updated 1/5/2005 3:00:50 PM ET 2005-01-05T20:00:50

Guest: Tim LaHaye, Anne Graham Lotz, Dave Silverman, Shmuley Boteach, Jennifer Giroux Robert Lahita

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline, the very latest from the countries hardest hit by the tsunami. 

And later, the religious aftershocks caused by the massive waves in Asia.  Is humanity standing on the edge of an abyss and is God punishing humanity for their sins, as some religious leaders in America are suggesting? 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed. 

Is the tsunami the first sign that we‘re in the end times as predicted in the Book of Revelations?  Is it our Armageddon or are we being punished for our sins and facing the end of human existence as we know it?  Or are these just accidents that a hiccup of nature?  What do Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists belief?  Is it Mother Nature or God‘s will?  Find out tonight when we debate it on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Hope you‘re having a great night. 

You know, I remember back in college speaking to a professor I had great respect for.  And for some reason, the topic turned to religion.  And this professor that, again, I had tremendous respect for started talking about how he was an atheist.  I said, well, how can you be an atheist?  And he said to me, well, Joe, how could you believe in God?  You look at the natural disasters that are out there.  You look at all of the people that are killed in tidal waves and earthquakes in the Third World and it just leads you to ask that question. 

Well, we had our talk back and forth and we had a debate, but a lot of people are talking about that again this week, a lot of discussion in religious chat rooms on the Internet and preachers and rabbis.  And we‘re going to be talking about that coming up.  It is an absolutely fascinating conversation.  We have been talking about it all day in the newsroom.  And you‘re going to enjoy that a great deal. 

And we‘re going to want you to e-mail us in your thoughts at Joe.MSNBC.com. 

But, first, with recovery operations throughout Southeast Asia in full gear—and, man, they are really in full gear—MSNBC partner ITN has been following the story of America‘s role in the tsunami relief effort. 

John Irvine is there and he gives us this report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN IRVINE, ITN REPORTER (voice-over):  She may have been built to project American power abroad, but of course the USS Abraham Lincoln sped here not to intimidate, but to help.  The warplanes that bombed Iraq are redundant on this one.  It‘s the helicopters that matter.  They are the pack horses of the relief effort on Sumatra.  The admiral who brought them here said he was lost for words to describe the devastation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am not articulate enough to really explain it.  I tried to explain it to my son the other day.  But in the low-lying areas where many of the villages were that met the sea, it‘s just pancaked. 

IRVINE:  The chopper crews make this run several times a day.  But it‘s a view that never ceases to shock.  What was a verdant coastline is now desolate and barren.  They‘re still not sure they‘ve reached all the remote communities yet.  But certainly the people of the village that we dropped in on seemed extremely grateful. 

(on camera):  These helicopters are providing a lifeline for communities isolated by torn-down bridges and torn-up roads.  These survivors weren‘t just battered and bereaved by the tsunami.  They were also left marooned. 

(voice-over):  The Americans bring in supplies and take out those in need of medical attention.  There wasn‘t room for us on the return journey and we picked up a ride on another helicopter.  It raises the question, should journalists be taking up space in them at all?  But then there‘s the hope that seeing this up close will encourage the world to help. 

As for the Americans, they‘re often criticized, but it is difficult to find fault with what they are doing here.  No cargo flights could land today because a stricken airliner blocked the runway.  It struck a water buffalo.  Bizarre, but, right now, it‘s that sort of place. 

John Irvine, ITV News, Banda Aceh, Indonesia. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much, John. 

And as aid arrives in the devastated tsunami zone, international efforts face a new challenge from some of the worst-hit areas, the violence of desperation.  There are even reports of looting right now in that area. 

And ITN‘s Dan Rivers brings us a report on that. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, ITN REPORTER (voice-over):  They‘ve waited a week for this and now their patience is exhausted.   Hunger and desperation turning this rice distribution point into an ugly scrum.  The aid is now arriving, but more is needed as Banda Aceh City starts to turn from the horror of the dead to the plight of the living.  But there is still chaos here—just look at this extraordinary scene.  Looters that tried to steal gas from this troller, a subsequent fire finished off what remained of the mosque.  The airport is now the nexus of the multinational aid operation, food and medicine arriving from all over the world. 

ADMIRAL DOUG CROWDER, U.S. NAVY:  We‘re going fly wherever we‘re needed to get supplies to people back and forth to the people most affected by this. 

