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God's will is not so easily seen in natural disasters

Re: The hand of God?, Jan. 4.

When asked if the Asian tsunami was the hand of God, the Rev. Bernard Smith responded: "You have to look at where it happened to understand. Most of the people who were killed were nonbelievers. That entire geographic area, in fact. Some would relate the event to ethnic cleansing."

I would like to draw the reverend's attention to events such as the 1970 earthquake in Peru, the 1908 earthquake and tsunami in Italy, and the 1998 hurricane (Mitch) in Central America. The combined death toll from these disasters is in excess of 150,000 people.

Using the good reverend's logic, I will have to look at where these calamities occurred in order to understand them. All three of these areas, according to the CIA World Fact Book, have populations that are more than 90 percent Christian. Perhaps they, too, were nonbelievers. This would lead to the conclusion that God is not Christian after all. Additionally, I wonder if the reverend would relate the deaths of more than 70,000 Italians to "ethnic cleansing"?

The reverend says we should look at this event and say "God is being glorified from this disaster." If the reverend's God truly does obtain glory from the bodies of thousands of drowned children and babies, then the reverend can rest assured that I, for one, will never set foot into Greene Chapel AME Church of Largo to worship alongside him.

Michael Vaujin, Safety Harbor

Incomprehensible beliefs

Re: The hand of God?

Thank you so much for this article covering various religious views of the tsunami disaster. I was struck by how similar the responses from members of various faiths were, with one notable exception that I found distressing.

Most of the comments demonstrated common beliefs, notably that natural disasters happen despite God, and that we should all help the victims, spiritually or tangibly. However, the cleryman who blamed the victims subscribes to a belief system that I cannot comprehend.

To condemn all the affected people as "nonbelievers" does not reflect the basic human values of kindness and compassion. It also ignores the fact that the victims represented many faiths. I sincerely hope that his thoughts are not shared by many other members of the human family. If his beliefs are widespread, the future of civilization is in serious jeopardy.

Dorothy Doyle, Riverview

Was God angry with Florida, too?

Re: The hand of God?

Your article quoting various religious leaders made mention of occurrences that are beyond human comprehension. What was beyond this particular human's comprehension were the comments made by the Rev. Bernard Smith. If this person is a religious leader of any prominence, I sincerely pity his followers.

By his reasoning, every time a natural disaster occurs, it means God is angry with whoever happens to be in its path. I might remind the good reverend that he lives in Florida, where we were hit by four hurricanes last year. Who was God mad at when that happened?

It's a shame, because all of the others quoted in the article had what seemed to me enlightened, pragmatic views of the disaster. It's a shame people in this world still have to think like the Rev. Smith.

Matthew Simmons, St. Petersburg

Why publish offensive views?

Re: The hand of God?

In my opinion, the Times exercised very poor judgment in giving space to the vicious comments of the Rev. Bernard Smith, the AME minister from Largo. As far as I could make out, the Rev. Smith believes that the victims of the tsunami disaster suffered because they consciously chose not to be Christian.

To gauge just how offensive the Rev. Smith's comments are, imagine for a moment that a comparable disaster had taken place in southern Europe. Would the Times even consider printing a comment to the effect of, "Look at where it happened. Most of the people who were killed were Catholics"? Of course not! So why is it acceptable to publish a similar comment about Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists?

Christopher Johnson, St. Petersburg

Binding up the wounds

The incomprehensible tragedy playing out in south Asia defies any normal understanding. It touches the heart of all caring Americans. The world is now responding with food and medical supplies before the holocaust becomes an even greater tragedy.

This humanitarian cause is being led by public and private American donations, and the life-sustaining supplies are being delivered by America's finest _ the men and women of our armed forces. How appropriate it is that the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln is a main staging area for this enormous effort. The men and women of the Lincoln are living proof of his eloquent call, "with malice toward none, with charity for all, let us bind up the nation's wounds," as they struggle to bind up the wounds of the survivors in south Asia.

Lloyd Watson, Palm Harbor

Governor shows his compassion

I'm proud of our governor, not only for the leadership he has shown us through this summer of hurricane hell, but also for the compassion he has for all people on God's earth.

You can say what you want about politics, but this man truly has defined what public service is all about. I am working in some of the hurricane-affected areas, and can vouch for the quick recovery of these areas. Much of the credit has to go to our governor and the people on his staff.

Yet now he is giving his time to reach out to the people of the world, attempting to relieve some of their despair and suffering. His parents taught him well, and we all should be thankful to have him as our governor.

Jerry Tetro, Seminole

A humanitarian exit strategy

Re: Is it time for us to leave Iraq?

William Raspberry's Jan. 5 column hit the nail on the head. Here is a valid excuse for President Bush to pull out of Iraq without having to face the terrible thought of acting cowardly.

Send our troops to where they can be useful: Send them to the tsunami-wrecked region to give aid to the earthquake-stricken population. More help is needed there, so why not? With more than 1,300 American lives lost so far in Iraq, let's give relief to the anguished parents dreading their children's military service, and at the same time help those in need.

Morris Grossman, Sun City Center

Cheerleader cheesecake inappropriate

Re: Cheerleaders serve cheesecake, Dec. 30.

I was so disappointed and disheartened to see the Times show a page from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders 2005 Swimsuit Calendar. To me, it was just like the corniest, cheapest and most degrading pictures of women found in "girlie" magazines that are available everywhere.

But why is this in connection with "my" Bucs? The Bucs are a whole family attraction, and such pictures are not at all appropriate.

Joan Malone, St. Petersburg