Ten years after Katrina, looking for God in the anniversary news coverage

With the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week, I wrote a column reflecting on covering the "storm of the century" for The Christian Chronicle:

NEW ORLEANS — I see the faces, and the memories come rushing back.

Since Hurricane Katrina a decade ago, I’ve made repeated trips to report on the faith and resiliency of God’s people — both victims and volunteers. 

I’ve lost track of the exact number of times I’ve traveled to New Orleans. However, the faces — and experiences — remain fresh in my mind.

From my personal experience in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, I know the "faith-based FEMA" were a key piece of the recovery — in some cases, the key piece.

In Katrina's wake, thousands of volunteers motivated by faith in God housed, fed and clothed evacuees, cleaned up muck and debris, rebuilt homes and businesses and helped in a million other ways.

Given that, I am curious to see if God will show up at all in the anniversary coverage of Katrina making landfall on Aug. 29, 2005.

With a bit of quick Googling, I came across an Associated Press story that hinted at a religion angle:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As people search for words to describe New Orleans' recovery a decade after Hurricane Katrina, they sometimes use words verging on the Biblical — an economic and cultural resurrection, a rising from the ashes.
Helped by billions of dollars in recovery money, buoyed by volunteers and driven by the grit of its own citizens, New Orleans has rebounded in ways few thought possible in the decade since Hurricane Katrina. Reforms are evident everywhere, from schools to policing to community engagement and water management, all aimed at buttressing its people against the next monster storm.

Alas, this potential faith angle proved to be a false alarm — the vague "volunteers" in the second paragraph notwithstanding.

AP tells — or attempts to — the story of New Orleans' recovery totally devoid of God, faith or churches. Ghosts, anyone?

On the other hand, check out this in-depth Houston Chronicle story on how Katrina evacuees became a part of Houston's fabric.

The story by reporter Allan Turner notes the role of "business, civic and faith leaders" in overseeing "a multi-million dollar campaign to house, feed, train and provide health care to the newcomers."

For those who don't recognize Turner's byline, his regular coverage of  "a little of this and a whole lot of that" includes religion.

In his Katrina anniversary report, he shares this revealing nugget:

Within weeks of arriving in Houston, the Rev. Gary Mack, a pastor at New Orleans' Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, was contacted by Houston First Baptist Church with an offer of assistance. Mack was offered use of a chapel to preach to his displaced congregation and a salary. Food and furniture were collected for church members in need.
"Coming from New Orleans, we had pretty much been living in our own communities," Mack said. "Seldom have African-American churches and Caucasian churches gotten together in this way. Katrina tore down those walls. It was a totally new perspective of worship and God's goodness."

Meanwhile, ESPN the Magazine just published a gigantic piece titled "Beyond the Breach" with this intriguing subhead:

A summer in search of saints, sinners and lost souls in the New Orleans that Katrina left behind.

I haven't had time to peruse the entire ESPN story, but I'm definitely interested. Anybody read the whole thing? What did you think?

And what other Katrina anniversary coverage — good or bad — have you seen? Please share links, either in the comments section or by tweeting us at @GetReligion.

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