Summary of the discussion
The destructiveness and death toll of the recent Turkey/Syria earthquake contrasts with some other earthquakes, eg in Japan, where the severity was as high (or higher) but the building collapse and death toll were far less. The evidence appears to be that however good Turkish building regulations were, the monitoring and implementation was lacking to prevent them being ignored.
Earthquakes result from the constant movement of tectonic plates, which are essential for the development and evolution of life on earth. The movement of the Pacific Plate north-west at 2 to 3 centimetres every year as it is subverted under the Aleutian Islands creates the San Andreas Fault in California (population about 40 million), which has not moved since 1906, building up increasing pressure that will eventually be released. Solid rock can withstand the movements, but sand and mud-shale liquefy, destroying the foundations of buildings. Insurance may call such events “Acts of God”, but blaming God (such as in the Billy Connolly film “The Man who Sued God”) makes no sense.
Decisions about where we live are mainly economic (for example on slopes of volcanoes for good grape harvests), but many people (especially the poorest) have no choice in the matter. The real question is how we collect and use data, how widely it is made available, and for whose benefit (is it used only for the security and support of the wealthy?).
The first part of John’s Gospel chapter 6 tells the story of a large crowd fed with very little (“five barley loaves and two fish”, verse 9). The reaction of the crowd is to attempt to force Jesus to become their king (in other words to begin a revolution against the existing Roman and Jewish authorities). This Jesus repudiates by escaping from the crowd up the mountain, and later engages in a long discussion about what is “real food”.
In some ways this story reflects all the “temptations” Jesus faced in the wilderness immediately after his baptism (Matthew chapter 4 and Luke chapter 4)- to turn stones into bread, to perform a spectacular miracle, and to accept ruling authority over people. In what is perhaps an “emergency” situation Jesus accepts the first two “temptations” but firmly resists the third. What is needed, in his view, is a far more profound and thoroughgoing change (“revolution”?) than the crowd imagined.
The Gospel says that they had followed Jesus (presumably leaving their homes and their work, if they had any) “because they saw the signs he was doing for the sick” (verse 2). For them poor health was inescapable because of their poverty, made unavoidable by the injustice and exploitation they suffered. Despite all the claims Rome was making that its Empire brought peace and prosperity for all its subjects this crowd knew that was a lie.
For those whose lives and families have been devastated by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria there has been a similar experience of neglect and indifference on the part of those who have power. And as with Palestine two thousand years ago a simple change of those “in charge”, however well intentioned they may be, will achieve nothing without a far more profound transformation of society. And that is a costly process, which Jesus knew well.