Written in Foshan, China on September 3, 2005
After viewing nearly hundreds of photographs depicting Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, surprisingly, the dominant image that is on my mind is that of what I witnessed when I was in New Orleans in 1992. As the President of Kappa Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., I was expected to attend as many of the Regional and National Sorority Boules (Conferences) that were held while I was in office. The 1992 Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. National Boule, then, is what took me to New Orleans, or the Big Easy as it also is called. There I discovered that the Big Easy is everything that this nickname suggests, which is how easy it is to find, here, in the city of New Orleans, that which a person might not be able to find elsewhere.
While attending my Boule, I had the opportunity to see firsthand what my college students had reported to me after they had returned from their spring vacations spent in New Orleans. Moreover, what I had witnessed, either from my Canal Street hotel window or from my stroll down the infamous Bourbon Street, as well as throughout the French Quarter, was how big and easy this city’s residents and visitors were on sexual immorality, underage drinking, and every form o debauchery and abuse that is associated with boozing, drugging and wild partying that New Orleans seemed to encourage doing—anything and everything that was so big and, therefore, so easy to spiral out of control. These images I saw far exceeded those I had imagined from my students’ tales. Indeed, of all of America’s major cities, it would seem that only in New Orleans could the world witness people’s basic nature that not only was thriving but also was continuing to be condoned.
I do not want to diminish the distress, loss, hurt and pain that sufferers from New Orleans and other cities recently encountered, nor do I wish to diminish the hope and faith that Hurricane Katrina’s survivors and their families, as well as countless caring observers, have shown. Nothing but disaster was blowing in Hurricane Katrina’s winds, and noting but relief, comfort, mercy, and unconditional love should be given to the persons these destructive and deadly winds have touched. Yet, as I look back at the time when I visited New Orleans, I remember how distressed my spirit was from seeing the in-my-face unrighteousness and ungodliness that I had beheld when I walked those French Quarter streets. Furthermore, at any time of the day on any given day, anyone could witness the same kinds of in-your-face wickedness that I saw–sex shops, sex dens, year-round Mardi Gras drunkenness, muggings, fisticuffs, and so forth.
During the whole week or so that I was in New Orleans, I often thought of the Scriptures that Christ spoke about in reference to the end times and His second coming:
And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:26-29)
With these Scriptures in my mind, I also couldn’t help but think that some God-ordered judgment awaited this city if the people in it, specifically in the Bourbon Street French Quarter area, did not turn from their wicked ways. Then I wondered why something like Hurricane Katrina would hit New Orleans and affect so many of the innocent, poor, destitute, and the God-seeking individuals more so than it affected the French Quarter degenerate folks. Fact of the matter is, the majority of these degenerates had hightailed it out of the French Quarter on Sunday, before the storm hit.
Whether Hurricane Katrina is a form of God’s Divine wrath on New Orleans, the epicenter of the crisis, or not, only He knows for sure. But what is certain is that He allowed this hurricane to leave behind a deluge that resembles, in some measure, that of the flood in Noah’s (Noe’s) day. Ironically, though, unlike Lot’s Sodom and Gomorrah that completely were destroyed, and are today the Dead Sea, the French Quarter, although damaged somewhat from the hurricane’s winds and the rising floodwaters resulting from two breached levees, seems to have been spared from the worst flooding. The out-of-control looting is what is taking its toll on the French Quarter.
Still, as aforementioned, the innocent, poor, destitute, and God-seeking individuals who died from the floodwaters, and those who died in the Superdome, Convention Center and other refugee shelters while waiting for food, water, and medical assistance, have seemed to suffer the most in Katrina’s wake. Human lives and property losses for the surviving family members have reached astronomical highs. For these reasons it is plain to see how so many believers tend to have their will to serve God broken by what they may perceive to be as God’s crushing yoke–the deaths and homelessness caused by the hurricane. Disaster like this one often have become too much for many believers to bear.
