January 15, 2010 by

On Haiti, Pat Robertson, and What’s Important


Categories: current issues

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.

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

11 Responses to On Haiti, Pat Robertson, and What’s Important

  1. Erin

    I tried really hard to resd your post with an open mind, and I probably failed on many levels.

    But personally I have to disagree with you…maybe he didn't specifically word-for-word articulate it, but it was clearly implied (I thought) what he meant. And knowing the spirit in which this man does business, it's safe to say he meant that they deserve it even if he didn't specifically say it. I do believe the man is smarter than we think and worded his statement very carefully so as not to be accused of saying "they deserve it". But the implication is clearly there.

    I don't mean to say that you're wrong, only that I personally don't agree with your assessment.

  2. Jeff McQ

    Erin, it's totally okay that you disagree with my assessment, and I truly appreciate that you took the time to consider it. Like I said, I can definitely understand how his words could infer that meaning. My post was probably not as much a response to your post on CC as it was to the comment streams in several places, and an attempt to bring balance to some of the more hateful rhetoric I've read, because I think it is every bit as unhelpful as what Robertson said. Many would label Robertson a "hater", but hating a hater is still hypocrisy. If it's wrong to hate…it's wrong to hate. Period. And Christians are participating in that.

    That said, your post was opinionated, but I wouldn't call it hateful. And you may be absolutely right about Robertson's intent. In case I didn't make it clear–I think he was completely wrong to say what he did. I just think so many of us "out here" have been the victims of others judging our intentions, and we of all people should not be quick to judge someone else's. We can only hold Robertson to account for what he said; God has to hold him to account for what was underneath it. And I believe He will.

    Does that mean we should trust Pat Robertson? Nope. Didn't say it. Didn't *mean* it. 🙂 Thanks for the response.

  3. glenn

    Jeff – I love your gentle and loving spirit almost as much as I deplore the remarks of those who misrepresent Christ and hurt other in the name of Jesus. Maybe more.

  4. Kari

    Thank you for a voice of reason and humility. Pat is a fiery guy with strong opinions. I do believe that the devil…is alive and causing mischief. I think his getting "reasonable people" to disbelieve in him is his best trick.
    If he can also pit Christian against Christian, and as you said distract them from responding to Haiti. PLUS all the pain and suffering, Wow. good day for him.
    Like God inhabits the praises of his people and enjoys the sweet odor of sacrifices…I believe the devil gets his "high" from division and pain and suffering.
    Pat said simmilar things about Katrina….I can't remember on the Tsunami. This is what he does. Is he a man with a heart for God? I think he is, that does not mean I agree with him about all this, but it is important to recognize that there is a spiritual battle that affects the physical world.

  5. Jeff McQ

    Thanks for that…and not to parse words too much, but I note you said "deplore *the remarks* of those who misrepresent Christ", NOT "deplore those who misrepresent Christ." Adding those two words to the sentence makes a huge difference, and expresses legitimate Godly anger without pointing a finger of judgment. Judging the man is inappropriate; judging his words is highly appropriate. And btw…I, too, deplore those kinds of remarks. (On both sides of the argument.) Thanks, bro.

    I used to think of Pat Robertson as a true man of God, and there is no doubt God used him to help my family years ago. The 700 Club was instrumental both in my mother's conversion and in her deliverance from a cigarette addiction. But the fruit of recent years, especially, has been quite confusing. People change, and power changes people. In my view, the Pat Robertson of today does not resemble the Pat Robertson of 20-30 years ago. Has he just lost his way, or is he a wolf in sheep's clothing? Not for me to say. I only know his words of recent times are highly offensive and don't represent Christ well at all. In fact, I think he's done great damage.

    Randi Jo,
    Thanks. 🙂

  6. GregH.

    My intent in writing this is not to defend Pat Robertson, though I'm sure some will take it that way. I too heard his remarks; if you watch any sort of News on TV, it was hard to miss it b/c every major cable news station was playing it. And though his remarks were certainly untimely, I found nothing terribly egregious about what he said.

    But if we're going to call a spade a spade, then let's call Haiti what it is. Haiti is perhaps one of the darkest places on the face of the earth. The vast marjority of the people, at least according to the latest and greatest polls, openly practive voodoo, which is outright witchcraft. The tiny island nation is plagued with blood sacrifice, violent crime, gangs, poverty and corruption, the likes of which would make Somalia and other 3rd world countries blush.

    Was this catosrophic earthquake the judgment and wrath of a Holy and Righteous God? I don't know. But for those of us who truly believe all of the accounts given in scripture, there's certainly Biblical precedent for this type of thing, both in the Old and New Testaments.

    The story Pat Robertson told is not something new or something he made up. Anybody that knows or has read anything about Haiti has heard the Haitians made a pact with Satan way back when. How one can verify such a thing, I don't know. Maybe it happened, or maybe it's just popular folklore. But, again, as somebody who believes Scripture, it's not a stretch to believe that our enemy, Satan, the one who the Bible says "walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour," feels right at home in Haiti.

    Having said all that, I believe the very heart of God breaks over what has happened in Haiti, and I believe this is an awesome opportunity for the Light of the Gospel to reach the Haitian people. I believe that God will do as His Word says, and "work all things out for good." Though Haiti is a dark place, the Bible declares, "where sin abounded, Grace much more." I truly believe that through all this suffering, many will turn to Christ, for only He can truly assauge the anguish they must feel.

