God and Haiti

I just read an interesting reflection on the religious overtones of the tragic earthquake in Haiti and the rather evil-sounding pronouncement by Pat Robertson on the “causes.” It got me thinking about the presence of God in the midst of this kind of disaster, and I felt like sharing. This verse sums up a lot of my thoughts:

In the day of prosperity be happy,
But in the day of adversity consider —
God has made the one as well as the other
So that man will not discover anything that will be after him.

I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness.

Ecclesiastes 7:14-16

We are not more righteous than the people of Haiti, nor are they to be blamed for their own tragedy, just as the people of New Orleans were not more wicked than the rest of us when their city was nearly wiped off the map by hurricane Katrina. The sun shines on the righteous and the wicked alike. Would we really say that only the wicked perish in a disaster? Or that the righteous and the wicked alike do not have the task of rebuilding their country afterward? It is our response after something like this happens that defines whether we are good people or not, whether we are generous or selfish, compassionate or hard-hearted.

I also really take exception to the implication of generational guilt in Robertson’s rationalization. Say (for the sake of argument) that the people of Haiti were punished for their sins. Would it be for their own sins or the sins of the generations before them? We are all responsible for our own souls – the sins of the father do not pass down, and we are all born new in the waters of baptism. If the slaves of Haiti did indeed sign a pact with the devil to win their freedom, how can that possibly bear on their great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren? This one makes me mad because it is a particular favorite of anti-Semites – “And all the people said, ‘His blood shall be on us and on our children!'” Matthew 27:25. As though a just and loving God would allow parents to condemn their own descendants to hell. (Note: I’m not saying that Pat Robertson is an anti-Semite per se, just that he is employing the same rhetorical device used by many anti-Semitic apologists. I leave the conclusion of whether he is, in fact, anti-Semitic up to you.)

Here’s my belief: God does not use nature to carry out his judgments; every person has the opportunity to repent of their sin every day of their life until their last. God allows nature to take its course in order to bring about the salvation of the world through the compassion and charity of his children.

Do not withhold your help from the people of Haiti because they have suffered God’s wrath. Rather, give generously to the people of Haiti because they are your brothers and sisters, and they are in the image and likeness of God just as you are.

How to help:

Catholic Relief Services
American Red Cross
Doctors Without Borders

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