Does it need to be said? Pat Robertson is wrong, and not very Christian in my book.
There are at least two problems with Pat Robertson’s comments on Haiti, it seems to me. One is a world-view thing he can’t correct, and one is a Christian thing he can and should correct.
To my scientific and rational friends, Mr. Robertson will never make sense. He will always be irrational, by your (and my) definition. He believes in a world where horned-headed red characters with red tridents make pacts (probably signed in blood) with entire governments, punishing people for the sins of that government.
Evil is a tricky question. Working as a therapist, I see evil — damaging words, damaging actions, damaging thoughts perhaps — every day. These things are more than your average “I made a mistake” things. These are long-term damaging, severely nasty, and nearly inhuman things done by non-compassionate, angry or resentful people and — even when you understand them, they are evil.
When they happen to one person, it’s easy enough to personify them as The Devil being active in the world. To my scientific and rational friends, this devil simply doesn’t exist any more than God does. And, if he does, he’s a little red-faced horned guy with a trident that sits on one shoulder as an angel sits on the other shoulder. Pat Robertson believes that literally as well, I’m pretty sure and his God is a White guy who sits in a big chair in the sky with a big beard and a long robe. I’m not Pat Roberston and neither are many millions of Christians.
I’m not sure if there’s a Devil, but I am sure that there are evil forces in the world. I’m sure that I can see the damage those forces do in the world in the lives of people everyday. I guess I conceive of the devil (if their is one) as evil that flows around the atmosphere/cosmos in much the same way that God is a holy spirit that flows around the atmosphere/cosmos. It wields influence in some weird way that I can’t explain that are the opposite of the God I can’t explain either, but I know is real. My “evil” doesn’t sign pacts with a cloven hoof in blood. Evil, as I see it, influences people to sign pacts that hurt as others. These pacts are as everyday as credit card rates that rob people of their hard-earned lives and arms deals that destroy people and property, trade agreements that guarantee slavery and war plans that convince one group of people that another group of people is evil simply because of where they were born, live, or because they are different.
So, that’s where Pat and I (and millions of others) are different: I don’t believe in characters, but rather forces, Zeitgeists, and actions. That’s the world-view point and if you ever expect him to differ from that view, I wouldn’t waste your time or hold your breath. If you think that a personification of evil as as some guy with along tail and pitchfork is irrational (as I do), you will always think that Pat Robertson is just out-of-his-head irrational, somewhere between ignorant and crazy.
Within the Christian community, however, Pat runs into whole other charges. The place where he doesn’t even seem Christian is that he blames people who did nothing for the evil that befalls them. Even if a government did make a pact with an evil entity, the people of that country (who didn’t do such a thing) don’t deserve to die buried in rubble. They didn’t make the ground shake and buildings fall. Blaming the victim for things they couldn’t have done, isn’t just a matter of bad theology, it’s evil. The last thing that some mother or father needs while grieving their child’s death is someone saying “it’s your fault, even though you didn’t do anything wrong” and “a loving God made it happen”. Such sentiments suck the life right out of people. They cripple and destroy the human spirit in the way that evil does. Christ calls us to be compassionate, to take care of each other, to understand each other, to build people’s lives rather than shaming, harmful, mean-spirited, and divisive. Pat’s comments manage to do all that and –by my reckoning — aren’t even Christian. For that, Mr. Robertson’s “got some ‘splaining to do” — and not just to me.
Once again defining myself by who I’m not…