    Possibly thousands may come to Him, but even if only hundreds or even if only a couple dozen come to faith in Christ that otherwise would have remained lost but for this tragedy, then I submit this tragedy is not for nought. Maybe, just maybe, that's what it's all about.

    This is an opporunity for the collective Body of Christ to reach out with His arms, with love and compassion to a people that are hurting beyond anything I can imagine. I think our energies would be better spent in that rather than wasting time on Pat Robertson and whether or not what he said was so terrible b/c the secular media is doing a good enough job with that.

    One final thought – IF what has happened in Haiti IS the judgment of God, I shutter to think what's going to happen to America when it's our turn.


  7. Jeff McQ

    First, thanks for chiming in.

    The spiritual ramifications of what we know about Haiti, and their possible effects, are something I know a bit about, not as an occult participant, but coming from a theological standpoint that acknowledges the reality of the supernatural and the consequences of dabbling in it wrongly.

    That said, if a Christian truly holds the belief that this is at the root of Haiti's struggle, there are more mature ways to respond–like in prayer, perhaps. The thing NOT to do about it is broadcast it on national TV on the heels of a terrible calamity, in front of millions of viewers who would have no grid for what he was saying. For many, the anger toward Robertson is less about his questionable theology and more about the fact that SAYING those things was basically kicking the Haitians while they were down. (It reminds me of Job's "friends".)

    I have purposely avoided trying to figure out the role of God's judgment in all this (as I did with the tsunami), because it is ambiguous, and there are people who can give convincing arguments on both sides of the issue. I'd rather stick with what I do know–and what I know is that the response Christ taught us is mercy and compassion, regardless of why the calamity happened. As far as people coming to Christ out of this, there's a far better chance of that happening with THAT kind of response. All Robertson did was alienate everyone, including his own brethren.

    Mercy triumphs over judgment.

  8. GregH.

    Boy, I sure feel like I'm about to stick my neck out here, b/c I'm actually going to defend what Robertson said. And that's not easy, b/c he has said so many indefnsible things in the past; I just don't think this is one of them.

    Again, I have no idea if Haiti's forefathers really sold the collective soul of the nation to the devil, but let's say they did for the sake of argument. All Pat Robertson really was stating is that there are consequences to sin, and there really is.

    What if he had quoted the Apostle Paul and said, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…" Can you imagine the uproar that would have created? Not just with the world, but with Christians as well. But that's not at all how he approached it. He just basically repeated a well-known story and said they made a pact with the devil and Haiti has been suffering the consequences ever since. Who can argue there are no consequences for making a pact with the devil?

    And the way he presented it was so gentle that it was almost benign. I didn't take it as a "kicking the Haitians when they're down," but merely a reminder that sin has a price. And I might also add that, despite the controversy that's been created by all this mess, Operation Blessing, which is run by you know who, will be sending or has already sent countless aid to the people of Haiti and is truly reaching out to help them, both with humanitarian aid and with the Gospel.

    As far as saying what he said on national TV to millions of people with no frame of reference, he said it on CBN, whose audience is mostly Christians, who should have a grid or frame of reference of what he was referring to. It wasn't until the secular (and Godless I might add) media got ahold of this story that the controversy was created. It's just too bad so many Christians tend to side with the secular media and only lend to furthering a controversy that's really not.

    With that being said, though, you are aboslutely right…Mercy triumphs over judgment!!

    Thanks for letting me chime in.

  9. Karenkool

    Thanks for the post, Jeff. It's very good! as are the comments.

    When I was a freshman at ORU I was scheduled to take a missionary trip to Haiti with some others on my bro/sis dorm floors, but it was that year that a major gov't coup took place, and the unrest meant that we couldn't go and be asured of safety. But even then, from all my studies of the spiritual condition of that nation, it was a very dark place with quite a history of voodoo and satanic practices.

    I've continued to wonder if the spiritual climate has changed at all. I know the climate in our nation has certainly changed (for the worse) over the decades.

    Regardless, I believe God is after something in the midst of this tragedy! and am so interested to observe the way the people of the USA have responded with such compassion towards the people of Haiti. God will surely work in our hearts as well as the Haitians. These natural disasters take place at various seasons and times, but I'm more interested in what God can do in the heart of mankind, rather than "why" a disaster may have happened.

    Btw… thankfully, I hadn't heard anything about Pat Robertson's comments until I read your post. (I've been so busy this week). I have only read this post (haven't viewed the links), but I must mention… Pat is getting old, if people haven't noticed. He's not as quick minded or bright as he once was. The elderly deserve a bit of grace… at least coming from the Christian community. I hope I'll have grace shown to me when I've grown older and slower in my mind. Sheesh!

  10. larrywho

    "That said, if a Christian truly holds the belief that this is at the root of Haiti's struggle, there are more mature ways to respond–like in prayer, perhaps."

    Haiti is probably one of the most prayed for nations in the Northern Hemisphere. So, maybe we are praying incorrectly. And maybe, Robertson's words will open prayer warriors' eyes to a different type of praying.

    I agree with Greg H. and his evalutations.

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