Where was God in the Earthquake?

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Earthquakes and other calamities always provoke anguished questions about God’s role in disaster. How do religious leaders respond? Rabbi Jack Moline serves Congregation Agudas Achim in Alexandria, Virginia. Rabbi, welcome.

RABBI JACK MOLINE: Thank you, Bob.

ABERNETHY: When people come to you and say where was God in what happened in Haiti, what do you tell them?

MOLINE: The glib answer is to just say God was there. But I was walking through the synagogue the other day and a couple of kids were horsing around. One of them bumped her head and started to cry. Her friend immediately apologized, and I walked over and gave her a hug. I wasn’t able to stop the pain, but I was able to share it with her a little bit, as was her friend. I think that’s where God is—sharing that pain.

ABERNETHY: With the people who are suffering, suffering with them?

Rabbi Jack MolineMOLINE: With the people who are suffering. Absolutely.

ABERNETHY: What about causing it in some way in the first place?

MOLINE: Well, I think if we consider God to be the creator of nature, which I do, that this earthquake was going to happen. It was inevitable. So in that sense God caused it. But I entirely reject the notion that this was some sort of punishment for the bad behavior of the Haitian people.

ABERNETHY: Some people who survive say, why me? Why was I spared? I’ve lost my husband or wife or something, and yet here I am. What do you say to them?

MOLINE: Well, again, you know, on location you have to offer them comfort. But the question is the same as the question of did God cause this? The answer is I don’t see God micromanaging the world, plucking this one and abandoning that one. It simply is the nature of these things that we choose to be in the way of disaster sometime.

ABERNETHY: And is there a role  for prayer in preventing this kind of thing?

MOLINE: Prayer can’t prevent a natural disaster, but prayer can create a response in us that is appropriate. Psalm 147, for example, says that God is the healer of shattered hearts and the binder of wounds, knowing the number of stars in the sky and calling each one by name. When we recite that in prayer, and when we recite that prayerfully, it should inspire in us the same kind of reaction.

ABERNETHY: And are there lessons, theological lessons, religious lessons that come out of all this?

MOLINE: Probably, but the good news is, for all of us I think, they don’t have to be solved in our moment or even in our lifetime any more than they have been for the past history of the human community.

ABERNETHY: But there is something to be said about human responsibility—to make sure that buildings are constructed well and not shoddily?

MOLINE: I think the more we can do to prevent human suffering, the less we will be held responsible by whatever standard for human suffering that was preventable.

ABERNETHY: Rabbi Jack Moline, many thanks.

MOLINE: Thank you, Bob.

  • Ronald T. Harris

    GOD is always there before, during, and after all disasters mainly because HE’S OMNI SCEINCE (see all/know all. HIS words are LO, I am with you even until the ends of the earth, meaning that HE’LL never leave us or forsake us. We left and forsaked HIM. But we thank HIM for the many who kept their Oil Lamps filled and those who had their whispering lamps of oil lit so that HE could see and hear those beneath the rubbles of despair unlike the woman who was turned into a pillar of salt. So stop asking, Where was GOD at the time of a disaster and start asking yourself where were you, before, during, and after a horrific disaster. Like Sodom & Gomora, The Red Sea, Noar’s Ark, The Tower of Babel, and many, many, many, many more disasters in the Bible…

  • ftorres0

    this question has never been answered correctly, and biblicaly by religous leaders for many, many years.the only people who have answered this question for many years have been the jehovahs witnesses thru their organization.they are the only ones who thru the word of god,the bible have been able to abswer this question, including me.

  • CJ Zak

    Most christians fail to recognize that there
    are two salvations-the heavenly and earthly restitution. This gosple age is for the calling out of “the church” (the heavenly class) Those that are TRUELY following in the footsteps of Jesus(not everyone that names the name of Jesus). These are the only ones that have Gods watchcare at this time. ALL others will be cared for in the coming age of grace when God through Jesus will rule the planet with a rod of iron. All will come forth from their graves and the earth will be made as the Garden of Eden. Thus all those that have been lost through whatever means will live again.

  • Larry Behrendt

    Is God responsible for this and other catastropic events? Is one sense yes, but in another no. God is the creator of this complex universe, and it was created to be orderly and sound; however, something happened that changed that order and that something is man’s responsibility. Are the Haitans being judged, no. Was the US being judged on Sept 11, 2001? The first is a natural evil, but the second was a moral evil. Two distinct events both catastrophic in nature, but different causes.

  • Carl Karasti

    The most significant ways in which we can actually experience God in our lives here in this physical world are through any and all experiences of Unity. Natural disasters, as well as disasters we cause ourselves, compel us to come together to help one another if we have any sense of the spark of divine Light and Love glowing in our hearts – if we have any sense of the Oneness that underlies all of diversity. Whenever we are raised above the pettiness of our differences by the shock of a disaster, it changes our perspective from one that is limited by our egos to one that is expanded by Love, and we awaken to the Reality that we are all in this together. In this awakened state, we think, feel and act as representatives of God – as we would always behave if we could only stay awake.


