God, Haiti, Pat Robertston and us

By now everyone has heard of Pat Robertson’s unfortunate remarks regarding the earthquake in Haiti. He has often claimed to know the purpose that is intended (of course it’s judgment) by the occurrence of disasters – the history of slavery, and the reality of richer nations and corporations pushing small businesses and farmers out of business and crushing their fragile economies notwithstanding.

I wonder if the same principle applies to Hurricane Bonnie in 1998. A few months before that hurricane happened, Robertson claimed that God’s wrath would hit Orlando, FL because Disneyworld has Gay Days events. But overnight Hurricane Bonnie moved away from the Florida coast and hit square on Virginia Beach where Robertson’s compound is located. Either God has a sense of humor (a gentle one – they did not suffer anywhere near the devastation that others have had) or a butterfly fluttered its wings in Burma.

I was saddened and appalled at his remarks but I get it. I do not agree at all but I understand, I think. I do not think that too many people take him seriously anymore but I do know that people need to make sense of God and suffering. We are all tempted to speak for God. And this has been the question of the ages – how do we believe in a good God amidst horrific suffering, both man made and natural? How do we begin to understand the existence of so much evil around us?

Using judgment or blaming the victim is a way of quieting the confusion of mind and the fear in the soul. It keeps people from tearing their hair out and screaming, “Really God, WTF???!?” (Ok, I confess, I do that anyway at times.) The fear and discomfort of uncertainty and the need to create an illusion of control in this chaotic world creates the theology expressed by so much black and white thinking. It helps to have reasons why, especially when those reasons keep you in the right. But it also shuts down compassion. If they brought this on themselves, we don’t have to give to those who don’t really deserve it, nor take responsibility for our own part in creating third world economies.

But a wise person once said that the only way to answer a theodicy (the hard questions of God and evil) is with a Theophany. An encounter with the Holy. Just as God answered Job’s complaints only with Himself (and Job was utterly transformed at the end of that book, giving his daughters full in heritance with his brothers – unheard of!!!) the only “answer” is the One who transcends our foolish religious striving. In times like these I need a deeper drink of a God of love. A petty, divisive God who abandons the poor and downtrodden brings me to despair.
That Old Testament  vengeance is still too often the lens through which we view things.

One friend said, “Haiti is the broken and bloodied Body of Christ.” I agree, and I believe that if you want to see God’s heart in all this, well, He’s pinned under rubble, He’s hurt and afraid, He’s hungry and homeless in Haiti. And also look to the relief workers who are facing all the hellish aftermath to bring rescue, comfort and aid. God bless them.

And for some smiles, finally: Here is Jon Stewart’s laugh-out-loud funny response to both Robertson and Rush Limbaugh who has said some of the most shameless racist remarks ever:


(sorry, it won’t let me embed)

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Showing 8 comments
  • Jim and Rachel Maynard

    Ellen – First, we’d like to invite you guys over for dinner, if you have time and if you can take the chaos of two feisty little girls. Second, I was blown away by your blog about Limbaugh and Robertson. It didn’t try to rebut or condemn them it really looked at some of the underpinnings to a theology that demands to make sense of suffering – unfortunately in a twisted way. I thought it was so well written and gracious while at the same time offering a sane Christian perspective from what God’s heart for the suffering truly is, compassion. Thanks, keep writing! Jim

  • Wendy St.Aubin

    After my third, out of five, occurance of Breast Cancer, I was talking with my brother about how I just kept devoting my life to serving God and serving my family, and to loving and caring for the people around me. Although I didn’t understand the why, -my heart was filled with the love of Jesus – I fell asleep with His arms wrapped around me – but still the why me?-Some people wondered what I had done and like Job, some people would ask me what unconfessed sin I had in my life(I taught Sunday School,volunteered in school,helped my neighbors,worked hard,and loved my family’ My brother said, “God is not the author of evil.” That said it all and was clearly the truth of God’s nature.

  • ellenharoutunian

    Hey Jim – we look forward to hanging with the Maynard’s! Rachel and I are in touch by Facebook. Thanks for your kind words. Wendy – I thank God you are healthy again!

  • Tracey Walking

    Thanks for articulating this, Ellen. Beautiful take on the whole thing.

  • Tammy

    I agree that Jesus is in the rubble in Haiti! A little meditation on the Beatitudes for those of us that can’t go to Haiti should tell us that! Love your thoughts, Ellen! God bless!

  • international tv

    thank Jesus for His grace over haitian relief effort

  • Marlana Meagher

    I need to say, politics and religion seem to bring out the very best along with the the very worst in folks. The best because both can lead to people being incredibly kind, the very worst because both can lead to unbelievably intractable and difficult acts. I am not attacking you, this post merely made me realize it, so thanks for that.

  • Tami

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to this so wisely, my friend.

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