Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pat Robertson's teachings

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!


  1. Adam, friend,

    i am suffering. please allow me some moments of peace at your blog. i wish for a place of solace to seek refuge, my physical refuge has not shown up yet and i'm walking a tight-rope.

    in gratitude,

  2. Adam, why is the air at your blog so much fresher?


    you should have a bigger photo of yourself at your blog. the current one is too small. but i had a good time visualising you as my granddad. i always thought it's a one good thing to have a granddad around, especially when i am about to get a spanking by my mommy and daddy. A grandmom will be fine too, but i never had a real granddad. A granddad can probably reason better than a grandmom, especially in front of mommy and daddy, and also earn their respect.

    i hope to get away scot free this time. but trust me, i really didn't break the rules this time. maybe i broke the rules before, i dunno, my parents are angry because of what i am doing now, but i really didnt break the rules this time.

    with love,

  3. Hi ricebowl -- Sorry to hear you find yourself in perilous times. Sometimes things are just very, very hard...and who wouldn't seek some relief?

    But I would add this: The more ideal the peace, the less real it becomes. Certainly it is wonderful to walk into the temples of our choice, but what they advertise has nothing to do with temples.

    So ... yes, the political realities of a Pat Robertson or the strong opinions his ways may elicit can feel like a betrayal of a more serene setting ... on the cushion, in the temple, where choirs harmonize beautifully. But is the kind of peace anyone might seek the sort of peace that can be dismantled by a daily newspaper or television show or even strong opinions one way or the other?

    The more ideal, the less real. That's why any of us practice, I imagine.

    Take good care of yourself, my friend.