I knew when the press releases started coming in this afternoon that televangelist Pat Robertson had said *something* about Haiti that was sure to raise hackles. Sure enough, today he suggested Haiti’s devastating earthquake may be “a blessing in disguise” because there might be massive rebuilding to follow.
“Well, that’d be a pretty optimistic attitude,” said Bill Horan, president of CBN’s Operation Blessing charity, which is helping out the Haitians. Mr. Horan had just finished calling Tuesday’s earthquake “cataclysmic” and equal to the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami that killed 230,000 people in 14 countries. Haiti’s population is — or was — 8 million.
Mr. Robertson also said that, because of a pact with the devil the republic’s founders supposedly made in 1791, Haiti has been cursed ever since. See it all here on YouTube.
Reaction is now pouring forth. One of the more interesting essays floating about is this three-part treatise “God, Satan and the Birth of Haiti” by an evangelical Christian Haitian academic who looked into the whole cursed-by-Satan legend some years ago and concluded that the devilish pact never happened.
Rice University’s Michael Lindsay, who has written extensively on evangelicals, came out with this: “Pat Robertson continues to distinguish himself as American evangelicalism’s most flamboyant spokesperson. When tragedies strike, people naturally ask questions about why bad things happen to the innocent, and millions of Americans see the hand of God or the devil at work in natural calamities,” Lindsay said. “But few religious leaders today draw the kinds of explicit connection as Pat Robertson has done with the Haitian earthquake. Robertson’s comments reflect as much his rhetorical flourish and skill as a ratings booster as they do his theology.”
Mr. Robertson, you might remember, got reamed when he hosted the late Jerry Falwell on Sept. 13, 2001 at which point Mr. Falwell blamed for the terrorist attacks “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’”
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “Robertson’s callous comments show grotesque insensitivity to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of victims, their families and the nation of Haiti.”
Seems to me it’s dangerous to postulate why any disaster happens. Even Jesus, when asked by his disciples about a tower that collapsed and killed 18 people, did not give a reason for the tragedy. Nor did God explain things to Job.
— Julia Duin, religion editor