There’s a conventional wisdom out there that certain individuals make inflammatory comments to get people riled up, to draw negative attention and then claim to be victims of those they have enraged. Proponents of that view would say that we should ignore such individuals and they will go away. They’re probably right.
So what do I do with Pat Robertson? Needless to say, I was offended by his comments blaming the Haitian people for their poverty and for the natural disasters that have ravaged their nation. The reason is an urban legend that says the Haitian people made a deal with the devil that allowed them to overthrow the French in the early days of the 19th Century. It’s absurd and racist to think that African slaves would be unable to overthrow the French without the benefit of a Faustian bargain, and it is unconscionable to make such a claim and thus imply that the Haitian people deserve any less than our full generosity.
The first thing I can do is show you how Jon Stewart handled the matter.
I stayed up last night specifically waiting to see what he would do. I was expecting to laugh and to feel a sense of justification in seeing Robertson hung out to dry by this master of satire. But I was moved as well. I was moved because I saw God working. You see, if you haven’t watched the video, Stewart pulls out a rather large Bible and starts quoting passages that talk about God’s love for the poor, the hurting and the frightened. There were two men on the screen. The one claiming the role of God’s spokesperson was relating an urban legend to draw a conclusion completely at odds with the Gospel. The talk show host, the sarcastic comedian claiming no religious mantle, was reading passages from God’s book. I believe that God’s love was shared with the audience of The Daily Show last night, and not by the self-righteous televangelist, but by the comedian. It showed me that God not only works in mysterious ways, but that He does it with style. It was a beautiful thing.
But there’s something more important that I have to say in response to Pat Robertson’s attempt to blame the victims of the horrific quake in Haiti. Actually, it’s not what I have to say. It’s what Jesus has to say. He says it in The Bible. In the sixth chapter of The Gospel of Luke, He teaches:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
The Haitian people are the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, and yet they live a mere 700 miles from the nation that has the highest standard of living in human history. (I saw this pointed out in a post on another site and the Parable of Lazarus and Rich Man popped into my head, but I’m not going to go there at the moment.) The Haitians are poor. They are hungry, and right now, they are weeping, mourning a devastating loss that only serves to compound their poverty.
Pat Robertson says that this nation, that these people, are cursed, but he’s wrong. Jesus tells us that these people are in fact blessed and will receive comfort in His kingdom.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The promise of eternal comfort for the least in our world is not an excuse for Christians to ignore poverty and injustice. Jesus talks about the fact that how we treat the least among us is how we treat Him. The Bible is filled with God’s special concern for the poor. But for Robertson to say that the poverty of Haiti is the product of a divine or demonic curse is flat out wrong. Jesus loves these people. Jesus cares about and weeps for and with the Haitians. He has not and will not forsake them, regardless of Pat Robertson’s statements to the contrary.