March 16, 2011

Murphy's Law

The events of the past week have been incomprehensible, beginning with a 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan, followed by a tsunami that wiped out entire towns, and now a nuclear crisis. As we watch the pictures, it's hard to believe it's real. The home videos of the tsunami look like special effects from a disaster movie.

There are those who say it's God's judgment. I don't agree with that but I do believe it's the result of living in an imperfect world. That said, I also believe the images of the past week, including what's happening right now at the nuclear plant in Fukushima are a vivid illustration of sin in our lives.

When I was in the 8th grade, the local electric company announced plans to build a nuclear power plant 30 miles east of the city. It would be named Black Fox, which sounded like an appropriate name for a plant in Oklahoma. But over the next 9 years, as opposition to the plant grew, the name came to sound very ominous.

As I neared my 20th birthday, the plant had still not been built, and a couple of things happened that spring to draw everyone's attention to the protests. The first was the release of the movie, The China Syndrome, about safety issues at a fictional nuclear plant. That same month, there was the all-too-real accident at Three-Mile Island.

By now, I was paying full attention to the issue, and I agreed with local protesters that the dangers of a nuclear power plant were too great. While I never joined their efforts, I admired their tenacity, particularly that of Carrie Barefoot Dickerson, who led the fight. By 1982 the power company gave up their plans for Black Fox.

A few years later came the disaster at Chernobyl, and I was again relieved that Black Fox had never been completed. But 25 years went by without another major event at a nuclear plant - although there have been other accidents - and like many people, I didn't give nuclear power a lot of thought.

Then, a couple of years ago, as it became more obvious that we needed to be considering alternative energy sources, I began to wonder if maybe Black Fox should have been completed. "Sure," I thought, "things could go wrong, but they hardly ever do go wrong. Maybe nuclear power isn't really all that dangerous." Those who planned the various nuclear plants that have been built along fault lines probably told themselves the same thing.

Source: Google Images
That's exactly how sin works. "Sure, things could go wrong, but they hardly ever do go wrong," we tell ourselves. I know even the word "sin" causes some of you to cringe. Too often, we see use of the word itself as judgment. While we all acknowledge the big sins - sins against children, sins of violence, we tend the minimize the sins we see as small sins, or the sins that we don't believe affect others.

But that's the problem. Just as radiation escaping from the plant in Fukushima could potentially affect people beyond the immediate area, our sins can have an impact beyond ourselves. Sin is what separates us from God, but it also separates us from others, as it impacts our relationships. All sin can do that, from those we see as "small" all the way to the Big 10. Sin can permeate our culture and impact generations.

Just as those who approved and built nuclear power plants on fault lines convinced themselves the dangers could be controlled, we think we can control sin. And while we tell ourselves that the sin we're considering giving into is not that dangerous, the truth is we never know when the ground will begin to shift beneath our feet, or when the wave will overcome us, or when the safety mechanisms we thought were in place will fail.

Fortunately we have a God who forgives. We have a Savior.

Lord, please help those who are harm's way in Japan because we foolishly thought we could outsmart nature. Lord, forgive us our arrogance. Forgive us our greed. Forgive us our short-sightedness. Lord, have mercy.

Praying continually for the people of Japan,

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. ~ Romans 8:5-6


  1. once again, you nailed it with an excellent analogy.

    having said that, many people i respect are still
    persuaded that the benefits of nuclear energy
    outweigh the risks.

    i am taking the psalm 131th.

  2. Very well said. Humans are really good at saying "Its not going to happen to ME." I have fallen into that trap of arrogance more than I'd like to admit.

  3. Great post :) I think mankind in general is guilty of pride lately. We think we're above nature and God. Several incidents in the past decades have proven us to be dead wrong.

  4. I sincerely hope the nations of the world will have finally learned that we must seek alternative energy sources other than nuclear and oil. We are all stewards for this fragile planet.

    My prayers are with the people of Japan.