My initial column on this page included an intention to avoid politics, but sometimes, even the best of intentions must be laid aside.Televangelist Pat Robertson is currently getting buried under heavy criticism regarding his speculation last week that the January 12 earthquake in Haiti was directly related to that nation’s long-ago pact with Satan. It’s not the first time Robertson has gotten into hot water by opening his mouth, but it will probably be the most-remembered, seeming so incredibly insensitive during a time of national loss and grief. At last count over 100,000 souls swept away…not a good time to be pointing fingers.
Having no great affection for televangelists in general, I nevertheless sense a hesitation in my spirit to jump on the anti-Pat bandwagon. Maybe it’s because both Old and New Testament scripture backs up the idea that God does judge sin on a national scale. Prophets, angels, even Balaam’s donkey (see Numbers 22), have brought harsh words and appeared harsh themselves, even a little on the crazy side.
(Not that Pat Robertson is a prophet—as my husband wisely pointed out, a prophet would have predicted the earthquake before it happened, not talk about the reasons for it after the fact. And it’s always struck me that when YOU go through a tough time, it must be God dealing with you, but when I’M the one in hot water, it’s an attack from the enemy!)
Robertson’s much-maligned comment was taken out of context, as such things usually are—he went on to talk about compassion, helping, etc. But did Haitian leaders make a pact with the devil? According to Wikipedia, there was a significant Vodou (voodoo) ceremony in 1791 in which the slaves gathered for the express purpose of getting help overthrowing French rule. During the ceremony, a demon-possessed priestess cut a pig’s throat and distributed the blood to those gathered. The ceremony marked the beginning of the Haitian revolution, part of their history.
Did a ceremony in 1791 cause an earthquake over 300 years later? No, shifting tectonic plates did that. Were spiritual forces at work in the shifting? That’s a deeper question.
We could compare Haiti and the Dominican Republican—both nations share the same island of Hispaniola, but they differ greatly. For example, Haiti ranks 135th on one Gross Domestic Product chart, while the Dominican Republic is one of, if not the, wealthiest Central American and Caribbean nations. Half of all Haitians practice vodou, regardless of other religious affiliation. Over 95% in the DR claim to be Christian. Haiti has had a string of corrupt leaders; the DR, apparently not. Has one enjoyed God’s blessing while the other has incurred his wrath? It does give one pause—especially as we see our own nation moving further and further away from its Christian heritage.
Robertson’s comments weren’t politically correct, but then, Jesus was rarely PC. Jewish patriarchs, kings, prophets, Christian disciples, apostles, ministers, missionaries—a multitude of people who, with the perspective of history, are credited with wonderful examples of obedience to God—have often been criticized at the time of their obedience. Was Robertson speaking from God’s perspective, or his own? If he was giving his personal opinion, was there any truth in it?
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that he was wrong—poor timing, personal agenda, prejudice and arrogance, whatever the reason. What then, is to be our response? Robertson is a Christian, certainly one with faults and weaknesses as the rest of us, but he and his many ministries do lift up the name of Jesus (and do a tremendous amount of good—Operation Blessing alone has spent over a billion dollars helping those in need). His insensitivity hasn’t made any friends for evangelicals or the Church, but perhaps we would do best to view this as a cautionary tale rather than heating up the tar and gathering feathers for one of our own. Like the relative we’re a little uncomfortable around because of the constant drama, he still gets invited to the reunion.
As for our response to the far greater question…Haiti itself…that one’s easy. We pray – for help to reach those in need, for lives and souls to be saved, for workers to be protected, for finances to be released. Beyond prayer, some of us will be asked to give. Some of us will be asked to go.
Of one thing, I’m certain: not one of us will be asked to make Pat Robertson’s remarks or Haiti’s history an excuse for apathy.
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