“It never ceases to amaze me that in times of amazing human suffering somebody says something that can be so utterly stupid.”
Such was the response of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs to the declaration by ‘700 Club ‘ and ‘CBN’ founder Pat Robertson that the earthquake in Haiti was another in a long line of natural disasters brought on by a “pact with the devil” Haitians made some two centuries ago. The White House Press Secretary is absolutely right, but what bothers me is how often that something “so utterly stupid” is said by a minister of God.
There’s no denying that many times in the Old Testament God used a variety of ‘natural disasters’ to chastise one nation or another; so it is certainly understandable that many would question if God is still working that way today. What I question however; is anyone’s ability to accurately discern which events are God in action and which are the natural consequence of a world that no longer works according to the original design? And even if you have reason to believe that a given event may, in fact, be the consequences of spiritual decisions made centuries ago, how can you possibly think saying so at a time when emotions are obviously running high can be of any help, either to the victims or to the cause of Christ?
It is just this kind of spiritual thoughtlessness that casts Christians and the gospel in a light not as a message of love and redemption, but rather one of judgment and condemnation. Daily Show host Jon Stewart actually hit the nail on the head during last night’s program. After reading a number of quotes from the Bible that spoke of the love and comfort of God, eg. “Turn to me and I will comfort you” Stewart looks straight into the camera and says to Robertson,
“Out of all the things that you could draw on from your religion to bring comfort to a devastated people and region, you decided to go with, ‘Tough kitties, devil folk!’“
Now I’m sure that this was not the spirit in which Robertson made the statements he made; the problem is that’s how it almost always comes across. And while Robertson seems to have a substantial track record in this regard, he is not alone. All too often we as Christians think we have to expound on everything the scriptures have to say on any given situation we encounter, and more often than not all that’s needed is a simple, “Don’t be afraid. God Loves You!”
Throughout all of Scripture, God’s messengers most frequently begin their message to the people with these simple words, “Do not be afraid!” Do not be afraid, God will deliver you. Do not be afraid, God will bless you. Even while telling his disciples of the terrible things that were to come (including earthquakes) Jesus told them not to be afraid.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 NIV
Now I know some of you are wondering, “Okay, but Haiti gets hit a lot. What if Robertson is right?” Well I’m wondering, does it really matter? Does why the earthquake hit let us off the hook for being compassionate? Are we called to help and encourage only those whose ancestors had their act together? I don’t think so.
I do think the Bible calls us to be the presence of Christ in this world. And I do think that means to feed the hungry, heal the sick and mend the brokenhearted regardless of how they got into their situation. And I also think that if the children of God can’t do this without saying things that make them sound spiritually knowledgeable, but end up doing more harm than good, then maybe God’s children should be seen and not heard!