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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Revealing Faith via Haiti

I like Kerry Dougherty, I really do. She is the grounded housewife and mom who writes a column for a truly awful paper, the Virginian Pilot (motto: "True to the Democratic Party in victory or defeat.") and who is both entertaining and insightful.

Today she took after Pat Robertson for saying that

…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 third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil, they said, we will serve you, if you get us free from the French, true story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free, and ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. . .

She called this statement “over the line.” I’m not entirely sure what line that was. She didn’t say. But if we assume that she was accusing Robertson of being terribly mean spirited I think we are on fairly safe ground.

Dougherty often refers to her Christian upbringing and faith, and I believe her. But there are (at least) two kinds of Christians: those who believe in a “Just God” – a Jonathan Edwards kind of God - and those who believe that “God is love.”

She says of Robertson, and I quote:

. I don’t pretend to understand the theological underpinnings to Robertson’s flights of fancy. But it seems that in his world, one of two things must have happened in Haiti this week:
Either God wreaked havoc on these poor people to punish them because their ancestors climbed into bed with Satan. Or God wasn’t powerful enough to stop the devil from unleashing deadly mischief on his pals.

I can’t buy either one.

I’m surprised that Dougherty has not heard this story before . It’s widespread and a quick Google search of “Haiti's pact with the devil” brings up 52,000 references. I have heard it mentioned enough that I immediately knew what Robertson was talking about. And I’m not surprised that Pat Robertson has heard of it and used it to make his point. For an article that debunks this as a fable, there is an on-line article by a Haitian churchman at Black and

However, I want to specifically contrast Dougherty and Robertson’s theological view of Christianity. While I believe that Robertson may well have been taken in a by a fable, his analysis is grounded in a “just God” theology found in both the old and new testaments. If Robertson believes the story about a pact with the Devil, (and I believe that Robertson is a Bible believing literalist who believes in a God who is active in the universe today) his view is that of a God that punished His “chosen people” Israel for departing from his ways. Unless the God of the Old Testament has taken early retirement, it is entirely logical to attribute the horrors that have befallen Haiti – even before the earthquake – to a punishment for a particularly grievous sin: a pact with the Devil that explains the Voodoo practices of many in Haiti.

Dougherty’s theology is of a more modern kind. One in which God is a sweet and rather saccharine creator of the universe. Who loves puppies and little children, pick us up when we fall down and never-ever judges us or turns His back. This is the God who was referred to as “God the Almighty Patsy.” He’s the God who sent his Son to die for us on the cross in redemption for our sins … but since he is such a loving, forgiving Soul, it’s hard to figure out why He bothered.

Whose version of God exists we’ll know one day. However, Dougherty’s column is rather mean spirited in its own right since she compares Robertson to a drunk and a money grubber who doesn’t believe what he says but uses it to con the rubes out of their money.

What Dougherty does not quote is the next part of Robertson’s remarks which put a rather different spin on the issue:

… the Island of Hispaniola is one island cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is, is, prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty, same Islands, uh, 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.

Whatever your theology, I hope that we can all agree that bringing relief to the suffering people of Haiti is a worthy goal.

4 comments: said...

The situation in Haiti is dire, and will only get worse over time. It is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, so it is up to wealthier countries to try to lend support. The United States will undoubtedly play a major role in the recovery effort, but I hope everyone remembers that the United States also has its own problems, like a high unemployment rate and Americans struggling to support their families.

Unknown said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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thisishabitforming said...

I read some of the comments in the Pilot regarding Robertson and the vitriol from the readers is amazing. I have watched Pat for years and he has done a tremendous amount of good of which the readers of the Pilot seem ignorant.

Earthquakes happen, the earthquake did not cause Haiti's problem it just magnifies it. Grinding poverty and corruption leaves Haiti in the state its in and makes it unable to cope with this catastrophe. For years the nation has suffered under corrupt and unscrupulous rulers. Many people don't believe in a personal devil anymore than a personal God. I do know this, it isn't the goodness of God that causes men to be corrupt and suppress their fellow man.

If you are still looking for answers, you can always vote with Danny Glover who thinks global warming is the culprit. Is he saying Gaia is angry because Copenhagen was a failure and she is showing her displeasure by punishing Haiti? Let's stay tuned.