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Pat Robertson on Haiti

The recent devastating earthquake in Haiti, with the death toll estimated between 100,000-200,000, has dominated the news.

Also in the news is the prominent evangelical pastor and TV show host Pat Robertson, and his comments on the earthquake. He suggested Haiti’s problems are rooted in spiritual matters. Here’s Robertson’s quote:

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. And they got together and swore a pact with the devil they said, “We will serve you if you free us from the French.” True story. And so, the devil said, “Ok it’s a deal.”

They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted, and got themselves free.

But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another. Desperately poor.

That island of Hispaniola is one island that’s split right down the middle. On one side is the Dominican Republic, on the other side is Haiti. The Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resources, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island.

They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now we’re helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.

I had never heard of this Haitian pact with Satan.

Doing a bit of research suggests Robertson was referring to the meeting at Bois Caïman, a Voodoo ceremony which took place on August 14th, 1791. In the ceremony, after performing a ritualistic pig sacrifice, Haitian slaves vowed to kill all white men on the island. They succeeded to some extent, and eventually the native Haitians gained their independence. That said, some intellectuals questions whether the “pact with the devil” part ever took place.

Needless to say, virtually everyone shat themselves upon hearing Robertson’s remarks.

Seriously, everybody got angry at Pat Robertson. Newsmakers, secularists, even some religious. There are Facebook groups devoted to condemning Robertson’s remarks. Now, your grandma hates Pat Robertson. Newsmakers are saying Robertson “should be put to sleep.” The Haitian ambassador appeared on television to publicly condemn Robertson’s remarks. I’m told that even baby Jesus hates him now.

Now, it should be said that the context for Robertson’s remarks were not a distant, cold, “God’s sending you to hell”, as some have made it out to be. On the contrary, Robertson has been actively raising funds to aid in the Haitian relief. And Robertson ended his remark not with a cold “let God damn them”, but rather a “we must help them, we must stop the immense suffering”, and backed it up with fundraising for Haiti.

Nobody talks about that part, of course.

Still, my God, what a remark! Hundreds of thousands of people are dead – families crushed under buildings. And some old WASP televangelist is saying it’s God’s wrath for their pact with the devil? Earthquake-as-God’s-judgment? Jeez.

This isn’t the real issue, of course. Robertson’s controversial remarks, I mean. For most, the real issue, and the issue that secular folks will scoff and mock at, is the idea that spiritual darkness brings about God’s judgment. Virtually everyone upset at Robertson also laughs at the idea that God judges anyone. (…and a good deal of them laugh at the very idea of God.)

As Hebrew Christian apologist Dr. Michael Brown put it,

[some have called it] “Theological nonsense.” The idea that voodoo worship or Satan worship could bring on disaster or leave you unprotected is theological nonsense.

Actually, it’s not theological nonsense. It would be a sound biblical principle that if people didn’t worship the one true God – especially if that people had a covenant relationship with him at one point, like the people of Israel – and they gave themselves over to following demons, and the devil, and doing ungodly, destructive things, and raising kids in the midst of darkness – you’re going to tell me that Biblically that wouldn’t bring judgment, Biblically that wouldn’t bring some kind response?

Of course, who’s to say Haiti is such a place? And even if it is, is it really deserving of divine judgment? For ancient Israel, God’s covenant people with whom he has historically intervened, that’s one thing. Haitians aren’t ancient Israel.

Closing Thoughts

My thoughts are that it is awfully confident (arrogant?) of a human to claim to know God’s intentions. Unless there’s engraved writing on the wall, fire from heaven, bare arm of the Lord coming down from the clouds, gosh. Without that, it’s all speculation, isn’t it?

Did Robertson say God revealed this to him? Not that I see. And even if he made such a claim, how do you know whether to believe him? Religious people are famous for making false prophecies.

Religion folk are too quick to lend to the supernatural what can be explained by the natural. Earthquakes happen, folks. Not every catastrophe is divine punishment.

What do you fine blog readers think? Is Robertson’s remark insensitive and wrong? Or is there a possibility God is judging a nation’s sins by killing 200,000 of its citizens?


  1. ""Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:4-5)

  2. The devestation in Haiti is quite horrifying, but the earthquake did not occur because of any local religious cult or Satanism going on. If anything the earthquake--which was going to happen anyway--
    took advantage of what some of the local religion and corruption had been doing to the country for decades. The buildings and infrastructure in Haiti were already below sub-standard.

    Hopefully, Haiti can be rebuilt both politically and materially as a result of this catastrophe.

  3. In all honesty, I don't know where I come down on this issue. Check this out...

  4. "Earthquakes happen, folks. Not every catastrophe is divine punishment."

