By: Roy David
The January tragedy in Haiti, laid to waste by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, provided another opportunity for people who call themselves Christian to make some profoundly outrageous statements.
As many likely have heard, TV evangelist Pat Robertson “rose” to the occasion by stating on his 700 Club show that the earthquake was God’s punishment for a pact with the devil the Haitians made 200 years ago to be liberated from the French. (I would think a just God would be seeking their liberation by any means possible.)
His audience, I imagine, is supposed to take his word for the reality of the pact (I don’t believe he produced any signed documents) and for the truth about God’s desire and ability to inflict untold misery on people born eight to 10 generations later, including babies and young children, the most innocent and helpless of all.
Even if one reads the Christian Bible (the New Testament) uncritically and ignores more than a century of serious scholarship, one will be challenged to find any words attributed to Jesus that would support this notion. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (the Beatitudes) has exactly the opposite spirit.
Likewise, Jesus’ statement that one is to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself is an expression of unconditional acceptance and care. Hardest of all to get past is Jesus’ commandment to love your enemy. Jesus does not go on to say that, after you’re done loving your enemy, then go out and kill him (something you wouldn’t have learned from the late Jerry Falwell).
The fact is, none of these verses could possibly be twisted to support the idea of wishing death and devastation upon people anywhere for any reason.
Why am I writing about this? Because, just like most tribes today (religious, ethnic, professional), Christians who are more moderate seldom clearly and emphatically speak out against these kinds of outrageous comments. But we must.
Fortunately, these hard-line, punishment-oriented Christians are neither the majority nor do they have sufficient formal political power to unconditionally impose their viewpoints on others with the threat of life or death, at least not in the United States today (in colonial times, this may have been different in some areas).
But in the Middle East, among Muslim believers, the ultra-hardliners (the Taliban, in particular) have the upper hand, and it can be deadly to oppose them, including by the more moderate to progressive Muslims and their leaders. Hopefully, they can be encouraged to do so and can be protected as well.
In the meantime, we who are Christians (conservative,* moderate and progressive) need to tell the world that people like Robertson do not represent a Biblically based Christianity. In fact, they represent exactly the opposite of what Jesus was expressing about a God who loved all, especially the poor and powerless, the ill and the despised.
It is possible by doing this that we can support those Muslims who are standing up against misleading and misguided interpretations of the Koran that are being used to encourage the murder of innocent people through suicide bombing. U.S. Christians, clergy in particular, who stand up publicly against these cruel and insensitive words also may help keep the United States from ever becoming a theocracy or anything close to that. Heaven help us if that ever happens.
*This “kill the enemy” attitude tends to be more prevalent among those who would call themselves fundamentalists than conservative Christians. There are a huge number of conservative Christians who would find Robertson’s comments awful.