Robertson's Curses

January 13, 2010

Another disaster, another inappropriate and unchristian remark from God's hit man. Pat Robertson today poured rhetorical salt onto the wounds of the people of Haiti as they suffer in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. Robertson argued that the Haitians brought this disaster on themselves:

And you know, Kristi, 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, uh, you know Napoleon the 3rd and whatever, 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, 'Okay, it's a deal.' And, uh, they kicked the French out, you know, with Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by, by one thing after another, desperately poor. ... They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God and out of this tragedy I'm optimistic something good may come.
So, in Robertson's world, the Haitians brought this disaster on themselves because they made a pact with the devil over two hundred years ago. Seems like God is a little slow in punishing them! Of course, it is important to note that many people discount the devil interpretation in the Haitian folklore story about the pact (not to mention that Robertson got his date wrong). But more importantly, Robertson's comments do not match the words of Jesus. Consider what we read in Luke 13:1-5:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all 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 taught us that just because people were killed by Roman soldiers or died when a tower fell that we should not view those who died as specially cursed. Maybe Robertson should spend less time reading Haitian folklore and more time reading the Bible! This is another example of why Robertson was critiqued in my book For God's Sake, Shut Up!: Lessons for Christians on How to Speak Effectively and When to Remain Silent. What the people of Haiti need right now is our prayers and our donations. Unfortunately, the unchristian comments of Robertson are overshadowing the true Christian response. There are many Christian relief organizations that are working overtime to quickly bring help to those who are suffering. This is a time when we need to let our actions do the talking, especially if we have dumb thoughts like Robertson's about to come out of our mouths.

11 comments

  1. Within my family are two wonderful people who have devoted their entire working years to serving as missionaries in Haiti. They raised their children there. They built churches. They worked with other people of God to help the development and nourishment of thousands who came to know Christ through their efforts.

    When my relatives retired, they decided to remain in Haiti. Although Americans, they live with and continue serving a local church body outside of Port au Prince.

    For those thousands of Christian Haitians, learning of Pat Robertson's comments may seem strange at first, ludicrous at second thought.

    It's my belief that Robertson and others have actually left Christianity behind, following the modern trend of 'christianists', those who seve and worship a religion, not God.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here are a couple of responses to Robertson from Evangelicals.

    Albert Mohler, "Does God Hate Haiti"


    John Mark Roberts in First Things, "Pat Robertson on Disasters: Consistently Wrong"

    Also The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization (the 2nd largest in the world behind the Red Cross) is already on the ground in Haiti. You can go here to donate:

    Haiti Relief Fund

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Keith: I do hope that Robertson will use his platform to issue more positive and loving statements.

    MindWalker: Thanks for sharing that personal example that refutes Robertson's perspective.

    D.R.: I had seen Mohler's good response but not the other so thanks for sharing. I'm not sure the SBC is the 2nd largest (if you google "2nd largest relief agency," you will find the SBC as well as several others called that), but they are large and do a lot of good work. The BWAid of the Baptist World Alliance is also doing a lot of relief efforts in addition to many other Christian organizations. In a tragedy of this magnitude, it takes everyone pitching in.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Brian,

    The SBC itself claims that they are the 2nd largest and when I googled your suggested search I only found one claim for another organization, that being the Salvation Army, though they themselves didn't make the claim.

    The SA is large as well, but they only served about half the number of meals for Hurricane Katrina (3.2M according to their website) as did the SBC (7.3M) and the SBC participation in smaller disasters within their state conventions (such as here in Georgia where we have about 7000 trained volunteers on the ready) are what set it apart from everyone else. Additionally, they are the first group the Red Cross contact, and often have more volunteers onsite than the RC.

    So I am pretty certain about the 2nd largest distinction. Maybe you should do a little more digging than simply a google search.

    Secondly, there have been many more Evangelical responses to Robertson that you might want to check out - even possibly writing an entire article on them. So far, I have read none that defend Robertson's comments. That's probably a story in itself.

    Finally, you are right that we need all organizations. But regardless of who we give to, as Christians, we need to be sure that they are taking more than meals to these people - that they are taking the Gospel as well, which is the only thing that can truly heal Haiti eternally. Wouldn't you agree?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Brian,

    Just saw this tweet as well from Dr. Mohler:

    "Just talked on radio about Pat Robertson's embarrassing comments about Haiti. Theological arrogance matched to ignorance."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yeah, I saw that tweet. Very good.

    I probably should have said to google "second" instead of "2nd" because that's what I did and it got more responses. Again, I don't see any "official" data but the claim made about several. And in reality, it probably depends on what we're measuring and for which crisis. The SBC was 2nd in meals after Katrina but may not always be second (in fact, I know of some situations where they were not even the main Baptist relief group). It doesn't really matter because we are all supposed to use whatever amount of talents we have to provide relief.

    Additionally, you wrote, "we need to be sure that they are taking more than meals to these people - that they are taking the Gospel as well." I agree with the point you are making (which is why I give to Christian relief organizations) but I would quibble with the wording. I would argue that taking the meals is part of taking the Gospel, not something different.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Brian,

    You wrote:

    Additionally, you wrote, "we need to be sure that they are taking more than meals to these people - that they are taking the Gospel as well." I agree with the point you are making (which is why I give to Christian relief organizations) but I would quibble with the wording. I would argue that taking the meals is part of taking the Gospel, not something different.

    I think you are confusing the MEANS of taking the Gospel (or even the "results" of the Gospel or the "effects" of the Gospel) with the CONTENT of the Gospel. Paul is clear in 1 Cor. 15 what the CONTENT of the Gospel is:

    Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

    A person cannot be saved by eating one of the meals that is served. They cannot be saved by accepting food. They can only be saved by hearing, believing, and obeying the Gospel. Just as Paul writes in Romans 10:

    (con't)

    ReplyDelete
  8. But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."

    If one simply feeds, but does not proclaim the message of Christ as Paul outlines above, then the person being fed cannot be saved. They must hear the message, believe it, and obey it. Many organizations simply believe that it is enough to simply feed (sometimes because it makes those who feed feel better about themselves). But only those who feed and proclaim are truly doing the work of God, even as the Apostles did in Mark 6:

    And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, "Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

    Notice that the proclamation was not divorced from the healing and casting out of demons. I commend you for giving to only Christian organizations, but just make sure that they don't just feed them with food, but with the Word of God, even as Jesus said:
    (con't from above)

    It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'

    May God use the Haitian earthquake to bring many into His kingdom through the work of Baptists (and other Evangelicals who proclaim the Truth of His Word).

    ReplyDelete
  9. Brian,

    I've spent days reading and re-reading these comments, focusing on those of D.R.

    I sense this is a man of great learning and understanding. I sense that he may be an educator, or a pastor (or both). I sense his mind is centered in the Word, that he is quick to know where in Scripture to turn to make his points.

    I sense he may not understand the gentle manner by which the Holy Spirit conveys Christ's message through the loving act of feeding the poor, caring for the sick. I sense he may even choose to ignore the depth of Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God."

    Thank you for so directing your Blog.

    ReplyDelete
  10. MindWalker,

    I sense that you don't know me and yet while I am a pastor, you don't sense correctly about what I am saying. I sense that you don't seem to be able to address me directly.

    What I do KNOW is that Jesus Christ cannot be known SIMPLY by offering someone a morsel of food, but rather by proclaiming the Gospel with that food. No one was ever saved by accepting food, but rather by accepting the Christ who inspired the food-giver. That's my point.

    ReplyDelete