Haiti, the Devil, and Pat Robertson

We’ve come to expect this sort of behavior from Robertson, but it’s still shocking, embarrassing, and painful every time.
Pat Robertson

By now we’ve all seen/read/heard Pat Robertson’s recent comments concerning the cause of Haiti’s earthquake: basically, Haiti made a pact with the devil to boot out the French back in the 1800s, and they’ve been cursed ever since. We’ve all come to expect this from Robertson whenever there’s a major disaster — remember his claim that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment on America for legalizing abortion? — but it’s shocking, embarrassing, and painful every time.

Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller posted a response on his blog, and while it’s all good, I found this bit particularly interesting:

Many controlling personalities are drawn to the idea of a severe, vengeance oriented God. Robertson must have read a book about Haiti at one point, but it lacked civility to cite that book and espouse an absurd theological idea on television, without context for both. It was reactionary, and came off as a manifestation of his personality, not his theology. Regardless, it was sadly irresponsible for him to make such a devastatingly shocking statement in the context of great hurt. Can you imagine giving the eulogy at a funeral and starting out by saying “before I tell you about God’s grace, let me make it clear that little Johnny deserved to die because he stole candy from a store.” There is something wrong with a person who would do this.

The St. Thomas Society has posted an even more pointed response, calling on Robertson to repent for his presumptuous statement.

Patrol Magazine’s David Sessions is somewhat more charitable, and wonders if Robertson’s statement is as hateful as we might initially think.

It’s difficult to defend spiritual views — Christian or any other kind — that see human failings like racism and corruption as the punishment of God for voodoo ceremony that may have never happened. They are ignorant and unhelpful, and they undervalue the earthly political work that could improve the situation in a poor nation like Haiti. But many of the people who hold those views also spend thousands of their own dollars to take trips to Haiti building houses, sponsor children in orphanages, and even adopt Haitian children as their own. Pat Robertson devoted an entire program to raising money for the relief effort. It’s difficult to call that hateful.

Jean R. Gelin posted a series of articles — part one, part two, part three — in 2005 that disputes the “pact with the devil” story.

Obviously, the idea that Haiti was dedicated to Satan prior to its independence is a very serious and profound statement with potentially grave consequences for its people in terms of how they are perceived by others or how the whole nation is understood outside its borders. One would agree that such a strong affirmation should be based on solid historical and scriptural ground. But, although the satanic pact idea is by far the most popular explanation for Haiti’s birth as a free nation, especially among Christian missionaries and some Haitian Church leaders, it is nothing more than a fantasist opinion that ultimately dissipates upon close examination.

Finally, Brett McCracken wonders “Why Do We Care What Pat Robertson Says?”

Everyone is buzzing about Pat Robertson this and that, but how many of us have actually given money to a relief organization or said a prayer for Haiti? Why do we care so much about what this old dude is saying about pacts with the devil? More importantly, why are we still talking about it?

If you think that Pat Robertson is a senile old coot whose theories and claims are outrageous, offensive, and absurd, then the best way to tell him off is to give to one of the many relief efforts currently working to bring aid to the people of Haiti.

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