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Just when we thought we were safe ...

Rev. Pat Robertson sticks his foot in his mouth ... again.

But before I discuss Robertson's remarks, I would like to look at his entire statement, in context. Robertson's comments aired yesterday on his "700 Club" news broadcast. During the show, Robertson was discussing the devastating earthquake that destroyed Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Here is what Robertson said, courtesy of ABC News:

"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. 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 Republican. Dominican Republic is, is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etcetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island.

"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. But right now we're helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable."

Robertson's clumsy reference is to Dutty Boukman, a Haitian voodoo priest who prophesied on August 22, 1791 that a group of slaves would lead a revolt and free the French slaves on Saint-Domingue. Along with an African priestess, Boukman galvanized his prophecy by performing several voodoo rituals including the sacrifice of a pig. A few days later, the Haitian Revolution began. Boukman was subsequently caught and beheaded by the French, who displayed his severed head in an attempt to convince the slaves that Boukman did not possess supernatural powers. But Boukman's legacy among the Haitian people remains strong even to this day, and so does the persistent belief that Boukman's voodoo curse still haunts the island.

I am acquainted with a retired couple from church who lived for over a decade in Haiti as missionaries. They have told many unusual and interesting stories about the Haitian people, and in particular the strange combination of Roman Catholic and occult beliefs still held by the majority of Haitians. There are still thousands of voodoo practitioners on the island, and many Haitians still attempt to control one another through the threat of spells and curses.

How a Westerner understands this I think largely depends on how he understands God and spiritual forces. There are still many Christians today from fundamentalist or apostolic backgrounds who strongly believe in "spirit warfare"; that is, they believe that heavenly forces (angels) and satanic forces (demons) are perpetually engaged in the kind of warfare described in Revelation 12. Our guardian angels fight to protect us from the sufferings that our satanic tempters try to inflict. This view was much more common in years past. There seem to be fewer and fewer contemporary churches who teach this, and again, those who do teach it tend to be part of the apostolic or fundamentalist movement.

There is also the question of "theodicy," or "why does a good God allow evil to happen"? There are many ways to approach this question, but the approach that was most commonly taught in traditional 20th century fundamentalist churches was this one, summarized here by John MacArthur, a well-known and respected pastor in the conservative Southern Baptist fundamentalist/evangelical tradition:

God wills evil to exist. He has allowed evil and sin within His sovereign purposes so that His holiness and grace might be put on display.

John 9:1-5 is often quoted by those who agree with this interpretation of why bad things happen to innocent people:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (NIV - emphasis added)

Seventy nine year old Pat Robertson is an old-school Southern Baptist. He undoubtedly believes that the voodoo practiced by the island's inhabitants, particularly the sacrifice that Dutty Boukman made to the forces of evil over 200 years ago, are shameful to God, and have caused God to choose to withhold His divine protection from the people of Haiti, even though He loves them just as he loves all of us. That's pretty Old Testament-sounding stuff, reminiscent of how the Prophets explained the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah and the exile of the Jewish people into the land of Babylon. To our modern ears, it sounds cruel and illogical.

But at the same time Robertson urges charity toward the Haitian people. He doesn't hate them, and hopes that their destruction will bring about their repentance -- the same effect that the Babylonian exile had on the children of Israel. Robertson's Operation Blessing is already preparing to devote the majority of its resources to provide immediate aid to the people of Haiti.

For the record I don't follow John MacArthur and Pat Robertson's reasoning about why bad things happen to good people. (You can read my somewhat lengthy explanation, posted at my personal blog a couple of years ago, if you wish.) I wish Robertson would refrain from making his pronouncements, yet it bothers me when other people put words in Robertson's mouth and accuse him of hoping for the destruction of people he supposedly don't like. And as Mary Katherine Ham noted yesterday (with tongue placed firmly in cheek), "employing [the] Reid standard, should we not look at Robertson's record of helping disaster victims & absolve him of 'inartful' comments?"

(Concluding paragraph edited for clarity)


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Comments (25)

"And as Mary Katherine H... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

"And as Mary Katherine Ham noted yesterday (with tongue placed firmly in cheek), "employing [the] Reid standard, should we not look at Robertson's record of helping disaster victims & absolve him of 'inartful' comments?""

How about right wingers try something new - employ a reasonable, thought-out, adult standard?

Reid didn't capitalize on the suffering of a nation in an attempt to further his own business.