RIVERS:  But in rural Aceh, it‘s a difference story. 

Chanfo (ph) was a town of just 20,000, but now it has 6,000 refugees living in its midst.  Villages have donated clothes for the survivors of the tsunami.  This poor inland community happy to help their devastated coastal neighbors.  Hamid Ali (ph) spent four days walking here after losing his wife and children.  He‘s staying here with his brother who‘s opened the doors to his tiny house. 

(on camera):  Like many homes in this village, this house has just two rooms that‘s home to 20 refugees relying on the charity of distant relatives. 

RIVERS (voice-over):  Mothers sing their babies to sleep, but this nightmare will not be ended by simple lullaby. 

Dan Rivers, ITV News, Aceh. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  So haunting, so haunting.  Now, we appreciate that report. 

But there are so many problems over there.  And right now, disease and a lack of clean water are some of the main challenges facing the victims and the survivors.  But some of the youngest survivors have to overcome a lifelong challenge, the loss of their parents. 

NBC‘s John Seigenthaler has this report about the children who are the real victims in this tsunami. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN SEIGENTHALER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  They‘re called the lost generation, tens of thousands of children across South Asia killed in the tsunami.  Thousands more at still risk from disease and shortages of food and water. 

You can see the fear in the eyes of a child old enough to know what is happening, but too young to understand why.  As more relief supplies and workers trickle into Sri Lanka, UNICEF now estimates 12,000 of the 30,000 tsunami victims in that country are children. 

CAROL BELLAMY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNICEF:  I suppose what has most gotten to me is the number of children who have lost parents and also the number of parent whose are still standing at the edge of the waves waiting for their children to come back. 

SEIGENTHALER:  This 12-year-old Sri Lanka boy named Sandaran (ph) was picking flute in a mango tree when a neighbor warned him about the tsunami. 

(on camera):  And what happened to your house? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He says, it‘s not to be seen even. 

SEIGENTHALER:  It‘s gone? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s gone. 

SEIGENTHALER (voice-over):  He climbed higher to escape the tidal wave, while his parents drowned in the surf below.  Sandaran will join hundreds of thousands of other children staying in makeshift camps now turning into temporary orphanages. 

And that‘s creating another problem for relief workers.  Some parents, trying to deal with the grief of losing their own children, are taking in orphans from the aid centers without saying a word to authorities.  Meanwhile, some of the young survivors of the tsunami are trying their best to get back to a normal life, a chance to be with friends and remember what it‘s like to be a kid again. 

John Seigenthaler, NBC News, Galle, Sri Lanka. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you, I know, for all of us, that‘s so heartbreaking.  But for those of us with children that‘s—the age of those children that we‘re watching there, it‘s just—it‘s so awful. 

Now, for the children of the tsunami, one of the biggest challenges facing the entire region is disease. 

And here to tell us if disease could actually double the death toll in that region is Dr. Robert Lahita.  He is the chief of medicine at Jersey City Medical Center. 

Doctor, thanks for being back with us again. 

DR. ROBERT LAHITA, JERSEY CITY MEDICAL CENTER:  Thank you, Joe.  

SCARBOROUGH:  We heard John Seigenthaler talking about a lost generation.  You and I have been talking for the past week since the initial tsunami hit and the tidal wave killed, well, probably close to 150,000 now.  We have been talking about the possible threat of a doubling of that death toll because of disease. 

Give us the latest medical update over there.  What is going on?  Are we still as risk of maybe losing 100,000 to 150,000 more people because of disease?

LAHITA:  Yes, Joe.  We‘re only nine days into the disaster and that‘s a bit early to tell how the things are going to play out here. 

We‘re worried about waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid, which typically affect large stressed populations such as that which we see now in Southeast Asia and in Sri Lanka.  We have a problem here in that there‘s no refrigeration.  We are flying antibiotics in that are powdered form.  Then we rehydrate those with good water, sterile water, to give to people.

We also have to have sterile water, a special mineral containing sterile water, to give to those who are suffering from diseases like cholera.  Once there‘s a major outbreak, we are going to have a major problem and we could lose as much as three times what the death toll already is—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you‘re saying that the death toll, let‘s say it stops at 150,000, which I think most experts believe it is going to go even higher.  You‘re saying that that could possibly triple.  We could see as many as half-a-million people die from the initial waves that came ashore and disease? 

