What Pat Robertson Said

If anything is getting as much attention as the earthquake in Haiti, it’s what Pat Robertson said about that nation. Evidently he began discussing the most recent tragedy there by recounting a story in which the Haitians made a pact with the devil in order to gain their independence from the French.

Predictably, critics are outraged, venting in such articles as Andy Borowitz’s “Pat Robertson ‘A Public Relations Nightmare,’ Says God” and Paul Raushenbush’s “Go to Hell, Pat Robertson: Haiti Needs Help, Not Stupidity.” The accusations include racism in particular.

The thing is, this is not the first time Robertson has said something insensitive at the time of a crisis. He made news for comments after Katrina, 9/11, and others.

At first I wondered why he hadn’t learned his lesson. I mean, it’s one thing to wonder if God is bringing his retribution upon a place and another to say so publicly while people are still buried under the rubble. What was he thinking?

Perhaps he sees it as his role to help people look at the spiritual issues, to consider the eternal ramifications. But I can’t help wondering if there is a proper time and place.

The devil’s curse sounds mean spirited to lots of people, but no one has said the slave uprising that gained Haiti’s independence was other than what Robertson described. They laud it for being first, for setting in motion a wave of independence in Latin America, and for other positive results. They don’t say Haiti didn’t turn to the devil.

I know by reputation, Haiti has been associated with voodoo and the black arts even to this day. So could Robertson be right?

But the question I want to explore is this: even if Robertson is right, should he have said what he said or taken a pass on verbalizing his opinion about the spiritual cause of Haiti’s difficulties?

Is the day after a crisis the right time to delve into the spiritual causes of a tragedy? Is it even right to speculate publicly about such things, because surely we do not know God’s mind about this matter.

We know He hates sin, but can we conclude that therefore He has withheld blessing from Haiti—or worse, has allowed a curse to doom them?

I’m reading the book of Job, and interestingly, such was the thinking of Job’s friends. Tragedy equals a loss of God’s favor. In my earlier notes I called Elihud the first health-and-wealther because he insisted that God blessed the righteous, implying that Job, therefore, could not be righteous. (See “Thoughts on Job” for a more in depth treatment of this). Later he or one of the others came right out and said as much. I see this as reverse health-and-wealthism. They stated unequivocally that the unrighteousness would incur disaster in this life … eventually.

The point is, the friends were wrong about Job because they were wrong about God.

I wonder if caution isn’t the best way to go rather than an assumption about what God is doing. Maybe Pat Robertson’s critics have it right. Maybe the only thing we Christians need to do in a crisis is roll up our sleeves and start digging.

Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 8:00 am  Comments (13)  
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