Southern Baptist minister and conservative Christian Pat Robertson has suggested that the Jan 12, 7.0 earthquake disaster in Haiti -- one that has all but leveled capital Port au Prince and left a guesstimated 200,000 dead -- was at least partly attributable to the fact that the Haitians had "made a pact with the devil" when they ousted the French in the 19th century. Ever since they made that deal, things have gone from bad to worse and the Haitians need to make a serious Christian effort in order to redeem themselves, Robertson said. Blame the victim.
The arrogance and unkindness of such a remark is mind-boggling to some -- me included -- but is agreeable to others who hope that a kind, but occasionally cranky, god will see them through the night.
Even from within this 'Christian' mythos, it seems that Jesus Christ might well have made a pact with the devil and been crucified. If only he had turned his heart and mind to the Robertson version of redemption.
But for those whose minds may reel with nitwit unkindnesses and theology, I really think Robertson's is an excellent teaching. The egregious egotism manifested in his remarks -- and the frightening fact that so many might agree with or be influenced by those remarks -- is a first-class reminder ... outrageous when seeing the stricken faces on TV.
But is outrage enough?
I first heard of Robertson's remarks on the peace picket line this morning. A man and woman to might right were talking about it in a way I couldn't help but overhear. And, on overhearing it, the words popped out of my mouth before I could stop them: "What an asshole!"
But the man who was part of the conversation then segued to the fundamentalist-Christian elements of the South. "They really do think that way," he said earnestly. And, with my cauldron still bubbling, I jumped his case. "Don't say that!" I said. "That's no better than Robertson's idiocies! How do you know what 'they' think or believe? How do you know that 'they' think or believe this crap? Have you been there? Have you met 'them?' 'They' are individuals, just like the Haitians...." and I blithered a bit more. Elevating my position by demeaning the position of another strikes me as stupid-stupid-stupid.
What was nifty about the whole small interchange was that it spoke to present conditions -- conditions that are growing more horrific right now ... on the TV news. Bodies piled up; stunned and bloodied faces; tears and eyes to numbed to cry; hunger on the rise; medical help all but non-existent. The heart contracts in sympathy and sympathetic sorrow. And the mind races to make sense of it, to put it in a context that will explain and compass and, in the end, put matters to rest.
But the central teaching of a guy like Robertson is this: No kidding -- I could do precisely the same thing, be precisely the same sort of nitwit, in an effort to lay things to rest and get others to agree with me. And I don't want to be that sort of nitwit ... the sorrow and suffering is too great to be written off with my 'meanings' and 'understandings.' It would be inhumane ... and I really don't want to do it ... even if my mind is just dying to do it, to be in control, to understand with kindness or unkindness, with wisdom or stupidity ... just to find a way to assert my control where others are, in this case, suffering.
Pat Robertson's remarks were very unfortunate ... dumber than a box of rocks, from my point of view. But the lesson was fine:
Don't you do that, Adam.
Just don't you do that!