Rev. Dr. Gary L. Cass, Christian Anti-Defamation Commission
It is excruciating to see the images of human suffering emanating from Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. Prayers and practical compassionate care is truly needed.
But sometimes things are said in the midst of crises that exacerbate the already raw feelings of grieving people. So then what's all the fuss about Pat Robertson's remarks?
I first knew something was up while driving yesterday. I heard two national conservative talk radio personalities make some disparaging remarks about Pat Robertson, who, by the way, is one of the reasons they even have jobs. Pat was one of the most important leaders of a resurgent conservative movement.
When I got home I immediately looked up what Pat said and I was overwhelmed. But not by what Robertson had said, rather by the hype and hysteria of those who took an expression of genuine concern and hope for Haiti's future and used it to bash Pat.
Last week it was Fox News analyst Brett Hume's turn to be attacked because he dared to compassionately urge Tiger Woods to turn to Christianity and find forgiveness and redemption. Now it's Pat Robertson's turn.
Perhaps what we have here is a simple failure to communicate, but then again, what Pat said was not complicated. Or is it that there is so much contempt against Pat Robertson and /or what he represents, that no benefit of the doubt is to be afforded him? Or is there something else in play.
What exactly did Pat say that was so terribly egregious?
First he retold a very familiar story about the history of Haiti about a pact that was made by its revolutionary leaders. In exchange for help in throwing out the French Haiti would serve satan. Some have disputed this ever happened. But what is indisputable is Haiti's history ever since then has been one of incredible suffering.
To use Pat's words, Haiti's history was, "cursed, desperately poor." Then Pat went on to describe the incredible economic disparity between Haiti, which sits on one side of the Island of Hispaniola, and the Dominican Republic on the other side. So was Pat using "cursed" literally or metaphorically?
The modern cynic chaffs at any suggestion that there may be a connection between historical realities and unseen spiritual influences, or as the Bible calls it God's "blessing or cursing." Although most people are very comfortable with the notion that God blesses people, we are not at all comforted with the terrifying prospect that Almighty God might also curse.
The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God and /or moral causality. Eastern religions call it Karma, but Christians call it God's Providence. I wonder if the reason that so many hate Pat is because he expressed what many Americans don't want to face- the moral and spiritual dimension of our lives.
As long as everything is going well we live as if we are never going to die. Then crisis hits and death slaps us in the face. Rather than humbling ourselves and searching our hearts like the Pilgrims did, we lash out at God and anyone who dares insinuate Him into our lives.
What the Robertson bashers left out is that finally, and with great compassion and concern in his voice, Pat said, "They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God and out of this tragedy I am optimistic that some good thing may come, but right now we are helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable."
Agree or disagree with what Pat said, it was well within the bounds of historic Christian theology. Maybe that's the real problem after all.
Man is offended by the fact that he is not God. They resent God's Providence. A simple reading of the Bible shows how God uses natural disasters to further his purposes. Earthquakes, floods, famine, locusts, etc. they're all there, but man hates it. Rather than humbly acknowledging that God's ways are not our ways, man rails against and accuses God. The last thing they will do is cry out for his mercy in Jesus Christ.
So Pat is an easy target. But before you judge him perhaps you ought to know that the whole time he was making these comments they had the number on their screen for their viewers to give to their humanitarian relief organization Operation Blessing. OB has already been at work in Haiti long before the earthquake.
Operation Blessing has touched the lives of more than 209.3 million people in 105 countries and all 50 states, providing goods and services valued at more than $1.7 billion. So, once you have surpassed that, then you will be in a better place to judge Pat Robertson. In the meantime, let's do what Pat is doing and bless the poor people of Haiti.