Tropical Storm Isaac is scheduled to make landfall near New Orleans some time on the morning of August 29, 2012. On this very day seven years ago, Katrina unleashed chaos on the Crescent City. What have folks learned since then?
No doubt, many improvements have been made. A Weather Channel report this morning catalogued the various improvements in evacuation policy, transportation methodology, and shelter availability. New Orleans has changed many things in anticipation of this next big storm, and the flooding it will bring. But there is one thing no one on earth can change.
The nature of the sinful heart will not and cannot change on its own. It takes an act of God. So, there are people who may spend the next 24-48 hrs evacuating to the “high” lands. Don’t be fooled by the terms. They are designed to mock the healthy fear of those who actually are attempting to remove themselves from harm’s way.
Evacuating to the high lands in New Orleans means roughly the same thing a “Hurricane Party” means; it means escaping to drunkenness and intoxication. It means getting high. It happens every year in New Orleans. It has happened 7 years in a row since Katrina. It means the sinful heart is taking a rebellious stand against nature and, more importantly, against nature’s God.
It was in New Orleans in the 1940’s at Pat O’Brien’s that the drink called the hurricane was born. Since then, the distinctive drink and the hurricane glass named after it have been staples of liquor consumption in the Big Easy. No time is the drink more popular than when a hurricane is churning up the warm gulf sea.
In the next 24-48 hours, New Orleans will need to find a way to drain off more rainwater than the city of Los Angeles gets in a year. In one day, New Orleans—a city in a sub-sea bowl—will receive two years’ worth of rainfall for Phoenix. As the floodwaters fall, the partiers will pour their drinks and smoke their smokes. What are they thinking?
First and foremost, they are thinking they aren’t really going to die. They honestly believe they will come out on the other side of the storm with a story to tell. They are making a statement to those around them that there is no need to fear death when you can live life—and by living life, they mean living the “high” life.
I question whether or not the “high” life is any life at all. If one wishes to embrace life, then what is the need to escape it with drugs and alcohol? Is that not by its very nature an action of not living life to its fullest? It’s masking life, hiding from life, escaping life for a surreal, dysfunctional junket into the loss of self-control.
More to the point, however, is the defiance being displayed against God. It’s one thing not to fear death. We might even say that it’s admirable to show courage in the face of death. But in the presence of God, it is the height of defiant rebellion to refuse to display a reverent fear of death because death brings judgment:
“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” Hebrews 9:27-28.
Sadly, a sinful heart cannot admit to itself or to others that it really does fear dying and facing God’s judgment. To admit a fear is to acknowledge a need—a remedy for the judgment. The remedy, of course, is Christ, but a rebellious hear cannot and will not embrace Him. So, in the most profound sense, nothing much has changed in New Orleans.