Last weekend the city in which I live, and where I was born, was flooded during storm Desmond. This is the second time in ten years that this has happened to parts of it. Flood defences couldn’t hold back the deluge and some of the same areas that were affected in 2005 were flooded again. People lost property, possessions and livelihoods.
There has been a phenomenal response to the disaster from so many people from all over the city and beyond it; a great outpouring of kindness and practical help. There has been, as there always is at times like these, a tiny minority who have sought to exploit the situation for their own ends. But by far the greatest response has been one of support. There is such resilience and the demonstration of real love for other people.
In none of the reports about the storm, the flood and its aftermath have I heard anyone mention God. He hasn’t been blamed or appealed to; there haven’t been any meaningless platitudes about him really caring or claims that he’s punishing those affected (though some UKIP clot did say it was all somehow the fault of Syrian refugees.) While church groups are undoubtedly involved in the clean-up and helping people, it is greatly encouraging that no-one has invoked the name of the Lord. It shows how much he has become an irrelevancy; he is an irrelevancy. Even if he were not, it is practically impossible for Christians and others of a religious disposition to explain why a supposed loving God allows such indiscriminate natural disasters and why he’s always conspicuous by his absence afterwards. Best to do what the good folks of my town have done and ignore him (or the idea of him) and get on with the business of helping one another.
We have only one another; there’s no-one else going to come to our aid. There’s still a long way to go here, but it’s encouraging and heartwarming to see people helping each other without the need for any God. I have never felt sadder for my city and yet never more proud.