Robertson did. The 700 Club is Robertson's business, and by suggesting God has a hand in the suffering of the Haitians as a result of their non-Christian actions Robertson is capitalizing on the Haitan's suffering to further his Christianity-based business.

"The most widely practiced ... (Below threshold)

"The most widely practiced religion of Haiti is Christianity. Haiti is similar to the rest of Latin America in that it is a predominantly Roman Catholic country with 80%-85% professing Catholicism and approximately 20% professing Protestantism."


Robertson is a senile old m... (Below threshold)

Robertson is a senile old man who needs to leave the national stage.

Careful of religious practi... (Below threshold)

Careful of religious practice statistics. As in hispanic countries they are predominately Roman Catholic but still visit the culendero (spelling I am not sure of) but it is there version of the black magic.

You cannot serve two masters. Fresh water and salt water cannot flow out of the same hole. Many bilblical references to total devotion and putting old beliefs behind. Only God knows their hearts, but I think they who practice Christianity and black magic are trying to hedge their bets and do not have a firm belief in either one.

Also, Jesus said the serpents of this world (the unbelievers) are wiser in the world. Translated out is Robertson does run a business. He would be foolish not to. How can he do all the great works he does without being business minded? You cannot. Stevie, again, special ed. viewpoint and coming to a gunfight with a knife. ww

Robertson is not helping th... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Robertson is not helping the cause of the gospel with that kind of rhetoric, that's for sure. It is arrogant to presume that he knows the mind of God. That is one reason I really dislike Robertson -- his claim to 'special revelation' that others just don't have. Hogwash.

Relative to the existence of evil, I do not know how one can escape the reasoning, that if God exists, He permits evil to exist also for the present time. It seems rather axiomatic. I certainly am one who believes in the traditional attributes of God; omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. One cannot have their cake and eat it too. I'll read your post Michael, when I get the time.

P.S. Lumping John MacArthur... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

P.S. Lumping John MacArthur into the same discussion as Pat Roberston and casting them in the same light totally unfair. I am struggling to refrain from accusing you of intellectual dishonesty. I hope that you did not intend your post come come off the way it reads.

Bush did it!... (Below threshold)

Bush did it!

Pat Robertson is a tool.</p... (Below threshold)

Pat Robertson is a tool.

Michael,I strongly... (Below threshold)
Jimmy Stewart:


I strongly disagree with you lumping John MacArthur with Pat Robertson! They are worlds apart on their theology! John MacArthur would never link some event in Haiti's past to this earthquake. The fact that these kinds of events happen has to do with the sin curse on mankind in general and the world itself. Earthquakes can happen anywhere and everything that happens fits God's purposes. This is far different from Pat Robertson's supposed speaking to God and receiving revelations etc..Robertson strays from the biblical standard many times. Pastor MacArthur strives to be obedient to the Word.

Jimmy and Jeff - I'm not tr... (Below threshold)

Jimmy and Jeff - I'm not trying to imply complete congruity between Robertson and MacArthur. It just seems to me that the origin of their belief about suffering is similar. MacArthur's explanation of it is also the best and most straightforward exposition of that view that I have found, which is why I used it.

For all I know, MacArthur and Robertson may be worlds apart on everything else.

What I can tell you is that Robertson's understanding of why "God allowed this to happen" is very similar to what I was taught in Sunday School. I understand theodicy differently now.

Robertson is Grade A Prime ... (Below threshold)

Robertson is Grade A Prime Cut Asshat. And an embarrassment to Christianity.

Dementia is overtaking Pat.... (Below threshold)

Dementia is overtaking Pat.

So whose pact with the devi... (Below threshold)

So whose pact with the devil caused all the other natural disasters on that island before the late 18th century?

Hey, Steve Green, since you... (Below threshold)

Hey, Steve Green, since you missed it on the other thread, Michael "Shover Robot" Meehan apologized for knocking down the reporter.

Hop on back to that discussion, Steve; someone offered you a fresh serving of crow.


Michael,So what pa... (Below threshold)
Jimmy Stewart:


So what part do you disagree with in particular about this view on evil and suffering? And do you base your belief on the Bible? Just curious.

Lets pray for preacher Pat ... (Below threshold)

Lets pray for preacher Pat Robertson So that he can come out from such mind.
We must pray for Haitian So that they over such a massive disaster.

