Why I am ignoring Japan

Many of my fellow Christian bloggers are busy writing about the sad events in Japan. Among those who have written sensibly, as almost always, is Eddie Arthur.

As for my own response, I came across an old post on this blog Why I am ignoring Burma and China, and this says it all about Japan as well. Note especially my point about the far larger numbers who die all the time, without publicity, of preventable diseases like malaria. So, I repeat,

as Christians we should not let ourselves be distracted by giving excessive attention to natural disasters, which are bound to come, but should keep our focus on the work of building God’s kingdom.

0 thoughts on “Why I am ignoring Japan

  1. Kurk Gayle has responded to this on his blog. Here is my comment there, in case he doesn’t allow it to remain there:

    Kurk, I do not appreciate being compared with concentration camp guards. I have just as much ground for comparing you with concentration camp guards for ignoring the millions who die each year of malaria and other preventable diseases – at least you make no mention of this important part of my post.

    Of course I understand that people with close personal links in Japan, but not in Africa where so many are dying unnecessarily, are more moved by the plight of the Japanese. But I think I have the right to be more moved by the plight of the Africans – and even more moved by the plight of billions worldwide who are going to a lost eternity without Christ.

    I note also Jesus’ reaction to disasters in Luke 13:2-5.

  2. I find this odd. It is strange to say that we should ignore Japan because many others die in greater disasters. Is it just about numbers? How many should die before we start paying attention? God weeps for all such disasters and we should as well, with prayers and giving.

  3. Mike, it may indeed be that God weeps for all such disasters, as he surely does whenever anyone dies unnecessarily. We should similarly be concerned, but not distracted from the work God has given us. But we should put things in proper perspective, in comparison with other ongoing disasters. Why should we be more concerned about Japan than about malaria deaths? Because the TV images are more graphic and insistent? Because the victims are “civilised” and not uneducated African villagers? As for giving, I prefer to give where it can do most good, not to people from a rich country which doesn’t need our financial help, and I don’t think has even asked for it.

  4. Thanks Peter. I understand your points. But you say, We should similarly be concerned.. How do you show concern by ignoring the situation? Perspective is very important as you say, but what is the purpose in encouraging us to ignore one suffering to something you consider more worthy of our attention? I think your opinion would be totally different if you had friends and family in the middle of it, as I have.

  5. Thank you, Peter, for commenting at my blog and now for linking to the post there. Please know that I’ll not delete what you said and that I’ve even replied to your comment.

    Perhaps as important as our conversation about your point of view is Rachel Held Evans’s poem. She’s just posted it:

    Some people have pastors who explain these things
    but I don’t
    know why she sits alone amidst the bodies that the water left behind—
    bodies of houses, bodies of cars, bodies of boats, bodies of people—
    knees bent,
    arms clasped beneath bare thighs,
    held together by the stiff embrace of a sob,
    or why the earth shook,
    or why the water came,
    or why she has taken off her boots,
    or why she sits alone amidst the bodies that the water left behind;
    I only know that I don’t
    want a pastor who explains these things.

    (This is the photo that inspired the poem. Are there any photos/images that have haunted you?)


  6. Kurk, thanks for the poem. I’ll reply to you on your blog.

    Mike, we should indeed be concerned. But how we should show that concern is a different question. I don’t think it would help to post meaningless platitudes or attempt to explain what Rachel, in the poem above, doesn’t want explained. As I explained, I don’t think giving is the right response here. Indeed my opinion would be different if I had friends or family caught up in the situation. But I did not actually encourage others to ignore the situation, but not to give it excessive attention. Indeed even for myself “ignore” should be understood as hyperbole, as the very fact that I posted this shows that I am giving the matter some attention.

  7. Thank you Peter. Forgive me if I misread your intention. I do understand your hyperbole. I think we must all respond as we feel right, as you are doing. With reference to ‘giving’, I am not just talking about money. The forces we have sent to help are indeed a gift, and to walk by on the other side would not be a right response.

  8. if we have any expertise or specifically needed resources to offer we should offer them

    Thanks for the further reply at my blog. But the best thing you’ve said so far was to confess (unintentional?) hyperbole (at least unintentional when it must apply to others). So I’ve replied to your excesses at my blog again, (and I wonder – seeing just now your conditional statement to Mike about resources – how you’d advise if Christians only had a few fish and bread loaves to feed a hungry mass of thousands, twice). Will you be willing or able this time to answer a few questions?

  9. Kurk, I “confessed” nothing wrong. I am rather proud of my use of the recognised literary device of hyperbole. As far as I know the Japanese as a whole are not short of anything, except apparently working pumps for nuclear power stations, so they don’t need our loaves and fishes. Of course their resources are not all in the right places, but anything we have is even further from the disaster zone.

    I will read the further comments on your blog and reply as I see fit.

  10. Thanks for this Peter, and for the perspective you put this disaster in. Your use of hyperbole is just about spot on for me, and you do highlight the danger of us using mainstream media as the conduit for our emotional angst (not to mention acts of compassion).

    It just seems a shame that the responses to your posting here have focussed on your ‘ignoring Japan’, which I assume was at least in part just a device to allow the reader to think about the wider mortality issues in our broken world, and our seeming ambivalence to them.

    I’ve mentioned in previous comments here that our theological convictions are probably at variance in certain areas, but I always find what you write to be provocative and helpful.

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