Sometimes the news is so horrifying it takes your breath away, and you don’t know how to begin to respond. That’s the effect the earthquake in Haiti has probably had on all of us. For now, there seems to be little we can do except to pray and to give financial support to relief efforts. And grieve for our fellow human beings who have been so devastated, and who must deal with the possibility of even more damage from aftershocks.
Pat Robertson also responded by suggesting that the earthquake had something to do with Haitians having made a pact with the devil in their practice of voodoo. One’s immediate response is to denounce that kind of statement as judgmental, condescending, and assuming too much freedom to speak for God. I think all of those reactions are appropriate.
The error he made was not, however, in suggesting that God would never punish a nation for gross sin and idolatry. He did it with Sodom and Gomorrah, he did it with almost the whole human race in the flood, and he has warned us of further judgment yet to come. We fallible humans know that crime cannot be glossed over, for it would be unjust, and it would encourage crime to proliferate still more. God, who is all-wise and perfectly good, also practices his justice by giving crime (sin) its due. Only if one’s sin is forgiven through Christ is there freedom from this consequence.
Theoretically, then, if Haiti has made a pact with the devil, then it is possible that God has expressed his judgment on that. But I am not at all sure their sin is greater than America’s, India’s, Russia’s, Morocco’s, or any other country’s. I am really not sure that Robertson knows that God has directed this disaster toward Haiti as a particular punishment for their sin. Above all I cannot see how this meets a terribly wounded country’s need for pastoral help and love.
Robertson could have done far better to echo Jesus’ words following disasters at his time (Luke 13:1-5):
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
It was a warning to the smugly self-righteous. Do we suppose the Haitians are worse sinners than us? Or do recognize that we all stand equal before God, in like danger of perishing unless we turn to God through Christ? There is a true way to life and freedom, but it is the way of confession, humility, and trust.
(See further from Stand to Reason)