An Open Letter to Pat Robertson: A response to your comments on Haiti
Dear Mr. Robertson,
I have read you said the following about the earthquake in Haiti:
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French . . . and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, "We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French." True story. And so the devil said, "OK, it's a deal." . . . Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another, desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It's cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is, is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island."
There are several implications which can be garnered from your statement.
One is that the people of Haiti somehow deserved being hit with an earthquake as punishment for making a pact with the Devil some two hundred years ago. Another is that you can make a judgement because you have an insider’s knowledge of God’s ways.
Both assumptions are not supported by Jesus Christ or the scriptures. In the gospel of Luke 13, Jesus’ disciples tell him about a tragic events, doubtless seeking his reaction and explanation as to why the men were slaughtered. The butchering of the innocents was perpetrated by the Roman consulate Pontius Pilate, whose fame has endured because he later was to condemn Christ to death.
No doubt the disciples’ implicit question was what did these men do wrong to meet such a terrible end? After all, they had asked the question outright concerning a man who had been born blind. (John 9) "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Jesus made it clear that personal sin was not the reason for the man’s blindness, but that the work of God would be displayed in the blind man’s life. He healed the man, who went home seeing.
Addressing the case of the slaughtered Galileans, Jesus replied, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too all will perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
Jesus’ admonition cut right to the heart of the ancient assumption that calamity only falls on those who by their sin deserve it. His message was that all people sin, are in need of repentance and all need salvation, which he offered freely and without condemnation to all who would receive it.
An implied message is we can't elevate ourselves to the status of divinity, as absolute diviners of God’s will and purposes. That is because as mere limited mortals, we are bound to get it wrong.
We begin to get it right, Christ is saying to his disciples, when we start with the evil within our own hearts.
Jesus also made the order of judgement clear in his parable of the mote and the beam, in which he advised the pharisees to look at themselves before they generously handed out blanket condemnation to others.
The above is not to say there can be citadels of evil which grip whole nations, keeping their peoples impoverished and oppressed. But excoriation of Haiti’s admittedly corrupt government and implying an earthquake is God’s just wrath surely seems like the vilest hypocrisy when our own nation is riddled with the rot of Chicago style thuggery, bribery, and onerous taxation. According to the parable of the mote and the beam, surely we need to get our own house in order. Surely, we and our nation, like the disciples, need repentance, forgiveness and restoration.
In the meantime, thankfully, there are attributes of the Deity we can imitate without adding to ourselves the sins of hubris, hypocrisy and false judgement. We can imitate Christ’s compassion and kindness in reaching out to the beleaguered Haitians. Acts of kindness and compassion never bring condemnation. Acts of mercy never are wrong, especially when we extend them even to our enemies as Christ commanded. If he has ordered we give a cup of cold water to our enemy when he is thirsty, how much greater our obligation to those whose hearts and minds we know nothing about.
For the people of Haiti, like the rest of the world’s nation, tribes and peoples, are divided into the good and the bad. From afar we lack the capacity and wisdom to discern the difference. Even if we did have that discernment, we must leave the final judgement to God while we work to obey his command to rescue the perishing regardless of their sins, real or perceived; past or present.
Praise God and give thanks to the men and women of our country who have rushed to aid the desperate without thinking about who does or does not deserve it. They are giving their time, energy and resources without expectation of reward. They are grateful to be rescuing the perishing and caring for the dying.
In their response as rescuers without discrimination or condemnation, they are imitators of Christ.
After all, isn’t God also rescuing each of us each and every day of our lives?