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Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

This organization scheduled its annual “Southern Decadence” event for Wednesday, August 31 through Monday, September 5, 2005. Its Web Site proclaims that this will be “Southern Decadence XXXIV in New Orleans—A celebration of Gay Life, Music & Culture.” Similar bashes are held in New Orleans with a “Gay Easter Parade” and “Gay Halloween” and “Gay Mardi-Gras” (this one scheduled next for February 24-28, 2006). The last “Southern Decadence” held in New Orleans in 2004 drew, so it is reported, some 125,000 celebrants.

The current mayor, as had two former mayors, effusively welcomed the assembly. The Web Site of “Southern Decadence” stated:

Due to the significance of Southern Decadence’s importance to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, and the millions of dollars in economic impact, the past three Mayors of the City of New Orleans have issued an official proclamation welcoming visitors to Southern Decadence…. Additionally, in 2000, the New Orleans City Council issued the first proclamation recognizing the Official Southern Decadence Grand Marshals that year.

The same article presented the proclamation of the current mayor, C. Ray Nagin, issued in connection with the “celebration” scheduled for New Orleans on August 31-September 5, 2005:

Greetings! Welcome to the most intriguing city in the world: New Orleans, Louisiana!

The City of New Orleans extends to you our heartfelt gratitude for coming to our unique mecca on the Mississippi River. The birthplace of Jazz, the “blue” in Blues, our music and our culture is as varied and as diverse as our citizens. There is no place like this place on this earth! Southern Decadence XXXII is an exciting event! We welcome you and know that you can anticipate great food, great music, and great times in New Orleans.

Our City offers true Southern hospitality at its finest. Explore our heritage and witness our growth and commitment for generations to come. Share in our future by observing how we honor our past. Our museums and galleries offer world class exhibits. Take some of our “home grown” art home with you! 

Come to New Orleans often and please tell your friends and associates what a grand place New Orleans is for meetings, vacations and business opportunities. 

Sincerely 

C. Ray Nagin

This same mayor on Thursday, September 1, bitterly berated the federal government for their slow response in helping their distressed city. He used vile language to describe this lack of action so that radio and television stations had to “bleep” out several of his words.

“Southern Decadence XXXIV,” needless to say, was cancelled (although some of these individuals nevertheless appeared in the city). On August 29 “Katrina” hit. It was listed as a category 4 hurricane. Though it was first headed directly for New Orleans, the last minute it seemed to swerve slightly from that path. There were those who rejoiced that New Orleans had been spared the worst of devastation from the storm. But then the levees that protected the city were breached. The bowl-shaped city, much of it below sea level, filled with water. Hundreds, it has been estimated, died there and in the surrounding vast area. On Tuesday the order was given to evacuate the entire city. For the week after the hurricane hit, pictures of devastation, suffering, and death were presented on every television news broadcast.

It was heart-rending to watch. There were people lying dead along the streets. Mothers had lost sight of their children. Husbands had lost their wives. It was listed as the worst disaster ever to hit our land. And the government, it seems, hardly knew what to do or where to start to help in this devastation.

It was, as some broadcasters said, a “disaster of Biblical proportions.” Perhaps like that of Sodom and Gomorrah? It would almost seem so.

Estimates of the total cost of the damages range to over 100 billion dollars. The effects on the economy of the United States remain to be seen. The “pain” at the gas pumps, at the time of this writing, is obvious.

But a bold face is put on all of this. The President has signed a relief bill of over 10 billion dollars. And, so he says, this is only the beginning of the help that will come. The city will be built to be bigger and better than before.

One recalls God’s testimony concerning Edom as recorded in Malachi 1:3-4: “And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever.” One recalls also the words of Christ in Matthew 5:45: “…for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Even so, His wrath affects both the just and the unjust. The just must know that all these things work together for the good of His people. The unjust must understand that this is but a foretaste of the wrath to come when, shortly, Christ returns.

We likewise have Christ’s testimony, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:7-8).

In the meantime, recriminations continue apace. The mayor of New Orleans, the governor of Mississippi, and many with them accuse the federal government of being far too slow in their efforts at disaster relief. The President ought to have shown greater compassion by visiting the area immediately. The Federal government ought to have provided (before the storm hit) for the evacuation of those who had no transportation. The Federal government should have had available relief by providing water and food immediately. The Federal government should have provided troops and the national guard to patrol and keep order. The Federal government for years has under-funded the project of enlarging and hardening the system of levees.

Others point out that the mayor of the city never ordered the 200 school buses in the city to be utilized in evacuating those without other transportation. The buses remained unused and subsequently ruined, say some, under four feet of dirty water. The city itself evidently had no emergency food supplies to assist its citizens if and when the long-forecast hurricane hit the city. The governor waited far too long before declaring orders for evacuation. The governor failed to mobilize the national guard troops immediately. The governor failed to order in buses to assist in the evacuation.

Others point out that the disaster was compounded by the racial divide. Most wealthy white folk left the city, the poverty-stricken colored remained. Perhaps the delay in providing support and relief was because these were mostly merely poor black people who remained. If it had been a city predominately white, the help would have come immediately.

Except for some religious publications, none mention the hand of God in this all. It was a storm that came likely because of global warming (and the Bush administration, such is the claim, has failed to act to reduce global warming). The extreme devastation came as a result of the failed environmental policies of the Bush administration (the government did not provide sufficient funding to restore the wet-lands which would have moderated the effect of the storm). But God? Would a loving God send such a storm and wreak such destruction? Would He express in it His judgment against the wickedness of a city or of the nation? Would a kind God send such a terrible storm with all of its destruction and loss of life to remind of the near coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ? No. President Bush is to blame. The mayor and governor are to blame. Racism is to blame.

The child of God must look up. God speaks through disastrous storms as well as through the “still small voice.”

The late Gerrit Vos, who was a pastor in the Protestant Reformed Churches, wrote a Meditation titled “Visited by Majesty on High” in the Standard Bearer after a devastating tornado swept through his hometown of Hudsonville, MI, “Our village received a very special visit by the Lord Christ. It was a visit of the Majesty on high. What we really received is a little foretaste of the end of the world. Some of us went to heaven in the process of that visit. Others are in the hospital because of that visit. Some of us had a brush with death. All of us were deeply impressed by that visit. God came to us, and He roared: I have never yet heard a voice such as we heard around supper time, Tuesday evening, April 3, 1956….”

Far more might that be said about “Katrina,” which swept through the southern states on August 29, 2005.