Earthquakes, fires, volcanoes and hurricanes really mess with our minds, whether they happen to someone else or to us. Poor Pat Robertson, whose mind is always struggling uphill on very lean rations of fact (Napoleon III?) and is anyway a pretty low-displacement reasoning engine, further beset by having to lug an enormous cargo of bile and spite, jumped the shark hilariously with his Manichean heresy about Haiti (what is it with these guys’ grade-school fairy-tale theology, anyway?). But like the inarticulate, uninformed, enraged outbursts from the tea-party brownshirts in the back row, as David Waters implies in the story I linked to, this kind of thing is not unimportant and not uninformative.
The first thing it highlights is our need to believe we are basically OK, though maybe we slip up now and then; the second is a similar desperate hope that God is on our side. It’s pretty clear who “we” is for Robertson, and the early 19th century history of Haiti was, if you look at it a certain way, an ungrateful rejection by Africans of the infinite goodness offered to them by the European slavers and their Christian priests. It is true that the savagery of French administration of what was once the Pearl of the Antilles was especially over-the-top even by New World sugar, tobacco, mining and cotton standards, and the Haitians picked up plenty of that. The fact of blacks running their own country was such an affront to the way things were supposed to be that the US refused to recognize the second-oldest republic in its hemisphere until after Secession, and even the new independent Latin-American countries excluded Haiti from their councils. Haitians have made plenty of their own misery over two centuries, much of it rooted in internal racism between a mixed-race minority elite and a mostly-African population, but their European-led neighbors haven’t extended much help – or worse.
There’s also the difficulty a simple-minded theology has with the Job problem: why do bad things happen? Well, they happened to Job because God had a bar bet to settle with Satan, but they can only happen to thousands of people now if they deserve it, so Pat is happy to poke around in the little history he knows and explain why Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina and this earthquake and Haiti’s whole miserable history actually make sense (and now would be a good time to send a check to the 700 Club if you live in one of those places in which God likes to send disasters upon Sodomites or whatever you have in your suspect neighborhoods).
When I feel slimed by sharing a planet with the likes of Robertson, I like to have recourse to a really humane, smart, decent person who actually knows something, and Randy hits the spot so many times. Not to mention that he even offers some caution about enjoying stuff like this post.