Christians respond to Japan disaster

In the wake of tragedy in Japan, Christian responses vary. See what different members of the Biola community suggest as proper responses.

Chase Andre, Writer

The quake and following tsunami in Japan have evoked an overwhelming — and varied — response from Christians around the globe.

World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse and other various groups and individual churches have sent teams, brought supplies, and collected relief donations from around the world.

One other group providing support is CRASH Japan, a Christ-centered relief group based in the country, that offers “Christian relief, assistance, support and hope, according to its site.

Students work support CRASH

It is for this organization that freshman Matthew Little is rallying his campus-wide “Pray for Japan” campaign.

“[The news of the disaster] hit me pretty tough,” Little said.

Little was born in Japan, where he spent roughly the first 14 years of his life. He decided to do something about the devastation in his homeland the Sunday after the quake. In one week, the Pray for Japan campaign raised more than $1,000.

Local Christian clothing company Faith Enterprise approached Little and they partnered with his campaign, selling t-shirts to raise money and awareness.

Yet, not all Christians have released such encouraging reactions toward the devastation.

YouTube video creates sensation

Shortly after the quake, a YouTube user known as “tamtampamela,” posted a video on YouTube titled, “GOD IS SOOOO GOOD,” in which she thanked God for sending the quake and tsunami to Japan, saying it glorified him and brought people to their realization for God. The clip received 700,000 hits and evoked livid responses from the YouTube community.

The YouTube channel she posted on has since been removed, but videos in response keep the conversation going, and others reposted a mirror of the original clip.

Conversations accomplish goal

But to the woman who posted, who attended Biola briefly but left before graduating and remains anonymous for security reasons, the conversations are the point.

“Through my videos, [those in the interactive YouTube community] have had the opportunity to have fantastic conversations about Christ and what it means to be a Christ-follower,” she said.

The YouTube user admitted to trolling: the act of saying something through an online medium, such as YouTube, for the sole purpose of eliciting a reaction from viewers.

Video intended to cause stir

“A lot of people mistakenly identify trolling with joking,” the woman said in a phone interview with The Chimes. “Joking is to be funny,” but her primary goal was not.

“I wanted Christians to see [that the leaders] they allow to represent themselves are people who don’t accurately represent their faith,” she said.

Leaders representing the faith through love

To this kind of response, Erik Thoennes, associate professor of Biblical and Theological studies, raises questions.

“What Christian leaders?” he asked. “There are Christian leaders laying down their life every day. There are some Christian leaders serving in Japan when they don’t have to, loving people, and taking their lives in their hands. [They’re] not representing us poorly.”

Here, Thoennes and the YouTube user would find common ground.

“[A Christian’s response is] one that is the act of love,” the YouTube user said. “Everything a Christian does should be driven by love.”

It would be these unsung Christian leaders that she would endorse, if she endorsed Christianity.

YouTube user dislikes title “Christian”

“I hate to identify myself as a Christian because that word [holds negative connotations],” she said, instead taking the title of follower, or disciple of Christ.

“The video I posted, I don’t think classifies as the Christian’s response to any natural disaster,” she said of her original three-minute video, which tells viewers to, “Be encouraged… God does answer prayers. Look at Japan.”

Biolans discuss Christian response

Motivating his campaign, Little calls for what he says is a true Christian response.

“Give that stranger a cup of water, just [as if] it was Jesus,” he said. “And to a natural disaster, I really do think material things are needed.”

To Thoennes, we as Christians need to examine what receives our attention and conversation.

“We should change our motives and be emphasizing what’s really important and true,” he said, contrasting this with lending “unhelpful attention” to Christian leaders sharing un-Christian opinions, or to whichever YouTube video is currently causing a stir.

Natural disaster’s ties to judgment

But Thoennes is not afraid to say this natural disaster may have something to do with judgement after all.

“Is God judging your pain? Yeah, but He’s judging me, too!” he said.

“Natural evil like an earthquake that kills people, and the effect radiation has on our bodies is a judgment of God in that the cancer I’m gonna die of some day is a judgment from God, or a massive heart attack, a stubbed toe, [or the way] my aching back is,” Thoennes said.

But the story doesn’t stop there. Despite all the devastation in Japan, and the occasional misaligned motives here in the U.S., Matthew Little has hope.

“God’s going to use it, and I’m going to do all I can to make His kingdom come through this.”

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