Meanwhile, those who seem to go untouched by the hurricane, like many surviving French Quarter people, are reported as celebrating their survival by visiting a bar on Bourbon Street where they are enjoying some of their favorite drinks. One such French Quarter person is quoted here:
‘You know what? There’s a reason why we’re called Saints,’ the 53-year-old tour booker said Monday as she communed with 20 or so other survivors. ‘Because no matter what religion you are, whether you’re Catholic, whether you’re voodoo, whether you’re Baptist or so on, so on, and so on–we all pray. We all pray. I’m not a religious fanatic. But God saved us.’ (”French Quarter survives onslaught” by Allen G. Breed)
God forbid if the ungodly actions that take place on Bourbon Street and throughout the French Quarter are considered in the least bit to be “saintly.” Furthermore, if indeed the prayers of these French Quarter Catholic, voodoo, Baptist, and whatever denominations or religions of people represented here by this speaker, were answered, then it is easy to see why born-again, totally-surrendered believers often have their will to serve God broken by what appears to be His alleged answering of the perceived “lost” souls’ prayers but supposed denial of the perceived “true” saints’ prayers. It is, thus, in times like this, that even real “saints” question: if God really loved all of His people and really didn’t want any of them to suffer, then how does He account for what has just happened in New Orleans?
I have asked myself this question, starting on day two of the storm, and I have continued to ask myself it as I look at the rampant lawlessness and senseless deaths now occurring on the streets in New Orleans. I don’t have any answers that would help people who were in the midst of this kind of storm, other than to tell them my usual, which is “to focus on God, and to trust that God will work everything out for your good because only He sees the bigger picture. Things aren’t always as they seem so that is why it is important to remain Christ-centered at all times.”
This answer, to me, even as I write it, in light of all that has happened in New Orleans, sounds weak and somewhat depressing, when it should sound powerful and always uplifting. Nevertheless, things aren’t always as they seem, and God, despite how things look at present, is still in control. While it might appear that the floodwaters did less in destroying the sexually immoral, drunken, proud, indifferent-to-the-needs-of-others people in New Orleans’ French Quarter, as it did in destroying innocent, poor, destitute and God-seeking lives of born-again believers and doers of good who did not patronize the hotels, sex stores, and bars in the French Quarter, the end-time promise is not that the wickedness in this world will be wiped off the Earth again by water, but rather by fire!
Consequently, I have determined that only the hope and faith that born again, sold out for Christ believers have in this, or similar, disastrous situations are what matters most to God. We must have the hope and faith that our God, indeed, will see all of His people through any and every storm, especially when His true saints (whites, as well as every person of color) keep their eyes focused on Him. We must cling more to this hope in His promises and our faith in Him to fulfill those promises, instead of questioning why me, or why them. No matter how much we really might want to know God’s every move, we must understand that how and when He moves in our lives might not be ours to know. What we can count on is His Divine Intervention manifesting itself in mysterious ways. We can count on the biblical Truth that He knows what the end will be. We also can know with certainty that we will reap what we sow, and that God will be the final judge of every deed that we say and do in our bodies—no matter whether our works are good or bad.
So, let us, therefore, continue to pray for Hurricane Katrina’s sexually abused, impoverished, homeless, missing and grieving kin of deceased individuals, and let us move forward, doing all that we can to help this storm’s survivors rebuild that which can be rebuilt in their lives. This is not the time to focus on New Orleans’ decadence or our government’s ineptitude and poor response to the needy, but rather it is a time to look inside our own hearts and determine if we are truly the people we say we are–if we are the redeemed, justified, sanctified, holy and righteous children of a merciful, loving, forgiving, and “living” God.
Furthermore, everyday of our lives, let us do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8), for this is what is required of those of us who love the Lord. God’s dealings with and judgments on the New Orleans French Quarter lifestyles, as well as the other unholy and unrighteous kinds of living going on in various places all over this world, will be, as Paul Harvey says, “the rest of the story.”