Monday, January 18, 2010

Understanding Evil

In today's post I'm going to be talking about the quake in Haiti. Before I begin, I'd like to encourage you to consider donating money to disaster relief efforts and to long term development in Haiti. Here's some advice for how to give money to disaster relief efforts. Here is the website of a nonprofit that does development work in Haiti and several other countries. Please check out those links and consider how much you think you should give. Thank you.

Today I would like to talk about how we try to understand and make sense of large scale tragedies like the recent earthquake in Haiti.

In one of my early posts I asked the question Is God Really Good? In that post I was looking at the book of Job, but I think similar rules apply for wide scale tragedies such as this. In that post I comment that the mistake that Job's friends make is that they try to provide a reasonable explanation to an unreasonable situation.

Evil is always unreasonable. Evil always defies comprehension. Evil is always without justification; otherwise it would not be evil.

This is a truth that Pat Robertson doesn't seem to grasp. If he did, he wouldn't have claimed that the earthquake in Haiti was the result of a pact with the devil.

Pat Robertson's claim that the earthquake is the result of a pact with Satan is troubling on a few levels. It is troubling because it reveals a gross insensitivity to the extreme pain and suffering that the people of Haiti are going through right now. What they need right now is our support and our compassion, not our condemnation.

This is made even worse because Pat Robertson is a spokesman for a large segment of the American Christian community. When he slanders a nation, he doesn't just damage his own reputation. He hurts the reputations of Christians everywhere. I suspect that more than a few people will turn away from Jesus because of what Mr. Robertson has said, and I can't say that I blame them.

Finally, the most troubling thing about Pat Robertson's words is that they provide his followers with a false sense of security. Pat Robertson has often claimed that wide scale tragedies are the result of divine judgments, but those judgments are always directed at someone else. Pat Robertson's God is often angry, but never at Pat Robertson or his followers.

Jesus warns his followers not to have such an attitude. If I may paraphrase Jesus a little bit here, "Do you think that the Haitians are the worst sinners in the Western Hemisphere because they have suffered in this way?" Pat Robertson foolishly seems to believe that the answer is yes.

If we must talk about God's anger and judgment at a time like this, we should think about how God feels about us right now. We ought to consider the fact that Haiti's poverty and poor infrastructure is what allowed this quake to be so devastating. We should consider the fact that the U.S. is at least partially responsible for Haiti's current economic state.

There is a parable of Jesus that speaks to the relationship between Haiti and the United States. It is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In the story a poor man (Haiti) sits and begs just outside the gate of a wealthy person's home. but the wealthy man(the U.S.) does nothing to ease the poor man's suffering. I won't spoil the story except to say that it doesn't end well for the rich man.

This is the truth that Pat Robertson is concealing from his followers when he tells them that the Haitian people are responsible for their own misery. He prevents them from seeing the simple truth that we are obligated to take care of people in need. He prevents them from seeing that God's true anger is directed not at the Haitians, but at those people who see their misery and do nothing to help them.

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