Sandstorms, dust storms, whirlwinds: All suggest more than a hint of an angry deity's wrath, of the earth itself being turned against its disobedient inhabitants. Little wonder, then, that some observers in the Arab world hailed last week's sandstorm as evidence of God's displeasure with the invaders.
No matter what one's political or religious perspective, however, a sandstorm must evoke awe at the wind's magnificent sculpting power, its relentless sweep and scoop and spin and push, turning day into night and night into chaos.
"It obliterates everything, creating darkness," says Michael Dubruiel, a Christian writer based in Ft. Wayne, Ind. "Sandstorms certainly make one think of a simpler faith where nothing happens without God willing it or allowing it. The `whirlwind' idea is standard not only in the Islamic faith, but in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well."