    True, but every single thing happens by the will of the Creator, nothing goes outside of that. The smallest detail, what a worm eats for dinner, or a bigger event, why your tire went flat this morning--it all falls in according to what HaShem wills, otherwise it would not happen. To our limited perception, it seems like random events, but in actuality HaShem is hidden behind that spontaneity in full control of everything.

    With that in mind, the only question that remains is for what reason did HaShem allow this event to happen, why was it His will for it to happen?

    If someone tells you to hold up your hand for 10 minutes, you're not gonna do it--there's no reason, its pointless. Even if someone pays you a few bucks to do it, you're still probably not going to do it. If humans don't like to do things for absolutely no reason, you can rest assured that HaShem doesn't do things for no reason.

    1. HaShem controls all
    2. HaShem doesn't do things for no reason

    Therefore, back to our question: why did HaShem allow this earthquake to happen?

    I think Aaron Sperry hit the nail on the head by posting Rabbi Lazer Brody's blog about the issue. In his blog he admits:

    Why Haiti? No one can know for sure. We don't have a spiritual printout from the Heavenly Court with Haiti's debits, credits, and balance. But we can't be blind - we must open our eyes and try to discern Hashem's deafening message.

    Furthermore, I think R. Lazer's words were are extremely important to take into consideration:

    Twin Towers (9/11), the 2004 Tsunami in Southeast Asia, and Katrina in 2005 were not meant to be forgotten. But they were. Sure, people built memorials and sell commemorating souvenirs, but that's not what Hashem wants. He wants our hearts, He wants us to uplift ourselves from the cesspool of modern-day materialism, and He wants us to return. Rather than doing that, we simply elect more progressively decadent leaders and legalize every abomination in the Torah, on both sides of the Atlantic.

    HaShem wants people hearts, its time to wake up and realize the "bad" things that happen to us are for our own good, because HaShem loves us and wants us to return, and even to realize we don't run the show--we don't run our own lives.

  5. Spot on, Judah and Gene.

    Interestingly, Lazer Brody is somewhere in between:

    There's a lot of freaky stuff in every country - what about the coronation of Myung Moon in the US Senate, for example - it doesn't mean the US "deserves" earthquakes.

    Could I cross post this with a link to Kineti LTziyon tomorrow?

  6. Yeze,

    IMHO, true. I don't disagree I just want to add: if HaShem hated Haitians, He wouldn't send them a warning (which I believe it was). "HaShem disciplines those he loves" -Mishlei/Proverbs 3:12.

  7. Wow, 3 folks mention Brody's article!

    I actually read it earlier this week, Yeze had posted it to the Rosh Pina blog. I liked the article, he has some good thoughts.

    I will have to link to it for this week's weekly bracha.

  8. The Dominican Republic has about 45% of its population living under the poverty level. This is not a prosperous nation. That would put it at about the same level as Afganistan.

    Also, I would take Pat Robertson's comments a lot more seriously if he predicted the event. If he warned the Hatian people, then predicted the events ... then he could warn more and people would listen. This is the model of the prophets that I see. Anyone can simply condemn a nation after a disaster.

    I pray that the Haitian people are united in rebuilding their nation. I would love to see them unite politically as well and better their living conditions. These countries are rich in natural resources but are victims of corrupt governments.

  9. The "pact with the devil" idea is shady. There is very little evidence that it actually took place.

    Let's say it is true though.
    Does that make the timing of Robertsons comments good? Not at all.

    When hundreds of thousands of people are dead and dying perhaps there are more important things to do than bring up a dubious "true story" that does nothing to minister to the devastation that is taking place.

    Ministering to the needs and providing relief however (as Robertson is a least on a nominal level involved in)COULD provide a platform to talk about these issues at a later date, though not the very least it insures that there could be more ears (survivors) to hear it if there is a platform. Even then it is not guaranteed. And that, I think, is perfectly ok.

  10. Hi Jon,

    I was hoping you'd show up and comment, since you actually started a Facebook group dedicated to this issue. :-)

    The "pact with the devil" part is contested, yep. I mentioned this in the post.

    That said, it isn't contested (as far as I can tell, anyways) that the spark of the revolution involved a meeting arranged by vodoo priests, with a pig being sacrificed, its blood given to the attendants, who then conspired, and carried out, the killing of whites on the island. That's a mess.

    It does feel utterly insensitive to bring up Haiti's moral issues right now. And to say essentially, "Yes, God is judging the voodoo heathens through the killing of 200,000 Haitian citizens", well, that's pure speculation, brash, and probably wrong.

  11. I couldn't disagree more with the Aharon's idea that "every single thing happens by the will of the Creator" and that "he is in full control of everything." Aharon then went on to say that "Hashem allowed this earthquake." The difference between God willing an earthquake and God allowing an earthquake is enormous. Just because God allows something, doesn't mean he approves of it.