LAHITA:  Yes, that‘s correct. 

Luckily, the response of the world has been so incredible that we‘re able to get materials to some of the more populated areas that have airports.  But it‘s getting sterile water and antibiotics and the medical equipment and medical personnel out to the rural areas, where there are hundreds of thousands of people without refrigeration, without adequate medical care.  That‘s the challenge, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Doctor, you have talked at cholera.  You have talked at typhoid.  I understand also that measles and hepatitis also is a concern.  Why is that?

LAHITA:  Well, the ground water is contaminated.  There have been so many dead bodies.  There has been so much contamination with fecal bacteria and probably—this is an area that is endemic for hepatitis like hepatitis-A. 

When the water supply is contaminated, when people have no place to go to drink and eat clean food, drink clean water, hepatitis is a major problem.  We have got that.  If a measles outbreak occurs—and I have heard from some reports that that is happening—that will go like wildfire through the children, who already will probably have diarrheal diseases from the contaminated water.  And then we have the waterborne diseases which are carried by mosquitoes such as malaria and dengue fever, which is also endemic in this area.  So, we‘ve got a lot of problems ahead.  It‘s a big challenge for all of us.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Dr. Bob Lahita, thank you so much for being with us again and helping us understand the scope of this disaster from a medical standpoint.  And it doesn‘t sound like we‘re going to really know the outcome for some time to come.  So we ask, if you will, to please come back later this week and give us your update. 

Now, coming up next, many are wondering whether a tragedy of this magnitude is an act of nature or a sign that we may be in the end times.  Is the apocalypse near?  Is this God punishing us for our sins?  Well, that‘s what some pastors in America are saying.  Others hotly debate it. 

We are going to be talking about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the massive devastation in the wake of tsunami has a lot of people examining their faith and their purpose.  What does this disaster mean and could it be a sign that the end times are near?  That debate is coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

God and the tsunami.  With some 175,000 people dead and vast stretches of Asia ripped apart, a lot of people are asking, how can a merciful God allow such disaster and suffering?  And should we interpret this as a sign from above? 

With me now to talk about this is Anne Graham Lotz.  She is the daughter of Reverend Billy Graham and the author of “Visions of His Glory,” a book about the Revelation.  We also have Dr. Tim LaHaye.  He is co-author of the best-selling “Left Behind” series.  We also have Dave Silverman.  He is of American Atheists.  We have got Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of “Face Your Fear.”  And we have Jennifer Giroux of Women Influencing the Nation. 

I want to welcome everybody. 

And, Anne, let me begin with you.  I know that there are tens of thousands of people out there that are asking this question.  If we are God‘s children and our God is a loving God, as you say he is, then how could God allow such suffering and death in Asia, 150,000 of his children right now killed?  Some estimates, that maybe three, four times as many may be dead by the time they finish counting all the bodies.  Is that a loving God that would allow that to happen?

ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ, ANGEL MINISTRIES:  Joe, I know that God is a loving God.  I don‘t look at the tsunami and what has happened at Asia.  I look at the cross. 

And when I look at the cross of Jesus Christ, when God sent his own son to die to take away my sin, I know that God loves me.  So, I don‘t know the love of God is in question when this happens.  Why he has allowed it to happen, I don‘t know.  I can‘t answer that question.  But I think one of the things that we need to do when there‘s a disaster like that is to look up and ask God, are you trying to get our attention?  Is there something we can learn from this?  Is there something you‘re trying to say to us? 

And, Joe, what is interesting about this, that this tsunami did not increase death.  All of those people who died were going to die anyway.  And I don‘t mean to sign cold.  And we desperately don‘t desire to see them suffer in such a horrific way.  But, at the same time, every single one of us is going to die.  And the critical thing is to determine what is going to happen to us the moment after we die.  Where are we going to spend eternity? 

And that‘s why God, who does love you, and he sent his own son to die on the cross, that, when I place my faith in him, I can be forgiven of my sin and I can know for sure that, when something happens to me—and I can die on the highway. I can die as a result of a disease.  It doesn‘t have to be a tsunami.  But one day, I‘m going to die.  And I know when I do, I am going to be ushered into my father‘s home into heaven because I have placed my faith in Jesus. 

