I look at Katrina as a modern Apocalypse in 3 movements. I think that doing this will also explain the greater biblical idea of the apocalyptic genre as a revealing time of great distress.
1. Katrina taught us that we were not safe.Anyone living on the Gulf Coast is accustomed to the late summer and early fall being hurricane season. You keep supplies around preparing for the way that the storms can affect you. In central Louisiana (where I am from), this means candles and water...because the most we were usually affected was a loss in utilities and perhaps the need to have a couple of days were life might be mildly difficult. I can never remember really needing to use them longer than a few hours.
Katrina taught people the power of a hurricane. It also reminded those who were used to evacuation orders that they need to be taken seriously. People always predicted what would happen if the perfect storm hit New Orleans. These warning were not heeded, by individuals and the government. One of the largest biblical correlatives to this would be Christ’s warnings to Jerusalem in Matthew 24. While many dispensationalists will point towards these gospel narratives as predicting the end of times, many other biblical scholars point to them as prophetic warnings of the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans. I won’t get into the various biblical arguments here, but instead want to point to how this served as a dramatic reversal of life as it was known. This theme is one of the major biblical ideas of apocalypse.
Our hope and safety is in Jesus Christ and his future eternal reign, not in the structures of the empire of man.2. Katrina taught us that we should band together, and not separate into rampant individualism.
I know of plenty stories about folks coming together during this time and realizing the power of community and the kingdom reversal of racism. But there are also stories of fear and a descent into individual fear and fortification. Here is a quote from Kyle Childress describing an event during Hurricane Rita-which hit Houston not a month after Katrina.
That is not all I witnessed that week. Later, after most of the people
from Houston had left town, I went down to put gas in my car. By this time,
the lines were short and I waited behind a man and his wife in their one-ton
pickup with a dual-wheel rear-end. Guns were hanging prominently in the
truck as they got out. She glared at everyone and kept the door open on the
truck with the guns in easy reach, while he proceeded to fill up his two
twenty-two-gallon tanks on the pickup and then fill up his many gas cans
and two fifty-five-gallon drums in the back-end. I watched them, gave them
a wide berth, and I felt a shiver. I was not only looking at American society
in microcosm, I was also witnessing what the Church is up against. Here
was an apocalyptic moment, when our society’s pretense, politeness, and
orderliness were blown aside. Clearly, this couple believed they were on
their own; they did not need anyone or want anyone to interfere with their
individual lives, and they were going to make sure they got what they
wanted or needed, by any means, including the use of violence. Meanwhile,
down the street was a church full of people who believed that the good life
was found in sharing a common life in Jesus Christ.
One of the many emotions during this time was “every man for himself.” While the Church provided physical needs, the emotional needs were not met by many...and we almost (and in many cases did) resort to a Mad Max philosophy of self-preservation.3. Katrina provided a regional marker of before and after.
Those in the Gulf Coast now have a marker...we can say “before the storm”, and point towards that month of Katrina and Rita and how life would never be the same. An apocalyptic event describes this drastic change. The book of Daniel, especially the last half, remembers the plight of the Jewish people after Antiochus IV sacked Jerusalem and sacrificed a pig on the temple altar. To a Jew-this was the End of the World. Things would never be the same because something happened that reversed the way life was. Life could no longer be seen as the same, but only interpreted in light of those apocalyptic events.
Hollywood now has a perfect set for their tales of apocalyptic woe. The Road took advantage of the destruction and filmed in New Orleans. The Discovery Channel show The Colony has its current season set in greater New Orleans. Places didn’t need to be destroyed to show what it would be like, because the aftermath provides the location. I served in several mission trips after the storm that took us to these places. The header of this blog is taken from a region outside of the city that could have served as the perfect set for a zombie movie, St. Bernard parish looked like outtakes from 28 Days later, complete with spent shell casings.
Some people interpreted the storm as the judgment of God upon New Orleans. When I heard this I laughed..because the French Quarter was almost untouched but New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was nearly destroyed. This type of determinism only exists within a faulty prophetic framework as well as a narrow view of the eternal kingdom.Like the tragedy at the twin towers on 9/11, the storms of the fall of 2005 serve as a perfect metaphor for us to understand the Biblical concepts of an apocalyptic event. Inside of these, the Church served as a beacon to the Kingdom of Heaven. The best aid workers in Katrina were faith based organizations and congregations rallied to the needs that were of utmost importance. An apocalyptic event changes things, but should always be seen from the lens of a future redemption in which creation will not fight against Man. The visions of Revelation 21 and 22 show the complete restoration of all creation and God dwelling with humans in the place that he perfectly made (and remakes) for them.
Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be