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Hurricane Katrina Revisited

John is an actor, writer, and entrepreneur interested in the search for truth and meaning in the world.

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Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

Luke 6:46–49

Stop the presses! This just in, New Orleans, that great city known as the birthplace of jazz and fine cuisine in the New World, has been devastated by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding (August 2005). The Big Easy, as New Orleans is affectionately called, is a city rich in history. The French founded New Orleans in the early 1700s as a seaport and trading post due to its natural high ground along the flood-prone banks of the lower Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. The city flourished over the next three centuries to become a major industrial seaport and cultural center in the United States. As the city expanded in business and cultural importance, New Orleans became renowned as a center of vice and debauchery. In other words, it became the feel-good capital of the United States. Now all the glory of that great city lies in ruins. The pumps and levees constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers to drain rain water and protect against storm surges failed because they were not designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The design deficiency, coupled with the fact that much of the city is actually located between one to ten feet below sea level and sinking at an annual rate of .1 to .2 inches because of soil erosion, meant it was inevitable that New Orleans would suffer such a fate.

Many have speculated on the specific causes of this epic catastrophe. Some say it was a judgment of God while others cite global warming as a factor. I believe both explanations are erroneous. God never sends judgment on a city or nation without first sending a representative to call the inhabitants to repentance. To verify my assertion, you, who are wise, consult the Scriptures that are replete with stories of God mercifully choosing to send a messenger before bringing His wrath upon a city to verify my assertion. Take for an example of God’s mercy, Jonah at Nineveh and Jeremiah at Jerusalem. I know of no evidence that God ordained anyone to bring a final call to repentance to that decadent city. Moreover, if the numerous churches of New Orleans had fulfilled the Great Commission instead of compromising the gospel, I could maybe subscribe to that assertion. And, the theorized global warming is primarily the result of a recurring solar phenomenon that causes the sun’s surface (sunspots) to burn more brightly for a period of time thereby intensifying the sun’s energy output (radiation) on earth. This was proven recently when scientists discovered that the ice caps on Mars were also melting, as they are on earth. This discovery, along with others, proves that one of the central credos of the environmental movement—humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up—is nothing more than junk science. The inconvenient truth of the matter is that the earth goes through natural cycles of warming and cooling. Humanity’s contribution to global warming, which is certainly greater than zero, is unknown at this time.

The real cause of the New Orleans disaster was plain old-fashioned incompetence and negligence. For years the state, local, and federal authorities knew the pump and levees were incapable of protecting the city from flooding associated with a major storm. In shortsighted folly, they spent so-called “beleaguered funds” on pork barrel projects. A precious opportunity to repair a major liability in the foundational infrastructure of the city exposed by Hurricane Camille some thirty years earlier was lost forever. The decision to delay indefinitely the repair and maintenance of the city’s foundation has left hundreds of thousands displaced and wrecked the region’s economy. Now, they are faced with the costly prospect of rebuilding the devastated region anew in the midst of a national recession. This unfortunate outcome, along with $200 billion in reconstruction costs, could have been avoided had the nation’s leaders had the wisdom to defer unnecessary spending and reinforce the levees.

The unfathomable destruction in New Orleans should cause all Americans to pause and consider the foundation upon which their lives are built. Is the purpose of your life centered on building a legacy that will abide in eternity or does your existence simply involve living for the pleasures of this present hour? The answer to that question will reveal a clear picture of your character, relationship with God, and eternal destiny. In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable about two men laying housing foundations on distinctly different types of soil conditions. The wise man built his house on a safe and secure foundation, namely a rock. When the rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat upon it, it did not fall because it was built on a solid foundation. Then there was the foolish man who built his home upon the sands of the earth. In that instance, when the rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat upon it, the house was utterly destroyed because it lacked a sound foundation. This parable, which has spiritual and natural dimensions, is analogous to the New Orleans of today.

The original inhabitants built the present day French Quarter and government buildings on the highest ground in the city. Those buildings survived Hurricane Katrina. However, successive generations, desperate for housing acreage, continued building on the city’s outskirts until it became a sprawling metropolis. To allow even more people to live within the city limits, the city fathers erected pumps and levees to protect the newly-developed, low-lying areas from frequent flooding. The decision to build on unstable, low-lying, and sand-filled marshes ultimately ensured the city’s destruction. When the storm arrived, the buildings in the marshes areas and on the barrier islands had no natural protection against rising floodwaters. As a result, many residents—whether they lived in luxury homes or poverty-ridden tenements—unnecessarily perished in the flood.

How sad is it that those who should have known better chose to build their homes and businesses in a known flood zone, consequently losing their lives and possessions? The flood is a tragic incident in American history, but there is a valuable lesson to be learned from the catastrophe. We who are disciples of Christ must carefully examine ourselves to ensure that we live each day according to wisdom not only in spiritual matters but earthly ones too. Otherwise, the storms of life, which come to test every person, will invariably lead to our destruction.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 John Remington Pierce

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