Jump directly to the content
God's Wrath and Natural Disasters: Whom Do We Blame?

God's Wrath and Natural Disasters: Whom Do We Blame?


Jul 2 2012
Social media and the sovereignty of God as Colorado's most destructive fire raged.

While I worked 500 miles away from my family, I got word that my dad's office and my aunt and uncle were evacuated because the Waldo Canyon fire burned closer and closer.
Eager for up-to-the-minute news on the fire and more detail than my family gave in text messages, I scanned tweets and refreshed the newspaper's website like an insomniac on caffeine, listening to scanner traffic of firefighters setting up command centers and relaying information as each home caught fire.

Tweet after tweet with the hashtag #waldocanyonfire scrolled down my screen. Hundreds more poured out every minute. Tweets ranged from helpful: the sheriff and mayor used Twitter to ask people to stay off cell phones to keep lines free for emergencies; to overly dramatic: "watching the city burn from my porch </3"; to outright misleading, information which spread through the Twittersphere when retweeted by others. A wave of tweets promoted almost certainly photoshopped photos of the inferno. Because there was no gatekeeper, information (and misinformation) could spread quickly.

Constant updates intensified my feeling of impending doom as homes and a cherished landmark burnt to the ground. It was tempting to feel as if God had deserted or forgotten Colorado Springs (though as some facetiously pointed out, it's difficult to claim God was casting judgment on the town that houses Focus on the Family, Compassion International, Summit Ministries, the Navigators, and countless other ministries).

After scrolling through every new tweet for a solid hour, it was clear that few contained helpful new information. Many were retweets of other helpful tweets, cluttering my feed with the same details. A myriad of other tweets implored celebrities to repost a tweet and "spread the word" that Colorado Springs was in danger from the fire.

Some Twitter chatter was helpful, but the medium also gave a voice to the same rubbernecking voyeurs who were clogging traffic up and down the highway in Colorado Springs that night. And sure, virtual rubbernecking is a lot less physically dangerous and distracting than physically blocking traffic to take a photo. I found a sort of mindless catharsis in retweeting fire photos and other information, but how helpful is it, really?

After about 200 dramatic tweets from various people "watching their city burn," I wondered if there wasn't a more helpful outlet for personal grief and shock than letting the world know about it. Wildfire Tees quickly launched a website selling a half-dozen new t-shirt designs to raise money for Care and Share, the Colorado Red Cross, and other fire relief funds. They found something to do to help while their city burned.

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

The church can model a more inclusive community, one that doesn’t divide over marital status.
Why Google and BuzzFeed Need the Church

Why Google and BuzzFeed Need the Church

When big corporations make big moral decisions, where is the church’s voice?
Timehop Helps Me See God’s Providence

Timehop Helps Me See God’s Providence

How a social media app reminds me of God’s faithfulness in my life.
How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

This Father’s Day, I celebrate my parents’ choice to move close to my kids.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

I’m a Woman Who Got Kicked Out of Women’s Bathrooms

Our zealous policing of gender norms can have unintended and hurtful consequences.

Twitter



What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
God's Wrath and Natural Disasters: Whom Do We Blame?