    In my view, we live in a fallen world. Due to the fall, which brought about a rift in the relationships between God, man, and creation, things happen which happen outside of God's will (yet, he still allows it). It is only on that Day when Messiah Yeshua subdues the enemies of God that creation will be restored to its perfect order.

    The question we should focus our attention on now, is how God can bring glory to himself out of this tragedy? And how can we as disciples of Yeshua participate in that effort?

  12. As terrible as this tragedy is, we also have to recognize how there are normal cycles of the tectonic plates, put into the Creation by God, so that there are not any worse catastrophes--such as magma pockets opening up and swallow entire islands or small countries! When land started originally forming on our planet because of volcanic eruptions out of the sea, this surely created a great deal of seismic and ecological upheaval.

    As bad as what has happened in Haiti is, there was some tension in the tectonic plates that had to be relieved. Be thankful that Haiti did not slide into the sea.

  13. judeoxian,

    You don't believe HaShem controls all? So something happens outside of what he will to happen? Then he is not all-powerful, just a guy sitting up in the clouds watching things happen? How ridiculous is that!?

    If you would apply logic to what I was saying, it makes perfect sense. HaShem allowed it means that it was His will for it to happen. Everything that happens, that he either allows or does, or both (really, they shouldn't be separated, only from out perspective they tend to be), is His will. He is all-powerful and surely in control of everything.

    HaSatan and sitra ahhra, the forces of evil are not allowed to do anything outside of what HaShem allows them to do, and they must do what HaShem commands them to do. Its not a 'HaShem is up here and the devil is down there' thing, and they're just duking it out--are you kidding? HaShem created all and controls all, he can do anything he wants whenever he wants.

  14. The press release of CBN re Pat Robertson’s cruel and inaccurate statement didn’t go nearly far enough and surely Pat Robertson should be making a personal televised apology not leaving it to CBN’s spokesperson. . After all Pat Robertson claimed that this “pact with the devil” was a TRUE story (I’ve watched the video clip several times). He also said that it took place at the time of Napoleon 3rd (1808-1873) when in fact the slave rebellion was in the 1790’s at the time of his uncle Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). It seems that Pat Robertson’s arithmatic may be as poor as his history and theology as the legend stated that the curse would last for 200 years . If Pat Robertson really believes the story, the curse should be over by now. I know that Pat is an old man but he has been making these horrible, very public, remarks for many years on a whole range of topics including civil rights, women's issues, apartheid, homosexuality, 9/11, Chavez, Ariel Sharon, Hurricane Katrina etc etc.

    If Haiti is being judged, why isn't the USA being judged for it's treatment of Native Americans, support of slavery, dubious foreign policy in Latin America, vietnam. atrocities in Iraq etc etc.

  15. "$5 says Annie voted for Barack Obama."

    $5 she didn't (she seems to be from U.K.) Although she would've if she could've.

  16. Hahah. You're probably right.

    Annie, if you haven't yet disappeared into the great internet unknown, can you tell me whether I owe Gene a drink?

  17. Lol on the Obama guess..... I think it's an interesting subject that Aaron pointed out about the last major disasters... Asian tsunami, Hurricane katrina, and now Haitian earthquake all hit heavy "Voodoo" areas...... undeniable and interesting......

  18. Aharon -

    I agree that God is all powerful, and in expressing his power he created agents with free will. These agents (both the demonic and humanity) rebelled against God's authority and thus act contrary to God's will.

    I agree that they could not without God's allowance, but this is not to say that they act in accord with God's will.

    Interestingly, the FFOZ-Gospel reading cycle this week is Mark 4-5. In those chapters, we read of the Master's calming of the storm. Mark writes that Yeshua "rebuked" the storm.

    Interesting choice of words. Elsewhere in Mark, that verb is only used in the context of rebuking demons and exorcism. Could it be that Mark is giving us a glimpse into the real cosmic, spiritual conflict between light and darkness? If so (and many scholars say yes), then this passage would show us that there are demonic powers behind destructive forces of nature.

    I found that very appropriate to the tragedy in Haiti.

  19. I'm glad to see someone taking a closer look at what Pat Robertson had to say. He is considering an angle that others haven't. I can't totally agree with Him - God does not send judgments like that. "...he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45) If He sends rain and physical blessings on all, why would He appoint some to divine retribution?

    However, there is another option. That is the one that God respects our free will and allows us to exercise them. We make our own choices but along with every choice comes a (built-in) consequence. God would protect us from the ravages of nature and the attacks of Satan, the destroyer. But when we turn from Him, He, being a gentleman, does not force His presence on us. He is the God "who goes away" when He is not welcome (eg Matthew 8:34-9:1). God's character must line up with what His Son showed during His years on earth (He said, "if you have seen me you have seen the Father"). This is all well explained in a book appropriately titled "Light on the Dark Side of God." Find about more about God's character and even get a (free) copy of the book at this site.

