Pat Robertson on Haiti Earthquake: Knowing the Mind of God

image 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.

Robertson, a one-time American presidential candidate, has built a multi-million dollar religious broadcasting empire and is the founder of Regent University in Virginia.

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)

5 Responses to Pat Robertson on Haiti Earthquake: Knowing the Mind of God

  1. Tim Moore January 15, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    So a narcissistic, publicity-hungry televangelist who thrives on controversy believes Haiti is cursed because they speak French there. He believes he knows what God wants and can arbitrarily claim to know what God is doing.

    I wonder whether the phenomenon of figures such as Robinson is symptomatic of not only our individualised society in the West, but also of our highly individualised religious culture. The Reformation gave rise to the idea that one could have direct access to God (through the priesthood of all believers) and enjoy a personal relationship with Him. There is a long thread between the Reformation and 2010, but could Pat Robinson and his contemporaries’ ideals have any rooting in these early Protestant reformers’ concepts? If this is the case, Robinson’s position is, in my opinion, at best a misinterpretation and at worst at bastardisation of these principles. Yet Robinson believes he can claim God is cursing Haiti/homosexuals/etc, because he believes he has a God-given right to.

    The individualising of Christianity is still problematic, however. It is a basic Christian principle that one can only work out one’s own salvation and cannot “save” someone else, as that was the work of Christ. Many Christians – and again not only those on the fringes – will talk of how God has “ordained” small social units such as mixed-sex marriages and nuclear families, but I have never heard anyone talk about how God ordained community and our interconnectedness with all of humanity. There is certainly concern for social justice in sections of the church and there are countless acts of Christians loving their neighbours as themselves, but I am yet to see a coherent theology of God’s relationship to community translated into the everyday discourse of the Christian church in Anglo-Saxon cultures.

    Either way, Isaiah prophesied “for my ways are not your ways, saith the Lord”. If only Pat Robinson would take a little more time to reflect on his ways when next studying those words.

  2. Tim Moore January 15, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    …And following a heavy week at work and commenting while on a train, I’ve gone and confused Pat Robertson with the Robinsons. Anything they might have in common would be for another thread entirely!

  3. Caramoan January 22, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    I pray for those people who have been injured in Haiti. The earthquake in Haiti is one of the word disasters this year. I just hope that they would be able to recover soon.

  4. Jam Reyes March 28, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    i have several relatives who were also vicitimized by the earthquake in Haiti. thank God that they were not seriously hurt. i hope and pray that Haiti would be able to recover soon from this disaster.

  5. Keean Trent April 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    some of my friends who work in haiti were also victimized by that terrible earthquake._ i was very thankful that they only suffered minor scratches.

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