It is another natural disaster, so clearly it is time for Pat Robertson to explain the Divine cause and effect. As if on cue, in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake the next edition of The 700 Club featured Pat’s prophetic view. And just as predictably, there was the mostly liberal Christian and secularist backlash as soon as Pat expounded how God’s wrath was triggered this time. This, then, entrenches Pat’s supporters and probably a few other conservative Christians (who hate secularists and liberals more than they worry about Pat being increasingly bonkers) into the battle against the forces of evil.
I have no problem with the idea that God can and/or does mete out judgement on individuals and nations. This does not mean, however, that every natural disaster is an act of God’s judgement and wrath upon a particular group of people. It doesn’t even mean that any natural disaster has to be an act of God’s judgement. Rather it is presumptive to assume that it is.
Certainly there are some Christians who are emboldened by their faith in their own gift of prophecy – or their faith in someone else’s. However, most of the time I’ve found that prophecies about the cosmic significance of newsmaking events fit neatly in the theological presuppositions of the prophets and their hearers. For those expecting everything to point to the “end times”, amazingly everything does. For those expecting to see God’s justice done for this or that evil, sure enough God comes through. It may not directly effect the evil doers, but it shows that God is angry nonetheless. The propensity of some to live from one “prophetic word” to the next only enhances this perception.
We know from Pat that Hurricane Katrina was a result of legalised abortion in the US. Katrina resulted in 2,500 deaths, though not especially those of abortionists or even people who support abortion. I would suggest that in fact, southern Lousiana, Mississippi, and Alabama would be areas of the US with a particularly low rate of abortion and with elected officials that are opposed to it.
Likewise, I wonder what caused the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 with over 6,000 deaths. Must have been something worse than abortion. It would seem that the pact made with the devil by the Haitian leaders who were trying to get out from “under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon III, or whatever” was even worse that abortion in America, because it has and will result in somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths. After all, God’s judgement must be just.
Some people have pointed out a key flaw in Robertson’s view is that Napoleon III came to power in France in 1852 and the Haitians revolted against the French in 1791. Napoleon III’s uncle Napoleon I didn’t even take control of France until 1799.
We will set aside for the moment whether it could have been verified that the devil said “Yes” as affirmed by Robertson. Pat presumes that if anyone or any group of people offer to enter into a pact with the devil, the devil necessarily agrees to it. We’ll also set aside the issue of whether or not some 18th century revolutionaries could bind the whole of the country into a league with the devil. Further, we’ll have to set aside whether the actions of these handful of revolutionaries has caused God’s wrath to be extended to tens of thousands of people 219 years later.
We have to set all of this aside because the biggest problem is that there is no historical evidence that any such agreement was attempted. It’s an urban legend. That right, forget all the dodgy theology, even if you wanted to get wrapped up in it. There was no pact, no agreement, no curse, no whatever.
Nonetheless, I wonder if Pat Robertson is familiar with the words of St Issac the Syrian, “As the grain of sand cannot be compared with a great amount of gold – the same way God’s need for justice cannot be compared with his mercy. Because man’s sin, in comparison to the providence and the mercy of God, are like a handful of sand that falls in the sea and the Creator’s mercy cannot be defeated by the wickedness of the creatures.”