Is nature or God punishing the Haitians for its national sins? It all depends who one asks. Pat Robertson blames the Haiti earthquake on a pact the Haitians made with the devil sometime in the early 19th century:
Pat Robertson, the evangelical Christian who once suggested God was punishing Americans with Hurricane Katrina, says a “pact to the devil” brought on the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Robertson said on his “700 Club,” and that “They got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ ” Native Haitians defeated French colonists in 1804 and declared independence. “You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.”
How accurate is Robertson’s theory? Well, the Haitians did not rebel against Napoleon I, but actually rebelled against his nephew Napoleon III, whose reign didn’t start until 1852. The story is a total fiction. Moreover, if God has such a short fuse, why didn’t the Creator bring on an earthquake immediately after the Haitians made this alleged “pact” with the Devil?
Of course, if such a God is determined to expunge sin and sinners, why doesn’t God go after bigger fish to fry, e.g., Iran or North Korea? Robertson’s penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time is hardly Christ-like, but instead reflects a hardness of heart worthy of Pharaoh; how can one witness so much human misery on such a mass scale and blame an impoverished nation for bringing upon itself the judgment of the Almighty? If the crime of blasphemy has any spiritual significance today, one could argue that Pat Robertson’s ill-timed remark may qualify because he sullies the Name of his Creator by portraying God as such a ruthless power.
Now, the members of the 700 Club aren’t the only ones coming out with such pronouncements of prophetic doom and gloom. Earlier this morning, I read an article that appeared in the Washington Post, where a Vodou priest named André Pierre, blames the earthquake on the Haitians lack of reverence and mistreatment of Mother Nature. Pierre explains:
“The first magician is God who created people with his own hands from the dust of the earth. No one lives of the flesh. Everyone lives of the spirit.” We humans live in the material world, and other spirits–called lwa, or mystères, “mysteries”–dwell in the unseen realm. God created the spirits to help govern humanity and the natural world. The ancestors and the recently dead are with them. Unfortunately, there are far too many recently dead crossing over to join the spirits this week. When you cut a tree, in Vodou, you are supposed to ask the tree first, and leave a small payment for the spirit of the tree. For years nobody has asked, or listened, or paid the land when making policies or laws in Haiti. Farmers have given up since imported rice undercut their local prices. Whole villages left the provinces, and migrated to the capital, leaving the land behind and swelling the capital city to bursting. The people running the country–from within and from without–have abused Our Mother. She is doing what is natural, like a horse throwing a rough rider.”
Similar to Robertson, Pierre believes that the Nature (instead of the biblical God) is punishing its inhabitants for a variety of environmental sins. Frankly, both approaches seem to overlook the fact that God does not control everything that happens in this world. Natural law operates in a capricious manner, but God does expect us to ethically act on behalf of those who suffer. In a world that often experiences brokenness on a global scale, we are each responsible for the welfare of our neighbor. The old KJV translation of the Bible still says it best:
“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). In other words, human beings are better off focusing on what is directly in front of them; speculating about hidden matters is not something anybody should engage in. The ancient Judaic philosopher Ben Sira (ca. 2200 B.C.E.) offers prudent advice to those who think they understand the mind of God:
“What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not. What is committed to you, attend to; for what is hidden is not your concern. With what is too much for you meddle not, when shown things beyond human understanding. Their own opinion has misled many, and false reasoning unbalanced their judgment. Where the pupil of the eye is missing, there can be no light; and where there is no knowledge, there is no wisdom” (Sirach 3:19-24).