Thoughts On Katrina

The events are devastating, dwarfing not only those who survived the initial storm but overwhelming everyone who had the responsibility of dealing with the aftermath and responding to problems. The situation is unprecedented. However, because of that, ready platitudes and preprogrammed responses are not working and people are breaking down. In the end, however, when process and program prove to be inadequate, leadership and character triumph.

This is not unusual, neither in the history of human civilization, nor in our own history. Just recently, when 9-11 occurred, process and program proved inadequate, but leadership and character stepped to the forefront and people like Rudolph W. Giuliani and George W. Bush came forward as leaders with character. They rose to the occasion. This is another time, another tragedy where again process and program has not been up to the task, and leadership is still evolving in response. One thing is for certain, the critique will not be kind to many.

For example, Vox Day, a WorldNetDaily pundit and outspoken Libertarian blogger has focused his attention on the problem of women in crisis leadership positions. I point this out only to illustrate the issues involved and the dialog going on around those issues. The Christian Church has been arguing this issue of women’s leadership for almost a century and it has severely divided the Church. I should note that this division is not really over Scripture, since the Word is clear on the normative issues, while allowing for the rare exceptions. The division is over the continuing validity of that Word to speak to modern sensibilities as well as post-modern concerns.

Well those modern sensibilities and concerns are being given a test on the Gulf Coast by the aftermath of Katrina. There are some strong critiques coming out this crisis about women in leadership, especially those like Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. Here are three samples from Vox postings that take quotes from the NRO site to illustrate the critique.

L-LO quotes a reader: “This woman [Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco] is lost and looks lost. She may have won the election but she has no business being in charge of anything. Watching her on TV the last two days has made this pretty clear. Now is not the time to be sobbing. She sure as hell should not be doing it on the tube in front of her fellow citizens – the ones looking to her for leadership.”

JPOD: the governor of LA is emotionally broken. She keeps speaking of “trying to figure out” how to evacuate people; “trying to figure out” how to put refugees somewhere else, etc. As you noted, she can’t even say that looting is wrong; the most outrage she can muster is “where are they taking the loot to, anyway?” She can’t even see that her brokenness demonstrates that no one is in charge, and the more that people see that, the more utter chaos and lawlessness are spread.

Another NRO poster: Louisiana’s Democratic Governor has been a miserable failure where it matters most – rallying the citizens. As my brother put it, “I have a mother. I need a Governor.” What that means about Americans’ view of women in top leadership positions now I don’t know, but if I were Hillary, I would go to New Orleans and shoot some looters on national television.

Taken from posts between 8/31-9/2

What do these statements illustrate? Just that some conservatives are using the event to bash women? I don’t think so. I think we are seeing something much deeper. We are seeing what happens when God’s order and plan for humanity is laid aside on a wholesale basis. Yes, there are significant exceptions both here and in the Bible, such as Deborah and others. But, to take exceptions and make them the rule will lead to chaos if God is true and his design for humanity thwarted.

It is only under times of severe stress that we see the real deal, when all the support structures of process and program are stripped away and you are left with people and what is inside of them, both socially and corporately but especially individually. God gave us roles for a reason and that does not abrogate stepping outside of those roles on occasion and when necessary. But we need to ask ourselves, does this situation illustrate something we should discern about the direction of our society, Western Civilization, and how we have transformed the contexts handed to us by God for our welfare and the governance of the human race, or is it an anomaly and we needn’t concern ourselves with the deeper issues? As Christians who hold the “faith once delivered”, we need to discern the moment, discern the time in which we live, and discern if God is trying to show us something important.

Many may not like the thrust or implications of this posting. That is not my concern. My concern is the one with whom I have to do, the one in whom I trust, and in whom I live and move and have my being. What is he trying to tell me? Am I willing to listen, if indeed he is speaking? I believe that he is, and I feel I need to say to all those who read this, “Let him who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.”

Update: I just finished reading Peggy Noonan’s article After The Storm. Her advice to Governor Blanco, “Butch up, punch back, wade in.” In other words, act like a man…

Update: 9/6 I just read an interesting comment over at One Hand Clapping on the post Mayor Nagin’s “Kate Hale” Moment. In response, one commentor, Robert Modean, goes on to give a revealing critique of the whole situation. I post it here in full for your convenience.