So, this is a tragedy and it‘s a disaster, but it‘s not a reflection on the fact that God doesn‘t love us, because God loves us and the proof of that is the cross. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Jennifer Giroux, you believe that this may be a sign from God and this may be God punishing people because of their sins.  Explain.

JENNIFER GIROUX, DIRECTOR, WOMEN INFLUENCING THE NATION:  Well, you know, throughout history and reported early in the Bible, God has always used plagues, floods and natural disasters as a source of punishment. 

Now, something that jumps out from that first segment to me, Joe, is you talk about a sad lost generation over there in the disaster going on in Asia.  We have a lost generation of 40 million aborted babies in this country that is being ignored by so many people.  I believe that this situation that happens makes all of us look inward, realize God is ultimately in control of life and death. 

Look at what we‘re looking with just in this country with cloning, homosexuality, trying to make homosexual marriages, abortion, lack of God in the schools, taking Jesus out of Christmas.  I can‘t pretend to know the mind of God.  But, historically, there have been warnings.  And God, who is all-loving and all-good, and he will not be mocked.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, are you saying, Jennifer, that God may be killing people in Asia because of the sins that Americans are committing here? 

GIROUX:  No, I‘m not saying that at all, Joe.

What I‘m saying is that God does allow natural disasters to happen. 

He always brings good out of bad.  You know, there is sin in this country.  There is sin around the world.  There‘s no way anybody could look over there and say they are more deserving than anybody else to have this disaster.  We all look with horror. 

And I think one thing that really has made all of us think is, we all know in the Bible it says death comes like a thief in the night and we know not the day or the hour.  And it makes all of us look inward and say, am I ready to meet my maker?  And am I ready, if this were to happen right now when I‘m sitting in the studio or while the viewers are watching your show tonight, if a disaster hits, where is my life?  Am I doing what God wants me to do?  And am I living a moral life? 

And we as individuals and as a country need to turn to God again, ask for forgiveness and mend our ways. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, there are some out there that are saying that, like Jennifer just did, that God has used plagues, floods, earthquakes, natural disasters to punish people for sins.  What is your take on that? 

RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, AUTHOR, “FACE YOUR FEAR”:  You know, Joe, Jennifer Giroux is guilty of colossal blasphemy and even more colossal arrogance, blasphemy, because even Jesus on the cross says in Matthew 27 and Mark 15, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

He wanted to live.  He was challenging God.  He was saying life is precious, unlike Anne Graham Lotz, who just said only the afterlife matters.  Jesus says, you‘ve forsaken me.  He challenged God.  It‘s what Abraham also does when God says, I‘m going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  And they were more sinful than any American or people living in Sri Lanka or Indonesia.

Abraham says, are there 40 righteous people?  Aren‘t there 30 innocent people?  And you are going to kill the good people, the children?  Moses says to God when God says I‘ll destroy the Israelite for worshiping a golden calf, Moses says, do it, but take my name out of the Bible.  I want nothing to do with you, God.  That‘s in Exodus, before Abraham‘s words are in Genesis.  This is absolute arrogance and blasphemy. 

(CROSSTALK)

GIROUX:  Rabbi, you have a selective memory of the Bible. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Jennifer, God is not a terrorist.  You sound like Osama bin Laden. 

GIROUX:  Absolutely not.

BOTEACH:  God is not a terrorist.

GIROUX:  Rabbi, you can stop yelling and realize that your selective memory of the Bible is inaccurate.  God is all-loving and God is all-forgiving and God will bring good out of all of this. 

But we are all accountable for him as individuals, as a country and as mankind in general.  And he will not be mocked. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Jennifer, how dare you say that 150,000 people that you have never met who are probably more righteous than you, more innocent than you, poor people who just worked hard to feed their kids, how dare you say they were punished by God?  You don‘t know those people.

(CROSSTALK)

GIROUX:  That not what I said, Rabbi.  That not what I said.

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  If God is just—and I believe he is—then he ought to swallow Saddam Hussein alive and leave the 150,000 innocent people alone.  Let him swallow the janjaweed militias of the Sudan.  Let him kill Kim Jong-il of North Korea, a mass murderer.

GIROUX:  Rabbi, do you believe...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Jennifer, respond.

GIROUX:  Do you believe God has ever sent natural disaster in the Old Testament?  Has God ever sent natural disaster or plague as punishment to the people? 

