They Just Can’t Help Themselves, Can They?14 January, 2010
The earthquake in Haiti is tragic and horrific. And the response from America was quick — U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard units were underway within, literally, hours. And the the response from one of the most prolific mouthpieces of the religious right was adding insult within, literally, hours.
Pat Robertson (always quick to blame tragedy on the victims), to the surprise of all many none, blamed the Haitians (from the New York Daily News):
The Rev. Pat Robertson is offering his own absurd explanation for why a quake hit Haiti: Many years ago, the island’s people “swore a pact to the devil.”
“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it,” the controversial televangelist said during an interview Wednesday on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
“They were under the heel of the French…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.’”
Robertson continued: “True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ They kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.”
Robertson went on to note that though Haiti shares the same island with the Dominican Republic, it remains desperately poor while its neighbor is “prosperous, healthy and full of resorts.”
“[Haitians] need to have a great turning to God, and out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come,” Robertson said.
Loose (and snarky) translation: The black people threw out their white rules and the only way the blacks could win would be to make a pact with the devil.
And, Mr. Robertson, the ‘pact with the devil’ was a purely financial one (From Boing Boing):
Haiti was forced to pay France for its freedom. When they couldn’t afford the ransom, France (and other countries, including the United States) helpfully offered high-interest loans. By 1900, 80% of Haiti’s annual budget went to paying off its “reparation” debt. They didn’t make the last payment until 1947. Just 10 years later, dictator François Duvalier took over the country and promptly bankrupted it, taking out more high-interest loans to pay for his corrupt lifestyle. The Duvalier family, with the blind-eye financial assistance of Western countries, killed 10s of thousands of Haitians, until the Haitian people overthrew them in 1986. Today, Haiti is still paying off the debt of an oppressive dictator no one would help them get rid of for 30 years.The rest of the world refuses to forgive this debt.
So, in a way, maybe Robertson is right. Haiti is caught in a deal with the devil, and the devil is us.
Not to be outdone, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Albert Mohler quickly put together an essay entitled (and I really wish I was kidding), Does God Hate Haiti?:
In truth, it is hard not to describe the earthquake as a disaster of biblical proportions. It certainly looks as if the wrath of God has fallen upon the Caribbean nation. Add to this the fact that Haiti is well known for its history of religious syncretism — mixing elements of various faiths, including occult practices. The nation is known for voodoo, sorcery, and a Catholic tradition that has been greatly influenced by the occult.
Haiti’s history is a catalog of political disasters, one after the other. In one account of the nation’s fight for independence from the French in the late 18th century, representatives of the nation are said to have made a pact with the Devil to throw off the French. According to this account, the Haitians considered the French as Catholics and wanted to side with whomever would oppose the French. Thus, some would use that tradition to explain all that has marked the tragedy of Haitian history — including now the earthquake of January 12, 2010.
Does God hate Haiti? That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God’s direct and observable judgment.
God does judge the nations — all of them — and God will judge the nations. His judgment is perfect and his justice is sure. He rules over all the nations and his sovereign will is demonstrated in the rising and falling of nations and empires and peoples. Every molecule of matter obeys his command, and the earthquakes reveal his reign — as do the tides of relief and assistance flowing into Haiti right now.
For someone who’s judgement is perfect, his aim is pretty damn piss-poor. He missed the Duvaliers, the bankers who funded them, and all those who profited from Haiti’s misery. And hit the general population of Haiti.
So, according to the mouthpieces of the right wing, the earthquake is just punishment from god(s) for an imaginary deal done almost 200 years ago. Does that stop the radical religious right using the tragedy to beg for more and more and more money?
In the world of reality, the Caribbean Plate (delineated in the north by Cuba, the various Virgin Islands, and Dominica) is moving east. It’s neighbor to the north (us) is heading west. The slip fault slipped. No god(s) involved. No holy retribution. Just geology.