    God is always there. There is no difference in a hundred thousand people dying in an earthquake than an expectant mother naturally miscarrying. The loss of life is the same, the only difference is in the numbers.
    We comfort those who wish to be comforted, we grieve with the grieving, we give help where we can. God is always present, and will always be present for those who seek His grace.
    Nick Holloway

  • Brother Patrick

    If Mr. Moline’s statement, “I entirely reject the notion that this was some sort of punishment for the bad behavior of the Haitian people”; is to reject GOD’S WORD – the very God He claims to be representing. Two examples that God was in it are written in Deuteronomy 28:1,2&15; 29:14; Jeremiah 12:17 and Luke 2:11. To promote such unbelief is to deceive others into missing a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to convience the Hatian people to turn their hearts to Jesus Christ – the “Messiah” of all peoples; Christians and Jews.

  • Janine C. Hagan

    I really liked this interview inclusive of the questions, the answers and the format. Rabbi Moline gave very succint anwswers to questions that are continually put to leaders of all faith tradtions with regard to God’s role in disaster, war, poverty, crisis, illness, and death. It is a question with which the apostle Paul continually struggled. We are not alone. Thanks for the interview.

  • Pastor Dave

    It’s interesting to hear that prayer can’t stop natural disasters. My question is…How can you ever prove that. Pray that an earthquake does not happen and then it does not happen but then prove that it was prayer that stopped it… that is something we will have to wait and see in the New Earth and the New Heavens…

  • Steve Flynn

    I thought his comments were weak. He used no scriptures to give his answers. The answers are in the old and new testiments. The first answer is what the bible says about the world. Satan rules this world. That will soon change, but until then it’s not a nice place to live. There are more answers as to why God allows suffering, read the bible, and dont ask your ministers, they odviously dont know.

  • Ann

    I hardly think the earthquake was a call to accept Jesus, as Brother Patrick says. Christians can often be so self centered in what they believe. G-d made the world, I believe. He made nature, and us-thru evolution, or not. But, G-d is not there for a one on one relationship to mold what we are or what we think.

    No matter how the Haitians believe, Christianity, Voo Doo, or whatever–G-d did not cause the earthquake and all other disasters to bring them into ”the fold”. I heard a comment the other day that Haitians were turning to Jesus in great numbers after the earthquake. All I could do was laugh.

  • Dale

    It’s interesting that 12 people have 12 different views of god’s relationship to the disaster. Using Occam’s Razor; the simple answer is that there is no god therefore god did not create the disaster NOR the response afterwards. The earthquake happened because of the earth’s crust is in constant motion. The response was entirely man-made. You may say that you do this and that because of you’re belief in god, but, that doesn’t change the simple thing; god does not exist.

  • Billy

    I had almost given up hope but then Dale gives an intelligent comment. One out of twelve is discouraging. None the less, thank you Dale.

  • VeeJay

    All evidence points to Matthew 24 where Jesus tells his disciples that these kinds of things have to happen during the last days. (Matt 24:7) – Of course the Rabbi wouldn’t be able to say anything about that because they don’t take the Greek Scriptures (New Testament) into consideration. But it’s funny that the question “Where was God” always comes up when we see these disasters. Insurance companies refer to these as an “Act of God” as if he is to blame for it. I agree with ftorres0 and Steve Flynn on this. Things are going to get worse. Read the Bible – especially Matt 24. This is only the beginning.

  • Rhys Goodwin

    It’s very hard to believe, but yes – an all powerful inclusive loving God was there!
    However, for Religion to explain this, it has to Take on board the truth of evidenced based information from both science and Historical research!
    Can it be explained? Those seeking truth have found several answers, but the most plausible one for me is:
    If God wishes to populate his wonderful Universe, then it has to be with free thinking spirits that have a track record of having chosen to live responsible caring lives, then the creation process involves the very complicated one of evolution – otherwise one gets some form of hell.
    Unfortunately, the only kind of evolution that can generate “intelligent free-thinking beings” is driven by catastrophic necessity which in turn generates a high enough level of inventing that eventually triggers not only intelligence, but free will – the freedom to choose.
    One can see today that where catastrophes have not occurred for thousands of years – man is still in a stone-age like existence. Also today, one can see cultures degenerating – where life has been too good for too many for too long – new generations think the world owes them a living, there is no incentive to work, let alone invent or create. High levels of boredom, over-indulgence and inability to work constructively with others quickly develop. Some even choose a life of Benefit-depency, by having children with no personal means to support them! Others just get lost on drugs.

    To interfere in any one catastrophe means that God would need to interfere in all of them and the evolution process would not deliver.

    It is our job to show God’s love and help in these situations. …