  20. This is always an area that is especially difficult for humans to venture into, trying to decipher and explain the character and motivations of YHWH.

    We can't and shouldn't try .

    I really don't believe that any of us have an inside track on what He does and why.

    Clearly there are consequences for sin. And scripture has many examples of both sides of the arguments presented here.

    So where do we stand when the world around us is falling apart?

    On the solid rock of Messiah. He will not be moved.



  21. Efrayim - We can't and shouldn't try to understand YHWH? What about

    "And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children." (Isa 54:13)

    "But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD." (Jer 9:24)

    "And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart." (Jer 24:7)

    "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3)

    "Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame." (1 Cor 15:34)

    "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor 4:6)

    "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." (1 John 5:20)

    All we have to do to get an inside track is to read His word. Of course, that needs to be done correctly and it does take effort. But it is totally worth it. Knowing Him is the greatest of all blessings.

    "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15)

    Absolutely and always there are consequences for sins. When we choose any act we are also choosing the result - the consequences. Or should be. Many people act in ignorance or willful blindness (eg: a smoker) but they still get the consequences that go with their choices. If they didn’t, God would be preventing them from exercising their free wills.

    We need to stand on the solid rock but if we don't understand the character of God correctly we might be standing on the wrong one. That is how religious people could torture "heretics" during the inquisition. They were acting according to their understanding of the character of God.

    Again, check this out.

  22. judoxian,

    You said (my comments in bold):

    I agree that God is all powerful, and in expressing his power he created agents with free will. These agents (both the demonic and humanity) rebelled against God's authority and thus act contrary to God's will.
    If it was not God's will for such things to happen, He wouldn't have allowed them to happen--simple as that. He did allow them to happen because He has a plan and purpose for Creation and indeed for every little detail that happens on earth, and such evil to happen fits perfectly into that plan and purpose that God has for this physical world of existence.

    I agree that they could not without God's allowance, but this is not to say that they act in accord with God's will.
    If God allows (or in actually, causes) someone to do something evil or bad, or something bad to happen, it is His will, if it wasn't it would not happen.

    Interestingly, the FFOZ-Gospel reading cycle this week is Mark 4-5. In those chapters, we read of the Master's calming of the storm. Mark writes that Yeshua "rebuked" the storm.

    Interesting choice of words. Elsewhere in Mark, that verb is only used in the context of rebuking demons and exorcism. Could it be that Mark is giving us a glimpse into the real cosmic, spiritual conflict between light and darkness? If so (and many scholars say yes), then this passage would show us that there are demonic powers behind destructive forces of nature.

    I found that very appropriate to the tragedy in Haiti.

    Sefer Hhanokh/Book of Enoch (which was originally, and should be in the Tanakh) records that there are malakhaim/messengers/angels who are set over the various functions of the universe. Messengers who bring evil are demons, more or less. They do nothing without HaShem causing them to do it. This mindset is hard to grasp, because we look at things from our view and we usually can't see the reasons HaShem does certain things, therefore we believe that bad things that happen couldn't possibly be from Him and His will.
    However, in actuality, it is 100% emuna to realize:
    1. Everything comes from HaShem
    2. HaShem does everything for the ultimate good.
    3. Not getting upset when things we want or need don't seem to happen. Not getting upset and realizing the previous two points along with persistent sincere personal prayer regarding our needs and (pure) desires is a sure way to elevate ourselves, not ever have to worry, and flow with HaShem's will.

  23. Ray,

    Thanks for the basket of "church" stuff.

    I wasn't saying that a person could not and should not reach an understanding "about" Him.

    What I said was that we as humans in our present condition could not and therefore should not try to interpret YHWH's divine character and the motivations of His heart by our observation of natural phenomena here on earth.

    I used fewer words, but this is a blog.

    Of course YHWH is sovereignly in control of all creation. And His judgement of individuals and or nations is His own.

    Should He cause us to be privy to what He is doing, as in the case of Avraham, then so be it. But unless He does, guessing is a waste of time and can lead to theological shakiness for a person not well grounded in the Word.

    btw, there is only one Rock. Standing on the wrong one is not an option.



  24. I think we should just chalk this one up to Pat Robertson's senility. What do ya say?

  25. Haha, I think JK McKee offered perhaps the most simplest and truthful explanation so far, hahahah.

  26. Aharon - We're going to have to leave it there. You think God wills evil to happen. I cannot accept that, because it would make God the cause of evil and sin. Your views are essentially hyper-Calvinist. Myself, I am more of an open theist/Arminian.

    Another issue, quite off the subject, is the Book of Enoch. This is not a God-breathed book.


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