No one missed the story last week. It was the most devastating natural disaster the world has seen in years. Even the Indonesian tsunami in 2006, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or, for that matter, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 paled in comparison when looking at the death tolls. In recent history, this is the BIG ONE.
Amazingly, it seemed that almost as big of a news story last week as the Haiti earthquake itself, were the comments made by 700 Club founder, former presidential candidate, and famous televangelist Pat Robertson. To say Robertson’s take on the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti was controversial is to put it mildly. Citing some folklore from Haiti’s history, Robertson suggested that the trouble that the nation of Haiti has faced over the past couple hundred years (not just the recent earthquake) is a result of a pact made with the devil at the time of Haiti’s liberation.
You can see Robertson’s comments for yourself at this link:
A brief historical background: Robertson’s comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led some scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed. In their opinions, the most recent manifestation of the curse was last Tuesday’s (1/12/10) earthquake.
Since his comments, liberals and conservatives alike have been calling for Robertson’s head. I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve heard (radio, TV, internet, and word of mouth) suggesting “no respectable Christian leader I know would back Pat Robertson’s comments.” Although it’d make for great blogging, sorry, I have no intentions of being the first to get in his corner. My encouragement to Pat Robertson would be to check Jesus’ comments from Luke 13:1-4. In this paragraph from Luke, Jesus references two incidents (historically unknown to us) that were known to the people to whom he was speaking. Jesus’ listeners were under the impression that those who suffered the mentioned misfortune must have done so as a result of extreme sin. This was the common worldview of the ancient world (e.g. Remember in the Old Testament when Job went through excruciating pain and his “friend” Eliphaz reasoned that Job must have really done something severely evil to tick off God.) Jesus says here in Luke 13 that the misfortune of those people who’d suffered calamity was not a result of them being worse sinners than anyone else. The calamity had come upon them for reasons unknown to anyone but God.
Therefore, Pat Robertson really has no right to authoritatively say that the nation of Haiti had this coming to them as a result of the curse from some devil pact. Likewise, he had no right to say that Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment on the sinful debauchery of Mardi Gras in New Orleans or that the terrorist attacks at 9/11 were God’s judgment on our country. He doesn’t know that, period. Unless he can sell it to me from God’s inspired Word, I ain’t buying it. Remember, this is the same guy who prophesied a massive tsunami to hit the U.S. in 2006 and a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in 2007. When neither happened, he conveniently claimed that people must have prayed and God intervened and spared us. Point is, I think he’s discredited himself and his direct line to God in a number of ways in the past. So, we probably shouldn’t be listening now.
That said, there’s part of me that takes issue with the countless liberals and conservatives calling Robertson arrogant and unloving for his assessment of the earthquake in Haiti. As arrogant as it is to suggest that you know why God allowed the earthquake in Haiti (as Robertson did), isn’t it equally arrogant to suggest that you know that that is NOT the reason God allowed the earthquake? To anyone caught up in lambasting Robertson, I’d like to ask if you’ve received a revelation from God that the earthquake in Haiti had nothing to do with the country’s strong Haitian Vodou tradition (a combination of voodoo and the Roman Catholicism that West African slaves were forced to convert to when they were brought to Haiti in the 16th century)? Do I know without a shadow of a doubt that God didn’t intend for Hurricane Katrina to be a wake-up call to a region that made millions selling sin in the streets? Do I know that God didn’t intend to work through an economic recession in our country, that it might be a wake-up call concerning materialism? Do I know that the 9/11 attacks weren’t a wake-up call to a country that was warmly and quickly embracing ecumenism and the tolerance of all religions as equally leading to God? These things are hidden from me. I can’t say yes or no because God hasn’t revealed to me “yes” or “no”.
Look, I have no interest in defending Pat Robertson. His statements sound pretty ridiculous. More importantly though, he’s clearly going beyond what Scripture says. This is our first indicator that he’s someone whose influence we should avoid. However, the Bible does indicate that God is the one who causes/allows natural disasters (Here’s just a couple of references – Job 9:5, 28:9, Ps 18:7, 77:16-18, 97:3-5, Isa 2:19, 24:20, 29:6, Jer 10:10, Nahum 1:5, Heb 12:26). For us to say the earthquake in Haiti did NOT happen because of this or that really isn’t ours to authoritatively say either.
Ultimately, I think many are missing the point. Anytime a disaster like this hits, we are reminded that we are a part of God’s creation and that he is the LORD of that creation. It’s rather foolish to speculate why God allowed the earthquake and the devastation. Who’s going to figure it out? For that matter, it’s also a little foolish to speculate what aren’t the reasons God allowed it. It’s not ours to know.
What’s really imporant right now? A reminder of repentance for all mankind would be a good start. Relief is needed. Prayers are needed. The news of a Savior from eternal devastation is needed. Christ said that earthquakes were one of the indicators that the end is near. I can’t pick God’s brain and I have no clue when that end is coming, but I do know there are lost souls in Haiti and around the world that need some comfort right now. For a world that seems out of control, we present the God who is in control.