American televangelist Pat Robertson has declared that the earthquake in Haiti was a direct result of a ‘pact’ Haitians had made with the devil. He also said it is a ‘blessing in disguise’ for the beleaguered nation.
He made his audacious claims on his own 700 Club show on the Christian Broadcasting Network. His remarks reveal an astonishing self-belief in his ability to interpret God’s intentions, even seeming to imply that Haiti was better off under French rule with the majority of its population in slavery:
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about. … They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘Ok it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another."
It seems that every time there is a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, Robertson takes to the airwaves to inform us just what was going on in the mind of God when these things happened. In the world ruled by Robertson’s God, 9/11 was a punishment on America for homosexuality. Hurricane Katrina was also a result of God’s displeasure at the United States for legalising abortion. At that time Robertson said:
We have killed over 40 million unborn babies in America. I was reading, yesterday, a book that was very interesting about what God has to say in the Old Testament about those who shed innocent blood. And he used the term that those who do this, "the land will vomit you out." That — you look at your — you look at the book of Leviticus and see what it says there. And this author of this said, "well ‘vomit out’ means you are not able to defend yourself." But have we found we are unable somehow to defend ourselves against some of the attacks that are coming against us, either by terrorists or now by natural disaster? Could they be connected in some way?
At one level, Robertson’s declarations offer an easy answer to a question that has long haunted human existence: ‘Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen?’
But for those who are not convinced that God punishes homosexuality, abortion, and other ‘sins’ with wholesale slaughter, Robertson offers less-than-satisfactory explanations.
It also raises the question of why, if God wants to punish nations for their sins, it is the specific sins which Robertson chooses? If God were preoccupied by tit-for-tat punishment of human behaviour, what about the near-extermination of the Native American population by settlers to what is now the United States? What about the enslavement of Africans by those same settlers? What about the creation of a world-wide capitalist system that exploits workers in some parts of the world so the rich citizens of the West can buy cheap goods and food?
Robertson’s God is repugnant to those who believe in a Jesus who championed the perspective of the poor and marginalised people of his day, and who reserved his condemnation for the religious leaders who claimed that they knew the mind of God. In the gospels, Jesus never really explains ‘why bad things happen to good people,’ but he is pretty clear that it is not for us to judge that bad things happen because his Father is punishing people for specific and identifiable sins.
As usual, plenty of people have come out to condemn Robertson’s remarks, but that does not quell a nagging suspicion that his ideas resonate with a significant sector of the American populations. There are reports that the 700 Club gets 863,000 viewers per day.
In the meantime, Robertson’s controversial claims have detracted somewhat from the human tragedy unfolding. To donate to relief efforts, visit Concern, Oxfam, Tearfund, World Vision, or another charity.
(Photo from BBC website)