BOTEACH:  What it says in the Old Testament is that...

(CROSSTALK)

GIROUX:  Yes or no. 

BOTEACH:  Is that prophets can say that.  You‘re not a prophet, Jennifer.  You barely know the Bible, unfortunately. 

GIROUX:  I didn‘t hear an answer, though. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, as they said in “Monty Python,” now for something completely different, let‘s go to David Silverman.  He is the head of American Atheists. 

David, a college professor told me once that he had become an atheist after a similar natural disaster struck in the 1960s, suggesting to me that a loving God would never allow such horrors to occur.  Do you agree with that assessment? 

(CROSSTALK)

DAVE SILVERMAN, AMERICAN ATHEISTS:  Well, yes, I do. 

Before I get into that, Joe, I would like to thank you for having me on the show.  American Atheists extends its condolences and its support to all of the mourners of this global natural disaster.  And I would like to just take a moment to urge the people to continue to do their secular, humanistic giving to get money and aid to those who need it and to not bury your head in the sand and stare at the cross or to argue about abortion or anything like that. 

Let‘s talk about this, for example.  Would a loving God allow this to happen?  Of course not.  A loving God doesn‘t allow torture.  If a loving God is all-powerful—think about this—if a loving God is all-powerful, he can do whatever he wants without killing children, without killing babies, without AIDS or without tidal waves or without...

GIROUX:  You know a lot about God for that you don‘t believe in him. 

SILVERMAN:  That‘s right.  That‘s right, Jennifer.  I do know a heck of a lot more than you about this—about God.  I‘m not getting into an argument with you again, Jen. 

(CROSSTALK)

GIROUX:  I don‘t want to argue.

LAHITA:  No, no, it‘s just not worth it, because this is a time when the world is grieving.  And we‘re not here to talk about abortion and we‘re not here to talk about cloning. 

We‘re here to talk about people helping other people.  That‘s the secular, humanistic way. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to go—let me go quickly to Anne. 

And I have got Tim LaHaye that I have just got to ask some questions to.

But I want to go back to Anne Graham Lotz, because, Anne, I believe you have written a book about why, people asking the question, why God allows terrible things to happen.  And I know you talked about—you focus on the afterlife, that we‘re all going to die, obvious—that‘s obvious to all of us tonight.

But, again what do you say to my college professor?  What do you say to a parent who has lost a child in this?  What do you say to a father that has lost his entire family, his entire life savings when he says, God, why have you forsaken me?  Why have you left me here to die without a family, without a single possession? 

LOTZ:  Joe, I don‘t think there are answers to a question like that. 

And I know this, that God sent his son to the cross.  And we can say not to focus on the cross, but if we don‘t focus on the cross, we have no hope.  And the cross tells us that God came to Earth and he understands our pain.  He feel our pain.  He entered into our suffering. 

And in Bethany, when Lazarus died and Jesus went to the tomb with Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but he wept and he entered into their suffering.  And so, I think if we could see God‘s face now, if such a thing were possible, we would see tears coming down his cheeks.  And he uses us.  And I appreciate Dave‘s challenge to us to help these people.  And that‘s a right challenge, because we can be the arms, in a sense, the voice of God reaching out to these people to love them in their suffering. 

I don‘t know why God allows this, but I know he has a purpose.  And this is something for the atheist, too, because an atheist was saying—when he says there is no God, that he is saying he came from nowhere, he is going nowhere, his life has no purpose, he is a cosmic accident.  And the Bible says that God has a divine purpose for every single one of us.  And this life is just part of it. 

And our purpose in this life is to bring glory to God and to know him in a personal relationship through Jesus Christ.  And when this life is over, where we go next is crucial. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  We will be talking more about this.  We will talk to Dave and also Tim LaHaye when we return in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We have all talked about daring rescues, amazing survival, disease and destruction, but tonight we are taking a look at how different religions are reacting to the tsunami and if this could be the end times. 

More of that straight ahead, but, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back. 

We‘re talking about the tsunami, suffering and God.  I‘m here with my panel, Anne Graham Lotz, Tim LaHaye, Dave Silverman, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and Jennifer Giroux. 

Let‘s go to you first, Tim LaHaye. 

I want to tell our audience something about your book sales, which I find absolutely fascinating.  The first 11 “Left Behind” books have sold more than 40 million copies, making you and your co-author, Jerry Jenkins, bigger sellers than John Grisham.  And, of course, the subject of these books have to do with the end of times. 

