Japan’s most powerful earthquake since records began struck the north-east coast, triggering a massive tsunami on Friday. Cars, ships and buildings were swept away by a wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude quake. Initially 350 people were reported dead and 500 missing. At least one nuclear power plant was in serious danger. The quake was the fifth-largest in the world since 1900 and nearly 8,000 times stronger than the one which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, said scientists.

Once again the forces of nature remind us that humanity is far more vulnerable than we care to admit.  The preparedness of this island nation, so often faced with such forces, reduced the damage; but did not nor could it not provide fail-safe protection from this destruction.  The fact that such disasters strike major industrial and fourth world nations alike remind us that no part of humanity is superior to another, some simply more privileged and affluent.  We need not use these tragedies to pontificate (as some have already done) words of judgment against nations or peoples. But we do need to remember man must find meaning in more than the material achievements and possessions that some of us are fortunate off to obtain.  And as such disasters in Haiti have occasioned, we need to see ourselves as a global community setting aside our differences and pursuit of parochial gestures to pursue the noble goal of bringing comfort and relief to those who suffer.

What is troubling to me is the moral arrogance of a small fanatical band called the Westboro Baptist Church. This week in a rural county to the west of me, another tragedy struck. Seven of eight children died in a house fire.  The Clouse family were farmers, eking out a living with a dairy herd. The fire began after 10 p.m. when the children’s mother was performing the evening chore of milking the cows and their father was at work. The Clouse’s three-year-old daughter ran to the barn to get her mother, Janelle, who first tried to get into the house but was unable to. She then went to a neighbor’s home to call 911, but discovered they were not home and had to go to another neighbor’s place farther down the road.

Janelle then ran to alert her husband. Ted Clouse, who was out on his truck picking up milk from local farms for delivery to stores the next morning, had nodded off while waiting for a farmer to turn over his product. He was parked about a mile down the road from their house. Janelle woke him up, and the two ran back to the home. But the distances, as is typical in farm country, were too great. By the time the Clouses got back to the house their seven children—girls ages 11, 9, 6, 4, 2 and 7 months and a 7-year-old boy—had died of smoke inhalation.

The Westboro Baptist Church, fresh from its victory in the Supreme Court, issued a press release stating they plan to protest at the funeral of the seven Clouse children killed in this tragic fire in Perry County this week. The release is full of bluster over their Supreme Court victory and claims the fire was a result of God’s wrath for Pennsylvania (this is the home state of the man who took them to court over their protests as his service man son’s funeral).  The release is replete with misinformation about the circumstances of the fire, claiming Mr.Clouse was callously asleep in his truck during the fire. In Loysville, where the Clouse family attends the Church of the Living Christ, people are making plans to rebuild their home and also to shield them from the fanatics from Westboro should they actually show up for Tuesday’s funeral. One thing is sure to me, God’s heart of compassion is already bringing comfort to the Clouses. Phelps and his Westboro hate- promoters will have to answer to God for this arrogance.  They need to read God’s Word instead of claiming to represent it. Three verses alone would suffice:

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18 New Living Translation

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18

“To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”- Proverbs 8:13

Talor Battle of Penn State

As I write this the NCAA brackets are being announced. Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Duke are the four number one seeds. (I picked Notre Dame instead of Duke).  I was glad to see that Penn State earned a birth (at a ten seed). Although they fell victim to the Buckeyes three times, they were a solid team against top ranked teams and were clearly deserving of a bid. My heart went out to Tommy Amaker and Harvard, who came to close to their first bid since 1946. A little March gladness and sadness.

Tommy Amaker and Harvard

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