I don’t like to be provocative (believe it or not), so I hesistated more than once before posting this. But I now think that for whatever it’s worth, I need to speak up.
Like so many others, my heart has been breaking for the people of Haiti. Such a profound catastrophe–it’s hard to watch, but nearly impossible to look away from it. However, it has been awesome to see how many people are responding to their plight with compassion and generosity and prayer.
Donald Miller wrote a post on his blog that I felt was a very thoughtful response to Pat Robertson’s inflammatory remarks yesterday about Haiti’s “pact with the devil”. I had not heard Robertson’s remarks, but I had seen the Twitter feed flooded with angry reactions to them…and despite Miller’s calls for restraint and compassion across the board, some of his commenters did not heed his counsel. One angry person told Robertson to go to hell. (I understand he isn’t the only one.) Another insisted that berating Robertson was justified, that it was time to “call a spade a spade.”
I finally had to go and watch the video on YouTube to see just what had caused the uproar. And in the interest of fairness…well, okay. Let’s call a spade a spade.
Were Robertson’s remarks inappropriate? Yes.
Did he speak out of turn? You bet.
Were his remarks untimely? Insensitive? Provocative? Hurtful? Yes to all four. Incredibly so.
Did Robertson say that this earthquake was God’s judgment on the Haitian people?
No. He did not.
I watched it twice to be sure. Watch it for yourself. He didn’t say it.
Did Robertson actually say the Haitian people deserved the earthquake, or that they brought this catastrophe upon themselves?
No. He didn’t say those things, either. (And this is important to bring up–because based solely on the hate-filled responses I read, I really thought he must have said those things to bring such a huge reaction. But he didn’t. I listened for it. It isn’t there.)
So if he didn’t blame the people of Haiti for this calamity, who did Robertson blame?
He blamed the devil. Or perhaps, to put it more specifically…he blamed the Haitian ancestors who (according to Robertson) made a deal with the devil many years ago.
Robertson said that in Haiti’s history–nearly 200 years ago–they had made a pact with the devil to break free from French rule, and that the devil had taken them up on it…and that Haiti had had a “cursed” history of catastrophe and trouble since then. This is a claim that I know many people would consider absurd (although I also know Christians to whom it would make a lot of sense). It is a claim that certainly cannot be proven, and is certain to be divisive, even among Christians. But I heard no insinuation that God was punishing Haiti, and no insinuation that the people currently alive in Haiti brought this on themselves. I heard none of that–although I can see how it could be interpreted that way. Rather, it sounded more to me like he was saying that the devil was taking advantage of a centuries-old invitation and using it to harm the innocent–not just through the earthquake, but through a long string of bad events.
Robertson’s remedy? He called for the Haitian people to turn to God. And this part of what he said, by the way, is a highly Biblical response to calamity–even in the New Testament.
Is Robertson’s assessment correct? Thankfully, I don’t know. It’s above my pay grade, and I’ve (hopefully) learned not to speculate too much on things for which I don’t have enough information. God hasn’t clued me in on why this happened, so I figure it’s not for me to know. What I do know is that Jesus wants His people to respond in compassion to people in need at this time, not waste time trying to explain things they couldn’t possibly explain anyhow. And that’s where Robertson really dropped the ball, in my opinion. His claims are highly subjective, they have no bearing on how we ought to respond to Haiti, and they have served as a huge distraction. As a result, too many people have turned their eyes away from Haiti to focus on blasting Pat Robertson.
My point is not to defend Robertson; he shouldn’t have said what he said, and it is right for people to stand up and say he shouldn’t have said it. And I also recognize this isn’t the first outrageous thing the man has said. I’m only pointing out the truth about what he said, and what he didn’t say–because regardless of what he said or what he meant, demonizing Pat Robertson over this is just as un-Christlike as suggesting the Haitian people deserved this catastrophe. Agree with Robertson’s interpretation of history, or disagree with it. Be angry about what he said. Just don’t be guilty of the same sin you think he committed by calling him the antichrist or judging him worthy of hell for his untimely words. I hate to bring this up, but the Biblical command judge not applies just as much to televangelists as it does to prostitutes and drug dealers. Even if we think Pat Robertson really intended to judge the Haitians for their calamity…if we judge him in return, we are no better than he. Not only that, but in doing so we usurp the place of God, who alone is capable of judging the hearts of men.
My point is also this: God rains on the just and the unjust–He delights in showing compassion to people who do not deserve it, which is actually all of us. Our proper response–on all fronts–is compassion and forbearance. (Yes, even toward Pat Robertson. God forgave us; we forgive others. That’s how it works.) I believe Donald Miller was right when he suggested in his post that the real plot of the devil in all this was to provoke Christians to division and hate. (Not to mention distract our attention from the central figures in this catastrophe–the Haitians themselves, who are real people in real pain.)
What’s really important here is for each of us to do what we can to help and support the people of Haiti, and to call out to God on their behalf. May we respond as Christ would. In all ways. Let’s do all we can to take care of the people of Haiti, and let God take care of Pat Robertson.