As the road is traveled through the recent tragedy in Haiti that registered 7.0, some talking heads seem to have been shaken into the ditches. The main participants are Televangelist Pat Robertson and Author Rick Warren. While the one makes off the beaten path comments, the other falls off the other way with nearly as absurd an idea.
First the Robertson statement which came forth on his show, The 700 Club, on January 13, 2010.
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal—ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."
Then appearing in the public sphere was the Warren retort at 8:35AM on January 14th via Twitter.
"Labeling any natural disaster as God's judgment is nonsense.True “judgment begins with God’s family”1Peter4:17,not others"
Yet again, this Pastor ignores the context of the verse referenced because the words satisfy the point he wants to make. Looking up this verse in the New American Standard Bible, The MacArthur Study Bible, John MacArthur's notes read in part, "Not condemnation, but the purging, chastening, and purifying of the church by the loving hand of God."
Listen closely to the statement of Robertson, which begins with what he believes to be a historical account and ends with the declaration that helping the people is what needs to be done now. So he may be in one ditch talking about a pact with the devil being the source of their trouble. How does he know what the devil said? The contrast between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is interesting and curious. But he then speaks of prayer and his optimism that good can come of the situation. He finishes by stressing that now is the time to help the suffering people.
Residing in the other ditch is a Pastor who tweeted. "Labeling any natural disaster as God's judgment is nonsense." He needs to read about the days of Noah in the Book of Genesis and about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah amongst other accounts of "natural" disasters. While not every act of nature is a "judgment" of God, to say that none are is a deceiving statement.
They don't know, I don't know, and I suspect no one other than God truly knows why the tragedy occurred. So it would be a bit presumptuous to declare it judgment from God, but equally to say it wasn't. God hasn't changed. So the response of Christians in my opinion is to offer assistance, pray for those involved and continue to preach the gospel that has eternal ramifications; Salvation is found through Jesus Christ alone and is necessary for all who seek eternal life whether they die in a natural disaster or in their sleep tonight in the comfort of their own bed.
In a related issue, I was recently told that Rush Limbaugh said that we shouldn't make donations to aid Haiti in the crisis. Context be damned, Limbaugh must be guilty and the story must be propagated. Listen to the context.
He is talking about how we already "donate" our tax dollars to Haiti and that there is no reason for people to have to go through government channels to donate. He may have taken things out of context, again for his own purposes, but he is not saying people should not donate or help the suffering people of Haiti.
Here again we have preconceived ideas and attitudes choosing portions of statements to support the agenda rather than giving a full hearing to the context. As a point of fairness in conversation, I am a conservative in view, but I am not a fan or listener to Limbaugh or Robertson. While Rick Warren has built quite a following, he is not immune to criticism or free from error.
The political polarization in our country now affects every aspect of life. Even reaching out to help others now carries political stigmas. Unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight to this phenomenon.