People are supposed to cons... (Below threshold)

People are supposed to consider what they as individuals might have done in order to "earn" a punishment and what they can do to improve. This punishment can be as trivial as reaching in your pocket for a quarter and pulling out a nickel or as serious as the most horrible thing you can think of. When something happens to other people, a person is supposed to realize that he himself needs to introspect and repent. As far as the other people are concerned, when G-d "releases" destruction on an area (for whatever reason), even the righteous among the people of that area are subject to the harm.

It may even be that a number of people have reached their "end date" or that the general wickedness in the world has reached a "trigger point" so that a catastrophe is now due in the world. It does not mean that the individuals harmed are wicked, just that they are not due to be saved by a miracle.

In any case, we are required to act as if it all happened "naturally".

Why did G-d create atheism?

So that when a poor person comes to us, we should not say, "G-d will help", but dig down and do our best to help because "it is up to us".

I've learned to discount th... (Below threshold)

I've learned to discount those who profess to tell me what God is thinking. They're usually full of crap, despite their best intentions.

The hard part is to figure out what She is thinking.

"The hard part is to figure... (Below threshold)

"The hard part is to figure out what She is thinking."

Very nice. My three daughters approve!

Pat Robertson is insane. An... (Below threshold)

Pat Robertson is insane. And that's being charitable, because IF I were a Christian, I'd have to call him evil.

Michael,It just... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:


It just seems to me that the origin of their belief about suffering is similar.

I'm not sure why you think this, but I disagree. Robertson's view, evident from his statements, is 'cause and effect.' If people suffer, then they must have done something to deserve it. Sometimes this is true, as in the law of sowing and reaping. Other times people suffer through no fault of their own. This erroneous cause/effect belief was corrected by Jesus when his disciples asked him "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" in John 9.

John MacArthur, I am quite sure, does not share Robertson's theology in this matter.

Look, I'm an Evangelical Ch... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Look, I'm an Evangelical Christian, but people like Pat Robertson really light my wick. He's a step better that Phelps and his crew but just a step.

I am so sick and tired of the part of modern Christianity that demands that life be nothing but worship and the church. People like Pat isolate and marginalize the church rather than being in the world but not of it.

Making stupid statements like this only show how arrogant some Christians are for presuming to know the mind of God. Our first responsibility is to help the afflicted not condemn them. Of course, Pat likes to pretend he's a prophet so maybe he really does think that he knows he mind of God.

If Pat Robertson is wrong t... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

If Pat Robertson is wrong than I wonder what God thinks of being falsely blamed for killing tens of thousands of innocent people.

The world is unfair.... (Below threshold)

The world is unfair. Why do bad things happen to good people?

Ask Job

Let look at someone who was both man and God
Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
He was born sinless.
He was falsely accused.
Sentenced to death
false witness was used against him.
A know murder was freed in his place.
He suffered a horrible death
died in his youth.

If the only sinless man could have such a horrid life what makes anyone think that being "good" assures an easy life?

However the grace of God was that we received even though we do not deserve it.
Ecclesiastes 7:20
Romans 6:23
1 John 1:18
Romans 3:10-18

God loved us and gave us a way to be with him in Heaven.
Romans 5:8
John 3:16
Romans 10:9
Romans 8:1

Life is hard and unfair and our faith in God will always be tested.
Bad things will happen to good people jesus, Good things will happen to Bad people Barabbas.

However God is love.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever ... --1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Who knows, maybe John MacAr... (Below threshold)

Who knows, maybe John MacArthur is right and the greatest Greek scholars (Google "Famous Rapture Watchers"), who uniformly said that Rev. 3:10 means PRESERVATION THROUGH, were wrong. But John has a conflict. On the one hand, since he knows that all Christian theology and organized churches before 1830 believed the church would be on earth during the tribulation, he would like to be seen as one who stands with the great Reformers. On the other hand, if you have a warehouse of unsold pretrib rapture material, and if you want to have "security" for your retirement years and hope that the big California quake won't louse up your plans, you have a decided conflict of interest - right, John? Maybe the Lord will have to help strip off the layers of his seared conscience which have grown for years in order to please his parents and his supporters - who knows? One thing is for sure: pretrib is truly a house of cards and is so fragile that if a person removes just one card from the TOP of the pile, the whole thing can collapse. Which is why pretrib teachers don't dare to even suggest they could be wrong on even one little subpoint! Don't you feel sorry for the straitjacket they are in? While you're mulling all this over, Google "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" for a rare behind-the-scenes look at the same 179-year-old fantasy.






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