There have been a lot of people that have said since the millennium this was all Bible prophesy, that all of the earthquakes, the tsunamis, that all the natural disasters are leading us to the end times.  Do you think that‘s what we may be looking at here? 

TIM LAHAYE, CO-AUTHOR, “LEFT BEHIND”:  I think that‘s a legitimate assumption.  God has—you know, Bible prophesy is history written in advance.  And it doesn‘t mean that God is arranging all these activities. 

I think the God of the Bible is a God of love, as Anne has portrayed.  But in order to understand what he does in an isolated situation like this, we have to come back and understand who he is.  And although it‘s true as, I think the rabbi said, that Jesus prayed, “Why have you forsaken me?” the fact is, that‘s not the end of the story.  If you go on, three days later, Jesus was raised from the dead and God raised him up from the dead, proving that his sacrifice for sin was acceptable. 

But the point is, we‘re looking through a glass darkly.  We don‘t see the end from the beginning.  Bible prophesy tells us that, as we get closer to the end of the age, there will be more and more of these natural phenomenon.  And that‘s one of the things that I resent, people trying to say that this is the judgment of God.  No, this is just the natural result of the phenomenon of nature. 

As the Earth changes and shifts on its plates, you have earthquakes caused and such tidal waves that are just unbelievable and you have death and so on.  I don‘t believe God is picking on these people.  But we‘re approaching a time when people have to make sure that they are right before God, because all of these uncertainties—and certainly death is an uncertainty—when it comes, it‘s an uncertainty.  It points out to us that we have to be ready at all times to understand not the God that man sees just in an isolated event, but the God of the Bible. 

God is love, the Bible tells us.  He doesn‘t put on mankind evil.  God can‘t be tempted with evil.  Neither tempts he any man.  Therefore, we can be assured that he has a purpose in this.  We may never know what the total purpose is, but be sure of this.  There‘s a good purpose for it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, somebody on our staff brought up Matthew Chapter 24 talking about the end of times, and this is what Jesus said. 

He said: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  But see that you shouldn‘t be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.   Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these things are the beginning of birth pains.”

Tim, would you say that Jesus is talking about such times as these? 

LAHAYE:  Well, I think he is talking about the increase in all of these activities. 

And the amazing thing about it is, if you go to the U.S. Geological Society, you will find that they chart earthquakes and they have been increasing.  For the past five decades, every decade has increased the number of earthquakes, killer earthquakes we‘re talking about.  And this is one of the granddaddy of all earthquakes, and it has taken so much life.  And the good thing about all of this is, it points out that man really has to get right before God, because the time is short. 

Things are happening so rapidly today.  Even unsaved secular scientists say they see no hope for this world beyond 25 or 50 years.  What should our response be?

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Joe, can I just say to Tim LaHaye that to speak about any good coming from the death of 150,000 innocent people, maybe 50,000 children, is just not religious.  It‘s deeply blasphemous. 

I have to differ with my Christian colleagues in their quintessential belief that suffering is redemptive, that someone needs to die in order for sin to be forgiven.  It‘s simply not true.  God is omnipotent and God is all powerful.  And he can bring about the end of days without earthquakes and killing people.  We as human beings have a right to challenge God.  We have a mandatory obligation to challenge God. 

GIROUX:  Rabbi, you obviously have you have...

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  One second, Jennifer. 

God said, do not kill.  He said, life is precious.  So we have to come before him.  And the word Israel means to fight with God, to wrestle with God and say, how do you allow this kind of thing?  We are not cosmic chaff.  We have a right to be angry.  It‘s an honest religious relationship. 

(CROSSTALK)

GIROUX:  Rabbi, you obviously have a few issues that you need to work through, but you cannot pretend to know the mind of God, nor can I. 

And I would like to clarify, after your attack, that I did not say that those people on the other side of the world in Asia deserved this, by any means.  We cannot understand something of this magnitude, of this disaster.  You cannot watch that show, as Joe pointed out, and not be in tears.  Imagine yourself having your children slip from your arms.

Having said that, it disturbs people like Dave that cannot figure out where the hope is in all this, because they don‘t want to recognize that God is in this. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  One at a time.  Hold on a second.  One at a time. 

