It has always struck me as a bit daring and misconceived that those who would rely on the symbol of a rainbow to claim the promise that God will not destroy the world again by flood do not take heed to the promise that God will refine the world and destroy the evil that remains on it by fire next time. To claim some sort of faith in God’s promises on the one hand when one is looking at the past is also to make an implicit belief that God will fulfill his promises on the other hand that have yet to come, and for most of us that can be a bit of a chilling thought. Even in an age that is not very encouraging to hellfire and damnation sort of preachers, the thought of God’s judgment is unlikely to be a cheering thought to most of us, and it is striking that those who rely the most on some of God’s promises are completely unwilling to even accept the possibility that others may be allowed to tell of God’s promises for judgement yet to come. Historical judgment, such as we see in the scriptures and in history, ought to remind us that this judgment will come to us, individually or collectively, as surely as it did to previous generations, and that ought to temper our own judgmental attitudes towards others.
Over the past few days, the Oregon wildfire situation has gotten to be much more concerning. Already fires have forced numerous people to evacuate, at least one person I know multiple times, and the sky has remained ominous in the Portland area. It seems that this is a year for fires burning, and those of us who live in this area have simply been unable to escape the dry tinderbox that we have found ourselves in. If we are in the city, then we have been affected by the blazes of human anger and insane, irrational, and frequently misdirected rage. If we are in the country, then we are subject to the blazes that burn through matchstick forests. The threat of destruction and harm to property and people remains the same whether it is an insane and demon-possessed protester on the one hand or a wildfire on the other. And even those of us who, at least at the moment, are not close to fires are still close enough to feel the rush of the winds and to see the ominous mixture between the glowing and thick and overcast skies filled with smoke and the glow of fires burning somewhere in the distance, close to people and places we know and love.
Fire is one of those natural or man-made disasters that has a strange dynamic to it, like earthquakes. A great deal of small fires that clear out the underbrush or smart cutting that makes sure one does not have matchstick forests serves like mini-earthquakes in keeping big disasters from spreading. Yet when smart fire management is not done, and when conditions include bone-dry conditions that make the skin in your nose flake off (at least that is what happens to me), the results are very dangerous. It is not always easy to manage the conditions that lead to fires. Some of this involves education and practices that make things safer in the long run if they require a bit of active management in the short run. There are also political concerns. It may be coincidental, or not, that while I sit here looking outside my window at a sky the color of an orange creamsicle mixed with the color of a grape one (not a good color for the sky, it should be noted), it is clear that we have not done a good job at managing the conditions that lead to fire. Obviously, if we did, we would not have the western forests as well as cities on fire. The fires outside are stoked by the fires inside, and these are not ideal conditions to breathe or to be outside, and the mood is a serious one indeed.
It has by no means been easy to get information about the fires that have been going on this year. There are various reasons for that. For one, when cities were burning, there was a desire on the part of many in the press not to cover the obvious story because it would undercut the political narrative of peaceful protests by people concerned with justice rather than acts of wanton destruction by people lacking any moral sense or proportion or a knowledge of their most dangerous enemies (usually themselves). For different reasons it has by no means easy to get information about what is going on in these rural fires, including a lack of knowledge by authorities to pass on to others, given the low level of government competence that can be found in Western states for predictable political reasons. And once conditions get bad enough and fires get big enough, it is hard to stop them, especially when they are everywhere. But let us dwell no longer on this unpleasant subject. We have spent enough time thinking about unhappy things.