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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13 Comments

  1. To your first point, I definitely think Mr. Robertson’s timing and tone was inappropriate. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Paul’s words to the Galatians (6:1) establish a principle concerning the attitude Christians should possess when trying to correct error.

    And I agree on your second point. The book of Ecclesiastes makes it clear that God causes the rain to fall on both the righteous and the wicked. We have no business, in this day and age without direct revelation, attributing natural disasters to God’s judgment on a people or nation.

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  2. Excellent points, well written.

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  3. I saw Pat Robertson’s telecast and heard nothing mean-spirited about what he said, just truth put forth in a direct manner. He even went on to say that Haiti needs our help in this time of crisis, not that they had it coming or that God hates them.
    As for when is the right time to say these things, I dont think there could have been a better time than when the world’s attention is focused. The point should be made (just as in the case of America when we didn’t want to hear that we had slid away from God and opened ourselves up to terrorist attacks) in the “teachable moments.
    This probably sounds a bit harsh, and I’m sorry for that, but it’s a sad day when Christians have to defend their right to say what God says, and when they have to pick their time and place so they don’t offend anyone. Anyone else see something wrong with that?
    Okay, so when IS the right time?

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  4. Pat Robertson mentioned a literal pact with the devil – he didn’t just remark that Haiti was caught up in witchcraft or whatever. The man is clueless – he’s not speaking for God.

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  5. Age old questions … Did God cause this earthquake? We know He caused storms and earthquakes in the Bible. We know He knew about it before it happened. And if He did, how is He a God of Love? I believe it, and know it will work towards His great plan, but I wish I had a better answer.

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  6. Gosh, those nations hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami must have been really evil. That’s if the number of dead by disaster equals the displeasure of God. I didn’t hear what Robertson said about that.

    But you might be pleased to know that we haven’t heard a squeak from the Robertson person in Australia. Isn’t he the bloke who goes around calling loudly for the killing of leaders of other governments? Why would anybody think he was speaking on behalf of Jesus?

    During the Katrina event an Australian speechwriter was in New Orleans. He reported that the lords and ladies of government remained feasting in their distant castles while the peasants toiled in the fields trying to divine the intentions of the Gods by reading the entrails of the disaster. His summary: the USA is a medieval kingdom. It still operates on the pre-scientific basis that all events in the world mean something and are intended by someone.

    A couple of years ago our street had roofs caved in and cars destroyed by a rare hailstorm. It took us six months to rebuild. I can’t seem to figure out what evil pact I had entered into that would cause God to strike me thusly. Perhaps I should ask Pat Robertson. He knows what every weather event in the world means.

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  7. Ken Rolph,

    People outside of the State’s often fail to realize exactly what our government does. You may be surprised to learn that our Senators, Legislators, and Executive officials work a full work day. Granted, they do take longer vacations.

    Typical day in the life of the president: Wake up two hours before breakfast. Receive brief on international terrorism and tensions with Russia. Go over to the West Wing to handle the military matters of the day. Skip breakfast.

    Etc. Etc. Etc.

    And believe it or not, that’s close to the day in the life of even a minuscule representative in the Idaho state House of Representatives.

    What do you want leaders to do? Are they supposed to go down and pilot the helicopters, drive the backhoes, and pull out the shovels? If they spent their time doing that, the most important work of GOVERNING THE PEOPLE would be left to…nobody.

    It may also surprise you to learn that some Americans don’t want health and welfare programs. We’ve helped ourselves thus far, we don’t need the government to step in try to fix our problems for us.

    As to New Orleans, when you build a city below sea level, you should expect some problems. Especially when you build this city walking distance from a hurricane prone ocean.

    I apologize if I sound rather terse, but when people attack an entire body people without thinking, it upsets me.

    As to this Robertson fellow, kicking someone when their down is never the godly thing to do. If God was punishing Haiti for making a pact with the devil, why hasn’t he struck all the Communists dead?

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  8. I was very interested to see all these wonderful comments. But today in church, when we heard, using Skype, from a man who runs one of the orphanages there in Haiti, and heard some of the reasons why, there in his small city, there are hundreds of orphans — before the earthquake — I have to wonder if the earthquake wasn’t God’s wake up call to the rest of the world to come help the children. So many of the children down there are being taken and used as slaves for the more wealthy. They are also being sold, beaten, cut, whipped, tortured. I think God is trying to get the rest of the world’s attention drawn to this terrible injustice. Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the world. Over 80% are below poverty. That is why so many of the children are being misused and mistreated. No one has seen the problems (I should say, few have seen) the problems, but now the whole world knows.

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  9. Great discussion, all. I wish I had time to give specific responses to each one of you. Thank you for contributing to the thoughtful dialogue. I’ve tried to elaborate some on my views in today’s post.

    Rae, special thanks for the information about the plight of the orphans in Haiti. I hadn’t heard that.

    Becky

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  10. Let me add one thing. The news reports, it seems to me, by the clips and quotes they chose to air/print and by the headlines they wrote, made Robertson to look mean-spirited. I don’t think anything could be further from the truth. Whether or not he should have given his views at that time in a public forum is debatable, but the real shame is that he’s being criticized—even by believers—for something that isn’t true.

    Not only this, the fact that some question God’s ability or willingness to judge is defamation of His character.

    And I think the issue takes some of the focus off where it should be: help for the needy.

    Becky

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  11. If Pat Robertson was right, could we say that the devastation caused by hurrican Katrina was the result of George Washington and Co making a pact with the devil to overthrow British rule (even though New Orleans was not in one of the rebellious states at the time). It comes to the same thing.

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  12. Steve, your analogy breaks down because no one is disputing the historical parts of Pat Robertson’s statements, whereas there is no truth to your George Washington story. Now if you’d linked it to something else from American history—the accommodation of slavery by the framers of the Constitution, perhaps—then you’d be in business.

    Becky

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  13. […] say something about God’s judgment on this Buddhist nation. Undoubtedly they had in mind what Pat Robertson said after the Haitian quake in January 2010. Subducting tectonic platesAs reports came in about the […]

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