God didn’t do it, and neither did the Devil

There was never much doubt where Pat Robertson stood in the U.S. “culture wars” that raged from the ’60s to the present: way over on the right.

The senior statesman of the Christian Conservative movement has long been known for his wild comments on what he thought was wrong with the world.

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians,”  he memorably wrote in 1992.

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected him from your city… don’t ask for his help because he might not be there,” he told residents of Dover, Pa. in 2005, after they voted out a school board that had tried to have “intelligent design” — a rebranded version of creationism — taught in local science classes.

So much for a merciful and compassionate God.

Now Robertson was at it  again this week, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti. First he said this:

“Christy, 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, Napoleon III or whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said we will serve you if you get us free from the French. True story. So the devil said okay it’s a deal, so the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since then they have been cursed by one thing after another.”

The evidence for this “true story” seems rather scant to say the least. Haitians gained their independence from France in 1804, but the future Napoleon III wasn’t born until 1808, so it wasn’t his heel the Haitians were under. Frankly, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for the existence of this “Devil” guy either, aside from others’ say-so.

“Desperately poor, the island of Hispanola is one side, on the one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts et cetera, Haiti is in desperate poverty.”

It’s quite a stretch to call the Dominican Republic “prosperous” and “healthy”. The country has a per capita GDP barely one-fifth of Canada’s, and that’s probably being boosted to some degree by money being sent home by Dominican expatriates in the U.S. The unemployment rate in 2008 was a miserable 14 percent, 42 percent of the population lived below the poverty line in 2004, and infectious diseases such as dengue fever and  typhoid fever remain serious risks.

“They need to have—and we need to pray for them—a great turning to God.”

I can see some merit in the suggestion that viewers pray for the Haitian people. Prayer is a peaceful activity that can put the mind at ease and help people cope with the stresses of everyday life.

But I question his assumption that catastrophe after catastrophe has befallen Haiti because it turned away from God or that its people made a pact with the Devil.

If turning away from God led to catastrophe and chaos, shouldn’t the Norwegians, Swedes and Finns be plagued with incessant disasters?

After all, in each of those three countries, fewer than one-in-ten citizens attend religious services on a weekly basis. When asked by pollsters a few years ago to rate the importance of God in their lives on a 1-to-10 scale, Norwegians gave God an average rating of 4.2 out of 10, and Swedes rated God a 3.9 out of 10.

Strangely enough, God doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with the Scandinavians. They too have the occasional problem, such as when the floor started to collapse during a Weight Watchers meeting in the Swedish town of Vaxjo on Wednesday evening. But even then, no injuries were reported.

Otherwise, Norway, Sweden and Finland are largely known as polite, orderly, well-governed places where, if it weren’t for the rest of the world, almost every day would be a slow news day.

I’d like to think that if there is a God, he or she is pointing to Scandinavia and saying, “Hey guys, over here — this is my vision for Earth. Human rights, tolerance, clean and democratic government, and a healthy and well-educated population. These guys got the message. Watch and learn.”

Whether or not there are any other forms of intelligent life in the Universe other than what we know of here on Earth still remains a mystery to us. If there is a divine creator, it’s content to let us guess at what it wants us to do instead of making a personal appearance to straighten everything out for once and for all.

Haiti’s problems have multiple roots: a long history of corruption, the inability to educate its young and the lack of time and resources for the pursuit of knowledge, and too little stability to even begin to fix these problems.

As we learned this week, it also had the bad luck to have its population crowded along a dangerous fault line.

For those like Pat Robertson, who don’t want to spend too much time thinking about why some countries are better off than others, it’s easier to just shift the blame over to God or the Devil.

“Think, think, think!” a British cabinet minister named Barbara Castle once said. “It will hurt like hell at first, but you’ll get used to it.”

Pat Robertson just went for the lazier, pain-free option again this week. Too bad.

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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