Friday, January 15, 2010

Does God Hate Haiti?

On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake devastated the impoverished country of Haiti. The earthquake occurred inland approximately 16 miles southwest from the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The intensity of the quake shook the neighboring countries of Jamaica, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. Many of the buildings in Port-au-Prince, including the Presidential Palace, the Haitian Parliament, and the National Cathedral were significantly damaged or destroyed. According to a BBC News report on January 14, the International Red Cross estimates that approximately three million people were affected by the quake and that approximately 50,000 people were killed; yet the death toll seems to rise each hour. Indeed, some speculate (including Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive) that the death toll may have surpassed 100,000. If this estimate is true, as one blogger noted, “that would translate on a per capita basis … in the U.S. as a loss … of 3 million Americans.”

In the face of this unbelievable tragedy, many are confronted with difficult spiritual questions. Many struggle to make sense of such an horrific event. And some speculate on God’s involvement.

Televangelist Pat Robertson made such a speculation on Wednesday on his Christian Broadcasting Network’s program “The 700 Club.” He said, “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, uh, you know, Napoleon the third and 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 Prince, true story.” He continued, “And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free, and ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other.”

Robertson’s statement provoked outrage among believers and non-believers alike. Later on Wednesday, Raymond Joseph, Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and shamed Robertson. Joseph pointed out that Haiti’s freedom led to freedom across Latin America and eventually resulted in the U.S. being able to gain the Louisiana Territory for $15 million. Joseph continued, “That’s three cents an acre. That’s 13 states west of the Mississippi that the Haitian slaves’ revolt in Haiti provided America.”

Raymond Joseph wasn’t the only one upset by Robertson’s remarks. Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, posted an article online (“Does God Hate Haiti?”) on Thursday as a subtle response to Robertson (though Mohler never mentioned Robertson by name). Mohler asked, “Does God hate Haiti?” He added, “That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God's direct and observable judgment.”

Mohler acknowledged his belief that God controls all things as he noted, “God's rule over creation involves both direct and indirect acts, but his rule is constant. The universe, even after the consequences of the Fall, still demonstrates the character of God in all its dimensions, objects, and occurrences. And yet, we have no right to claim that we know why a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti happened at just that place and at just that moment.” He warned, “The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger.” Mohler asked rhetorically, “Why did no earthquake shake Nazi Germany? Why did no tsunami swallow up the killing fields of Cambodia? Why did Hurricane Katrina destroy far more evangelical churches than casinos?”

Mohler asked again, “Does God hate Haiti? God hates sin, and will punish both individual sinners and nations. But that means that every individual and every nation will be found guilty when measured by the standard of God's perfect righteousness. God does hate sin, but if God merely hated Haiti, there would be no missionaries there; there would be no aid streaming to the nation; there would be no rescue efforts—there would be no hope."

The earthquake in Haiti, which may eventually be included in the top ten deadliest natural disasters on record, is unexplainable from our perspective. As a Christian, I confess, as Mohler does, that God controls all things. Yet I must also confess that God’s ways are not my ways, that He sees things that I don’t, that I don’t have all the facts. By faith I trust that God is in control and that all things happen for a reason, even if that reason isn’t easily explained or understood this side of eternity. In the end I believe that John 3:16 applies as much to Haiti as it does to my family, yet neither deserves it.