In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the media publicized the response of conservative Christians such as John Hagee and Pat Robertson who suggested it was divine retribution for sinful activity in New Orleans. Following the Japanese Tsunami of 2011, the media broadcasted a statement from the Tokyo governor saying it was divine retribution for greed. Such retributive responses blame the victims, and they overlook the structural injustice and discrimination exposed by natural disasters. In both instances, government officials neglected infrastructure (levees in the case of the former; sea walls and floodgates in the case of the latter), which resulted in significant personal harm to African Americans in New Orleans and rural Japanese in northeastern Japan. This article examines Christian and Buddhist views of social responsibility exemplified in the idea of communal resilience, which appears in the theology of Michael Eric Dyson and the literature of Toni Morrison, and the notion of interdependence promoted by Thich Nhat Hanh and other Engaged Buddhists. Instead of justifying suffering, which is characteristic of retributive responses that blame the victims of natural disasters, they recognize and accept its universality. Resilience and interdependence have ethical implications: By being open to the suffering of others and engaging in deep listening with awareness, people can find their strength, will, and responsibility to ameliorate such suffering. Instead of placing themselves in opposition to victims through judgment and blame, they can respond by engaging with them and attending to their needs. They can acknowledge their responsibility for rectifying structural injustice and responding to suffering in the wake of natural disasters.


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pp. 115-131
Launched on MUSE
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