Go, Dave. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVERMAN:  I have been attacked.  I did not say I have no hope.  I have a lot of hope.  Why? 

Because, outside of religion, outside of all of this rhetoric, outside of all this screaming that you guys are doing, billions and billions is heading into the affected area without religious impetus.  Listen...

(CROSSTALK)

GIROUX:  And thank God for that. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVERMAN:  This is my turn to talk, Jennifer.  This is my turn to

talk,

Rabbi, first of all, thank you for besting Jen on her knowledge.  You have done it.  And, by the way, I think you‘re more my colleague than you are of theirs. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVERMAN:  And I would also like to thank you, Rabbi, one more time for being the only other person on this show other than myself who didn‘t come in here to capitalize on the tragedy to hock a book.  Shame on the rest of you.  Everybody, don‘t buy books. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, hold on a second.  Hold on a second.

I have got to stop for a second.  Nobody came on the show to hock their book.  We called people that have been recognized as leaders in their communities, in their communities of faith, to come on this show.  They did it as a favor to us.  And we greatly appreciate it.  Nobody has come on this show to hock their books.  We are honored to have everybody on, because each of you represent a distinct, different area of faith. 

And of speaking of a distinct, different area of faith, I want to go to what I think right now is the central focal point of this debate.  And that is, does God use suffering to forward his will?  I want to read for all of you what the head of the Federation of the Islamic Council has said regarding what the Koran teaches. 

He says that the Koran teaches that natural disasters are a part of human actions.  And this is what he says—quote—“We need to go and seek for answers.  Why did this happen?  What have I done?  What have we done for this to happen?  We can‘t brush off and blame somebody else.”

Rabbi, it sounds like not only are there some Christians that believe that God uses suffering or God punishes people for their actions.  It‘s sounds also like this leader of this Islamic Council is arguing the same thing. 

BOTEACH:  Yes.  And they also said—think about the perversity of this—that because women walk around in bikinis on the shores of Thailand, that‘s why it was hit by a tsunami, as if screaming (SPEAKING ARABIC) while you chop off someone‘s head is not more blasphemous. 

I would advise my Islamic colleagues to stop trying to understand the mind of God and maybe encourage your skinflint Arab countries to start giving money to this effort, because most of the people affected were Muslims in Indonesia.  There is not one Arab oil-rich country that is even in the top 10 of donors.  Denmark has given more money than Saudi Arabia.

Iceland is almost giving more money.  This is embarrassing.  Islam dare not go down the path of trying to say that God is Osama bin Laden waiting in the heavens to strike people with thunderbolts because they happen to wear bikinis on beaches.  We have to stop condemning mankind for sinfulness, as if human beings are terrible. 

And what bothers me the most, Joe, is that Jennifer Giroux has some hatred of America.  She keeps on talking about how much abortion there is here.  We are a beautiful country.  Our soldiers are risking their lives to give people freedom in Iraq.  Our soldiers are flying missions to feed the people in Sri Lanka, Indonesia.  God blesses America.  He does not curse it with suffering. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we will have Jennifer respond when we come back. 

You talked about the fact that Saudi Arabia not giving as much as a lot of other countries.  I will tell you who else is not giving, China.  Compare China‘s giving to America‘s giving.  And isn‘t it interesting that China always talks how America needs to stay out of Asia, that Asia is now their territory, that their dominant theater.  And yet, when a disaster comes, who does China turn to for help?  You, the American taxpayers.  You talk about hypocrisy. 

Well, we need take a quick break.  But we have got a lot more with my panel when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  What natural disaster produced the loudest sound ever recorded?  Was it, A, an earthquake, B, a volcano eruption or, C, a tornado?  The answer coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked: 

What natural disaster produced the loudest sound ever recorded?  The answer is B.  A volcano eruption on August 26, 1883 in Indonesia, was heard over 2,000 miles away in Australia and is the loudest noise on record. 

Now back to Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s a surprise, because I thought, when they wheeled me in to the emergency room at the Cleveland Clinic back in October with my back injury, I thought that was the loudest scream recorded. 

In fact, you know, with my panel here, I really should—I should ask my panel to pray to their respective gods, actually, all the gods of Abraham, except for Dave...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pray for my back.

And, Dave, maybe you can get me a good acupuncturist or a New Age specialist.

SILVERMAN:  Hey, medical science, babe, medical science. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

And you know that medical science says that the power of prayer actually helps people. 

