What Robertson actually said

First of all, let me say I’m not a big fan of Pat Robertson.

His theology is a little too experiential for me, and his ego a little too large. I’ve met the man and I have friends who have worked for him. He insists on a level of loyalty I find frightening. And when I had the opportunity to work for him once I decided not to.

That’s not to say he hasn’t done anything good or important. The university he founded, for example, is the source of much thoughtful, Christian scholarship. I just don’t look to him for leadership.

His thoughts about Haiti may have been misconstrued, however. I understand the media may do this. In fact I expect it. It’s easy to find what one conservative says and let that represent what all conservatives think. I resent the stereotype and the over simplification.

But in this case Robertson didn’t actually say that God sent an earthquake to Haiti because they made a pack with the devil. He suggested they made a pact with the devil, which they did, and that this had resulted in deep poverty. He hoped that in this tragedy they might turn to God, which any thinking Christian might also hope.

Here is what he actually said:

Ever since [the pact with the devil], they have been cursed by one thing after another, desperately poor.…. They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God, that out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic that something good may come. But right now we’re helping the suffering people, and the suffering is almost unimaginable.

You can see the video here.

He referred to a historical event and said it resulted in deep poverty. Voodoo, with its fatalism and spiritualism, is in fact culturally pervasive in Haiti. Many thoughtful people would agree that it contributes to their impoverishment.

But Robertson says he is optimistic something good could come out of the current situation, encouraging Christians to pray and acknowledging the suffering, while raising $2 million in relief funds.

And so the media piles on. In an interview with the Haitian ambassador, who twice referred to Haiti’s “pack with the devil” as having positive consequences for the U.S., Rachel Madden says Robertson is “an unintended consequence of the First Amendment.”

But Christians are piling on to.

Many of them point to a post by Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz. Miller, who “doesn’t want to debate the theological implications of Robertson’s statement” because he likes to “speak of faith the way I speak of personal matters.” He says he “pities” Robertson for trying to show us how “tough” he is.

I suppose you should judge for yourself.

But while I might find Robertson’s timing off or wish he was more empathetic or wish the media didn’t assume I shared every aspect of his theology (see my views here), it would be hard for me to describe his tone or demeanor in this video as “tough.” Or condescending or judgmental or any of a number of things he is being accused of.

Miller pities Robertson.

I pity us all.

3 thoughts on “What Robertson actually said”

  1. Wally,
    I appreciated your reflections on this. I’ve heard so much about the backlash against Robertson, but had never really seen for myself what he said and in what context. I appreciate you setting the record straight which, in this age of instantaneous news, often means the truth gets distorted for the sake of “timeliness.” Thanks.

  2. Is there any real consequence for the leadership of a nation to openly make a pact with the Devil? That is the question being raised. Robertson thinks there is… the secular media think there isn’t.

    To even discuss the question one must first settle on what would constitute acceptable or authoritative “evidence” which would support one view or the other.

    If the Christian Bible is accepted as a credible source of authority, then one certainly must recognize ample prescedent of other disasters befalling nations who openly disavowed the

    And that same source of authority presents many examples of dramatic change following national leaders’ repentance and recommittment to God.

    Did God “cause” the Haiti earthquake?

    I don’t know.

    But, that nations’ leaders’ on-going pact with the Devil seems unlikely to help make things better.


    Tom Ball

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