Robert Modean Says:
September 2nd, 2005 at 12:24 pm
Sorry Joel & ROE, but you guys are WAAAYYY off base in criticizing FEMA. Disaster preparedness is the responsibility of State and Local authorities, in this case LEMA (The Louisiana Emergency Management Agency). There is a state-wide director for disaster relief in every state that person is called the Governor. There is a local director for disaster relief in every municipality and that person is called the Mayor. FEMA is a coordinating body that assists State and Local authorities in getting the resources they need. Because they are the “go to” people most folks are under the impression that they are in charge, and in fact if the State and Local authorities abdicate control over a disaster area they will take over. Typically after the initial response to a disaster the local guys do just that, leave FEMA in control. That’s because they have the experience and personnel to manage disasters of this scale.

Disclosure: I’m a volunteer coordinator for MEMA (The Missouri Emergency Management Agency), I’ve been through three major floods and a few big storms that generated enough tornado damage to get the affected counties disaster relief and believe me when I tell you what we are seeing from FEMA now is lightyears ahead of what I’ve seen from them in the past. Typically it took two to three days just to get the disaster declaration, then another two to three to get FEMA deployed, of course by then the local guys had been on the ground working around the clock for five or six days and we were more than happy to dump everything in FEMA’s lap. That’s the way the system is designed. Bush saw that and tried to skip a few steps to speed things up, he pre-declared the areas disaster areas. So what we are seeing in NO is the result of a convergence of factors:

First, the storm damage was bad, but the flooding has made relief efforts ten times harder than anything they could have imagined. Second, Mayor Nagin’s performance has been pathetic. This is the worst case of poor planning and criminal incompetence I’ve ever seen. Like I said, Bush declared the gulf coast area a Federal Disaster area on Saturday, two days before Katrina hit. That freed up FEMA resources for local and state coordinators and allowed for the pre-positioning of supplies so they could be rapidly deployed to the affected areas. Mayor Nagin waited until the last minute to call for an evacuation of the city, but the poorest people could not evacuate, why weren’t school buses used to get them out of town? Mayor Nagin made the last minute decision to declare the Superdome and Convention centers as refuge relocation points, why weren’t they stocked with water, food, bedding, generators, and fuel? Why weren’t hospitals offered additional resources by the Mayors office? Mayor Nagin made the decision to allow looting and told the police to focus on Search and Rescue; but looting hinders S&R efforts (as we’ve seen) and no one I know could believe that decision, it’s emergency management 101, preserving order preserves life. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Blanco deserves her share too, but the real culprit in the aftermath here is Nagin.

Yes, men fail in their duty also and then often try to shift the blame. That behavior is as old as Adam. But I can call Mayor Nagin to task for not performing his duty, for not living up to his leadership requirements, heck for even failing the common sense test. But with Govenor Blanco the problem is more complicated, especially from a traditional Christian perspective, not to mention threading my way through the politically correct minefields.
Hat Tip: Sue Bob at The Cassandra Page

  3 comments for “Thoughts On Katrina

  1. Terry
    September 4, 2005 at 11:02 pm

    Your article made me smart real good – but the truth can do that from time to time. At any rate, Peggy Noonan was right. This is no job for anyone weak – being nice does not count right now. Maybe that’s the problem with most women – we are taught to be nice all the time – not very wise in this world.

  2. Lisa M
    September 5, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    Whew – as a believing female, this post really has me thinking – and it’s a struggle keeping my defensive hackles in control enabling me to hear whatever Truth (capital “T”) I need to hear…. Born a rebellios preacher’s child in the middle of the woman’s movement created many internal conflicts. After experiencing both abuse and abusive control at the hands of “spiritual” men, it’s hard to know when the real Truth is being spoken.

    Regardless, in the face of crisis, we need the proper balance of leadership, character and nurture – in that order.

  3. September 6, 2005 at 1:35 am

    LIsa, despite being a man I understand your struggle, since I believe the struggle with authority is universal and we each face it in our own framework. But in the same way that we do not reject God as a perfect father because we may have had bad fathers does not mean that your problems abrogate God’s design for humanity.

    I also agree that many men have failed to live up to God’s call to manhood, husbandhood, and fatherhood. That said, those same failures weigh heavy on us men as we try to make our lives and families work within a world filled with broken men and broken families.

    God bless your efforts to maintain a proper Christian balance before the Lord as you work out your salvation.

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