Friday, January 15, 2010


The devastation from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti has been terrible.  Tens of thousands of people are feared dead under collapsed buildings and so many are homeless and without basic food, water, and medical aid.  International rescue and assistance are being sent to help.

In the face of such a natural calamity it is deeply disturbing to me to hear the Rev. Pat Robertson attribute a spiritual cause for this and claim this is God's judgment on Haiti due to its people making a pact with the devil.  I remember similar claims of God's judgment when New Orleans and the Mississippi delta region was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  And the echoes of judgment reverberate from the 1980's initial outbreak of the HIV-AIDS virus.  There are times when I almost feel ashamed of being a Christian minister of the gospel when I hear such moralistic, judgmental diatribe from other ministers.  I expect that it can feel that way for the vast majority of Muslim imams who have to address Islam's extreme fundamentalist clergy, or Jewish rabbis having to deal with ultra-orthodox leaders, that are so caught up in their sense of righteous causes that catastrophic events mirror their purposes and reflect divine affirmation and judgment upon the Others.  It is dangerous stuff, this kind of projection of evil upon people and divine wrath read into natural catastrophes.

I cannot hold to such a view of God any longer, and I hope that most people see such pronouncements as portraying the Holy One as monstrous.  I sincerely hope that the vast majority of people of faith find such views of God repulsive and distance themselves from religious leaders that make such claims.  What is the fruit of such judgment?  Common people are associated with some pervasive evil intention and victimized a second time.

Certainly, and thankfully, the vast majority of credible spiritual leaders support all those who take up actions of compassion in response to such terrible situations as an earthquake in Haiti.  We pray for those who have experienced huge loss and death, and for those who are directly engaged in rescue and relief services.  We give our financial resources for emergency care of those who need it.  We do this as a response and participation in divine compassion and mercy, flowing from a God who cares for the sick and the stranger, the widowed and the orphaned, and holds all life dear.  It is not ours to cast or pronounce judgment.  Such talk bears bitter fruit.  It is ours, rather, to see the suffering Christ in the face of those who suffer and to respond with compassion.

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