I want to go right now back to Jennifer Giroux. 

Because, Jennifer, the rabbi accused you of hating America and, again, blaming America‘s sin on disaster overseas.  I will have you respond and then I want to go around and let Tim and Anne and Dave respond. 

Go ahead.

GIROUX:  Joe, that‘s an absurd charge once again made by the rabbi and very off point.

I love America.  My heart aches for the state that America is in at times regarding abortion, cloning, promiscuity, absence of God in the schools.  I love America.  And I, like many other mothers in this country, are trying to pray our country back to God. 

I think it‘s important to recognize that there have been prophesies predicted disasters.  The biggest recorded miracle in the 20th century, reported in “The New York Times,” was the apparition at Fatima, where it was—the prediction of the end of the World War I, the prediction World War II would come, and prediction that, if people didn‘t turn away from sins and their evil ways, that entire nations would be annihilated. 

So, the reality that prophesies, biblical warnings and all these things have been a part of history is a reality.  And God always brings good out of it, draws us to him. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hole on.  I need to go to Tim LaHaye. 

Tim LaHaye, I want to ask you, does God use suffering to promote his will? 

LAHAYE:  God uses all things.  The ways of God are past finding out. 

Listen, let‘s understood that God is so superior to us that, if we could understand the mind of God, we would be God.  Naturally, we don‘t understand all the things that God does.  But, in time, you begin to see his hand revealed. 

And remember this.  God is not only interested in our physical time-space existence.  He is also interested in our eternity.  And he has an eternity perspective in all that he does.  But, again, don‘t blame God for this isolated event.  Mother Nature, perhaps, the way the world conditions, air flows and so on, but don‘t blame God as casting judgment on some people out on the beach somewhere for some surmised sin they have committed.  The truth is, God loves mankind.

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Mr. LaHaye, with all due respect, you sound like a heretic.  Blame Mother Nature?  Are you suddenly a pantheist?  Are you suddenly a pagan?  Mother Nature? 

LAHAYE:  I don‘t worship—well, isn‘t Mother Nature...

BOTEACH:  God controls everything. 

You know, there‘s no such thing as believing that some day we will know why these terrible things happened.  They should not happen.  God said life is precious.

LAHAYE:  How do you know that?  How can you be so absolute?

BOTEACH:  I know it from the Bible. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  Because I believe in the Bible that you believe in.

LAHAYE:  All right, so prove it for me.

BOTEACH:  God says in the Bible that life is precious.  He says do not murder.  He says he is long-suffering.

LAHAYE:  That‘s right. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  He says that he has compassion for orphans and for widows.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We are going to have to carry this over. 

GIROUX:  Free will, Rabbi.  Free will.

SCARBOROUGH:  You all stay with us.  See, they are very loud.

We‘ll be right back in just one second. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  John Kerry talks to “Newsweek” about how he lost the presidential election.  We will have “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman here tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Anne Graham Lotz, I agree with Tim LaHaye.  I don‘t blame this disaster on God, but there are so many that ask the question the rabbi asks.  Well, if God is all-powerful, then whose fault is it? 

LOTZ:  I don‘t think it‘s anybody‘s fault. 

I know what this is not, Joe.  And the tsunami is not punishment for sin.  The Bible says the wages of sin is death, meaning spiritual death, separation from God now and an eternity which is hell, which is why God so loved you and me that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, that, when place my faith in him, then I am born again into his family. 

And part of my birth, my spiritual birth, has the right of a heavenly home.  And so I know, in this life, there can be suffering and pain and things we don‘t understand, but one day, the Bible says, for those of us who have been born again into God‘s family through faith in Jesus, we are going to go to heaven.  And God himself will wipe the tears from our face.  There will be no more crying or suffering or pain.  There will be no more back surgeries.  There will be no more tsunamis. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Amen. 

(LAUGHTER)

LOTZ:  There will be no more cancers.  And it will be a wonderful place that will be problem-free and pain-free. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much, Anne. 

Thank you, Tim LaHaye, Dave Silverman.

Rabbi Shmuley, Jennifer Giroux, again, I am going to take you two on the road with me.  You are just great. 

Tune in tomorrow for “Imus.”  At 7:15, he is going to be talking to Brian Williams, who is covering this disaster from Indonesia.

We will see you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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