Televangelist Pat Robertson’s demented claim that Haiti’s disastrous earthquake was the result of a pact the Haitian slaves signed with the devil to win their freedom has probably gained more converts to atheism and agnosticism than have the efforts of Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest of the “new atheists” vanguard together. In the midst of intense grieving for a nation in distress, where tens of thousands have perished or been left maimed, the United States and the rest of the global community reeled in disgust from Robertson’s callous declaration, while Christian leaders and other religious groups sought to distance themselves from his odious and “immoral” remarks in the face of the most massive human suffering and wreckage this hemisphere has seen for decades.
But Robertson is no neophyte when it comes to incurring wrath via controversial pronouncements of blame in the face of horrific disaster, and his most recent statements, though shocking, were not in the least surprising. Both himself and his peerless confederate/erstwhile segregationist, the late Jerry Falwell, blamed gays, feminists, abortionists and other scapegoat interest groups for the horrors of 9/11 and the calamity of the Katrina floods. Heartbreak and compassion turned to anger as the public strove to comprehend how those who claim Jesus of Nazareth as the centerpiece of their faith, could breathe such vile condemnations.
With Falwell nodding approvingly from above (or below, as some would prefer to believe), Pat Robertson has continued the tradition by blaming the earthquake on its victims, a people who have been literally “eating dirt” for sometime now. According to the televangelist, Haitian slaves, under the heel of the French, had “made a pact with the Devil” — true story, he claims — to gain their freedom from their masters. In other words, the Haitians were wrong in their efforts to liberate themselves, for since God’s answer to the practice of slavery was a resounding “Slaves, obey your masters”, the Haitians must have secured their deliverance from the arch-fiend himself.
But we don’t have to try too hard to make sense of Robertson’s propensity for irrational statements. It was he who from his bully pulpit at the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), had also called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, and suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. The religious broadcaster had also declared that feminism encourages women to “kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians,” and pronounced Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke as divine retribution for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. There is absolutely no reason or logic in the mind of this Southern Baptist and believer in charismatic theology.
Though his most recent statements have ignited a global firestorm of criticism, Robertson has characteristically remained stubbornly unapologetic, creating the impression that his declarations were carefully premeditated. But what could he have hoped to gain from such a plan? Surely not an altar call, since from all reports he seemed to have had the opposite effect as the world glares angrily at him.
In an effort to deflect some of the heat directed at their leader, some very observant admirers of Robertson have pointed out a technicality; they claim that he did not actually attribute the earthquake to God, but that the devil had to be paid his due. What comfort for the suffering in Haiti, and what consolation to the rest of us to know that the devil has the same access as God in manipulating the weather to suit his agenda!
While on this note, it is most revealing that among the detailed prophecies and prescriptions for 2001 from the Almighty, sent through his messengers on the Lyston team of prophets and published in the Jamaica Gleaner, not a single mention was made of God’s intent to ‘lay His hand heavily’ on Haiti, as has been predicted for a few other luckless nations. A friend suggested that God usually gives forty days notice before He strikes, and since Haiti had no time to repent, God just didn’t bother to inform Lyston. It would be interesting to hear what those prophets have to say on this one, speaking for God as they usually do.