After the news this morning about the horrendous earthquake and tsunami in Japan I can’t help but think about the people there and what they must be going through. I have visited Japan twice and absolutely loved it. It’s one of those places I could go to again and again (and often do, only these days it’s in my own imagination. Sigh.) I found the videos coming out of Japan so telling and reflective of the people and way of life there. People were calm and orderly. There was not a lot of screaming or crying. For the most part they evacuated as they had practiced doing a hundred times before, made sure the people they were with were safe and waited for further information/instruction.
I can’t help but attribute at least some of this to the fact that Japan is a secular nation. I understand that there are many cultural reasons why this is true but even those cultural reasons are shaped by a secular history. Nobody was running around screaming that God was punishing them or that Armageddon was upon them. Nobody will be holding placards urging fellow citizens to repent come tomorrow morning. They will not pray for deliverance – they will, as a nation, brush themselves off and get to work. They will use science and technology to analyze what happened and make preparations for a similar disaster down the road. They will re-build and they will mourn those who were lost. But they will not wonder what they did to “deserve” such suffering. They will not point fingers and find fault with atheists, lesbians or intellectuals. They know the only “fault” is the one that runs directly beneath their island and they will treat it as the natural reality that it is.