Thursday, January 14, 2010

Was Pat Robertson right?

Note: This essay is from Jim Denison's daily God Issues email. I thought this was a very effective, biblical response to Pat Robertson's comments regarding the reason for the disaster in Haiti. If you're not aware of what Robertson said, the comments are included in this essay. Here's Jim Denison's response, without further comment from me:

Haiti and the devil (part one)

Is God punishing Haiti for worshipping the devil? I was preparing this morning's essay on the crisis in Haiti when I heard the story on the morning news: Pat Robertson has claimed that Haiti made a pact with Satan for which they are now facing the wrath of God.

I immediately changed topics to investigate the story. My research on the historical background behind this alleged pact is taking longer than I imagined, so I'll give you what I'm learning in tomorrow's essay. For today, let's consider Robertson's statement in biblical perspective.

We begin with Rev. Robertson's actual statement as I transcribed it from the video clip: "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, you know Napoleon the third or 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 they kicked the French out, you know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor." He went on to contrast Haiti's poverty with the Dominican Republic's prosperity and called on the Haitians to turn to God.

I need to make four biblical responses.

First, God loves the suffering people of Haiti. He cares passionately for the poor and oppressed. His word tells us, "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done" (Proverbs 19:17). The Lord said of King Josiah, "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" (Jeremiah 22:16).

The alleged pact with the devil in 1791 would put our Father on the side of slavery and Satan on the side of those seeking freedom. The reverse is actually the case. Satan is a "murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44), a thief who "comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10) and seeks to make us "slaves to sin" (Romans 6:17). Satan enslaves-God liberates.

Second, the Haitians are suffering because we are all fallen people living on a fallen planet. In the Garden of Eden, this tragedy would not have occurred. In God's perfect plan there would have been no Hurricane Katrina, no tsunami in southeast Asia, no cancer or heart disease or earthquakes. But when we fell into sin, the entire planet was affected. As a result, "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" (Romans 8:22). The earthquake is not the Haitians' fault. God cares for their pain as his own.

Third, God's people must respond. We are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12), his hands and feet. He will help the suffering Haitians through us. Give to help the relief effort; go if you can; pray fervently. Don't speculate on the causes of this crisis-respond personally and practically.

Last, I must state that Robertson's statement is unbridled audacity. Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, told a television reporter that it is "arrogance" to claim that we can interpret such events as divine judgment. Franklin Graham told the media that "I do not agree" with the comments, and was right to add, "God loves the people of Haiti." As we will see tomorrow, Robertson should have checked his sources before making his allegation. Scripture calls us to "test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

Pray now for the Haitians. Ask God to redeem this horrific tragedy for his glory and their good. Know that God is love (1 John 4:8), and prove his compassion with your own. This is the word, and the call, of God.


Kimberly said...

Hello there! I am not one to jump on a bandwagon against Pat Robertson. Perhaps it was arrogant of him but is it not a fact that Haiti is full of people who participate in voodoo? Was he presenting it as fact that God would do this? I think he was just stating what happened, in his opinion, and that it possibly could be the reason it is happening. We all do know that God will come against those who do not listen to him, we see it all over the bible. I am not saying I agree or disagree. I simply do not know, and I tend to believe he was just giving an opinion on the matter. He has done so many good things for so many people, and in fact, Operation Blessing is there helping out. I think the world is awfully quick to judge him so harshly, it is like they are desperate to come against Christians for every word they utter. We have to look at the whole picture of Pat Robertson. I believe him to be a Godly man, a man who prays for people on his show, who has no doubt led countless people to the Lord....let's not also heap judgement upon him...only God knows his heart. I'm sad for him, because he is only human like the rest of us, and he has his show that does help a lot of people and tells good stories of hope and love.

Kim W.

Jeff Berger said...

Thanks, Kim. I appreciate your gracious attitude. I don't mean to say that Pat Robertson is no good. And yes, I realize that he is only giving his opinion. But we preachers have to understand that when we share our opinion, people think that we are speaking on behalf of God. I don't think he's qualified to judge whether this disaster was God's will or not...and neither am I. We need to display a whole lot more humility and compassion when bad things happen. You may recall he also made similar judgmental statements after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. These kinds of statements simply make our jobs as witnesses that much harder. I have so many non-Christian friends and acquaintances who will not even give the Gospel a chance because they think converting to Christianity means becoming mean and hateful. So I feel like we need to come out and say we disagree with Robertson, so that the world knows that he's not speaking for us.

Kim said...

OK, in general I think "people" need to get over that pastors are speaking FOR God. Pastors are just people. To me, everytime a public Christian figure messes up, it's a good excuse for people to judge him and then an excuse for people to say, "Well if that's how Christians are then I want no part of it." Seriously, I think it's a copout because people don't want to confront their own sin. People need to develop a mature attitude, and when they hear something someone has said (an opinion) if it bothers them so much, they should go to their bible if they are inclined to do so, and see if it could be correct. I am not really sticking up for Pat so much as I am just wondering, those who are judging him for his opinion, what did they do yesterday? Did they lie, cheat, steal something from their office, commit adultery....I mean....really....people just love to judge pastors, don't they? I think they need to look at their own back yard before they are so quick to judge. I mean, Haiti is wrought with who is to say that they did NOT make a pact with the devil? And most people are uncomfortable with there even BEING a devil in the first place, so they like to say "Well Pat is the devil." To me it is all just foolish. Again I choose to focus on the good Pat Robertson has done (how many people has he lead to the Lord, for example) rather than a comment he made that people are so uncomfortable with. And as he said it, Operation Blessing was helping out the people in Haiti. Those who are ragging on Pat, how many people have THEY lead to the Lord, for example? How many burdens of others have THEY bore? Do they love their neighbor as they should or do they change lanes and flip someone off who has pulled out in front of them? Pat Robertson had an opinion about the voodoo that goes on in Haiti. Who is to say he is wrong?

I hope you know I am NOT picking on you. I'm just frustrated with the demonization. Like you said, you have to be careful as a pastor, but shoot, how careful do you have to be? Being afraid to say things because of how man will judge you doesn't seem like something the Lord would want, because are we here to please people, or God? You said you were going to research it and as I'm too lazy to do so myself (except one google search I did) - so I'm anxious to see what you find.

By the way, I am in KY. I don't belong to your church. :)

Thanks for answering me!!


Carrie said...

I disagree with Robertson. Hopefully too, I forgive him. I appreciate your sentiment about preachers, and agree that all Christians should be careful how the things we say affect others. Thank you for the post.