He may be a crank, but he’s consistent in his crankery. Anywhere there’s human misery — after 9/11, after Katrina, even after Ariel Sharon’s stroke — Reverend Pat will be there to explain to the victims why they deserved it. (And he’s not the only one.) He’s taking a beating on Twitter right now for having said this, including/especially from Christians who don’t want to see the faith smeared by his latest Old Testament thunderbolt theory. No worries there: Other Christian leaders, starting with the Pope and Franklin Graham, are taking a more New Testament view. But even conceding that he doesn’t speak for most Christians, he does still command a sizable following, no? Even after years of barfing up stuff like this.
If you’re wondering what the “pact with the devil” is all about (fact check: roughly 95 percent of Haitians are Christian), Tapper has some quickie background. Tongue-in-cheek exit question from MKH: According to the Harry Reid standard, shouldn’t Robertson’s charitable works absolve him from any and all offensive utterances?
Peter Wehner at The Corner:
Set aside the fact that this “true story” is based on a legend. Set aside, too, the arbitrary foolishness of Robertson’s statement (why would God lash out at Haiti but not at Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, or secular Europe?). And set aside the hardness of heart that would lead a man, at this moment, to see human misery on such a mass scale and blame an impoverished nation for bringing upon itself the judgment of the Almighty.
There is another important issue involved here, which is a warped and confused theology Robertson has employed before. For example, Robertson agreed with Jerry Falwell that on 9/11 God lifted the “curtain” and allowed the enemies of America to give us “probably what we deserve”; and in 1998 he warned after Orlando city officials voted to fly rainbow flags from city lampposts during an annual Gay Day event at Disney World, “I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you. . . . [A] condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs, it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.”
Pat Robertson’s argument is as neat and clean as a mathematical equation: God grants blessings and curses on nations and people based on their allegiance and obedience to Him. If things are going well, you’re living right; if things are going badly, you’re living wrong. And it is Robertson himself who can divine the hierarchy of sins that most trouble God.
But this view simply does not correspond with any serious understanding of Christianity. After all, the most important symbol in Christianity is the Cross, which represents suffering, agony, and death. When Jesus spoke to Ananias, who was instrumental in the conversion of the Apostle Paul, Ananias was told, “I will show [Paul] how much he must suffer for my name.” Christ Himself warned His disciples that they would suffer for His sake; most of them were martyred for their faith. The Apostle Peter speaks about the suffering that Christians will endure for doing good. And in the book of Romans we read that we are to rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. On and on it goes.
When so many in Haiti have died or are dying and suffering, how can anyone think this is the time to say such a thing? Does religion give Robertson the gall? I’m not going to ask why a belief in God doesn’t frighten people out of such heartlessness. It’s too sadly obvious that it does not.
But was there a pact with the devil? I would also note that the Haitian Revolution began in 1791, years before Napoleon took over France as Consul. Napoleon III didn’t come to power until 1848. So clearly Robertson is confused on the basic history. But I believe that Robertson is referring to the Bois Caïman Ceremony that in Haitian national mythology initiated the revolution. This was a Vodou ceremony and the following text is normally attributed to its leader, Boukman:
The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light. The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that speaks in all our hearts.
If you were a white, Catholic French person or Haitian plantation owner, I can see why you would characterize this as a prayer offered “to the devil.” The black Haitians are postulating the existence of two Gods, one for the whites and one for the blacks. The whites regard the God they pray to as the one true God. So if the blacks are praying to some second god, and doing it with a Vodou ceremony, it stands to reason that they’re engaged in a satanic ritual of some sort.
But there’s no reason for 21st century Americans to accept this interpretation of the story. From the Haitian perspective, I think you’d say they were just praying to God for his assistance and asserting the justice of their cause. This is what pretty much everyone does before heading into battle.
Joe Carter at First Things:
The collected lunacy of Robertson could fill several volumes but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes that reveal the breadth of his wit and wisdom:
“You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense, I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don’t have to be nice to them.”
—The 700 Club, January 14, 1991
On Pluralism in Government
“Individual Christians are the only ones really—and Jewish people, those who trust God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—are the only ones that are qualified to have the reign, because hopefully, they will be governed by God and submit to Him.”
—Defending his stance that only Christians and Jews are fit to hold public office, The 700 Club, January 11, 1985
“If anybody understood what Hindus really believe, there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies in a country that favors freedom and equality.”
—The New World Order (p. 219)
On the Homosexual Agenda
“[Homosexuals] want to come into churches and disrupt church services and throw blood all around and try to give people AIDS and spit in the face of ministers.”
—The 700 Club, January 18, 1995
“Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals—the two things seem to go together.”
—The 700 Club, January 21, 1993
“Many observers say that AIDS is the hammer and gun of the homosexual movement, an effective vehicle to propel the homosexual agenda throughout every phase of our society.”
—The 700 Club June 20, 1990
“N.O.W. is saying that in order to be a woman, you’ve got to be a lesbian.”
—The 700 Club, December 3, 1997
On the Flying of Freak Flags
“I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes and I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you, This is not a message of hate; this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs; it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor.”
—The 700 Club” June 6, 1998 speaking about “Gay Day” at Disney World
John Cook at Gawker:
Pat Robertson is as hateful and seized by superstition as any Taliban mullah with a knot in his forehead from obsessively banging it into a prayer mat. The motivation for this latest proclamation is no doubt the fact that about half the people in Haiti practice voodoo, an amalgam of Catholicism and African animism that dates to the importation of West African slaves there in the 16th century, and that was common to the slaves who whose uprising against their French owners eventually became the Haitian Revolution. For a more nuanced explication Haiti’s Satanic provenance—”Government Of The Devil, By The Devil, And For The Devil”—go here.
So because the people of Haiti practice a different religion from Robertson—about which everything he knows he learned from watching The Serpent and the Rainbow—it follows that their historic liberation in a bloody war must have been the result of a negotiation with a malevolent supernatural being who intervenes in worldly affairs. And every tragedy that has befallen their ancestors since has been deliberately directed at them by an all-powerful and loving god who wants to kill them, repeatedly, because they gained freedom by striking a deal with his enemy.
Who’s the fucking witch doctor?
Ben Smith at Politico:
A spokesman for Pat Robertson’s CBN, Chris Roslan, emails to downplay Robertson’s suggestion that Haiti’s travails are linked to legends of a pact between Hatian rebels and the devil.
Robertson, he said, is focused on the relief effort in the country, and never explicilty “stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath,” though he did call the country “cursed.”
On today’s The 700 Club, during a segment about the devastation, suffering and humanitarian effort that is needed in Haiti, Dr. Robertson also spoke about Haiti’s history. His comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed.
Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath.
If you watch the entire video segment, Dr. Robertson’s compassion for the people of Haiti is clear. He called for prayer for them. His humanitarian arm has been working to help thousands of people in Haiti over the last year, and they are currently launching a major relief and recovery effort to help the victims of this disaster. They have sent a shipment of millions of dollars worth of medications that is now in Haiti, and their disaster team leaders are expected to arrive tomorrow and begin operations to ease the suffering.
UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens in Slate