well, not quite. When we consider natural disasters and major accidents and even deliberate acts of malice, our starting point, like that of Jesus, has to be not to blame the victims or to conclude that it is a punishment brought on by their sinfulness (this is different to people suffering the consequences of their own foolish or reckless actions). As Jesus says, all are guilty of sin and all need to repent.

So, as we seek to recover as a church from the pandemic what lessons can we learn from scripture? Well, I seem to have digressed too much and we have run out of space. We’ll come back to it next week!

[1] ‘Emergency Response and Recovery’, HMG, 2013,

[2] Ibid, page 84-85

[3]Blog – potential reconstruction challenges for social care leaders post-lockdown’.

[4] Investopedia, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/hubris.asp