return today from a pilgrimage to Haiti. A group of American
Episcopalians has been visiting the church in Haiti since last Tuesday.
The Presiding Bishop was with us for part of the trip including a
memorial service on the occasion of the third anniversary of the
earthquake last Saturday. Much progress has been made here. The
country is recovering. The people remain resilient in the face of the
unimaginable suffering that descended upon them three years ago. There
are many bright energetic young people here, some Haitians who have
returned home following the earthquake to help rebuild their country.
As always, Haiti is filled with
inspiring people living out inspiring stories. Hope is amazingly
pervasive. As I have told many people, it is impossible to come to
Haiti without meeting Jesus in the people here.
January 12, 2010 earthquake is one of those events that, like the
Kennedy assassination and 9/11, I can remember vividly where I was and
what I was doing when I heard what had happened. I have been
remembering those days while I have been in Haiti. In particular I have
found myself remembering some of the religious commentary immediately
after the earthquake, in light of what has happened in Haiti since.
have found myself thinking about what Pat Robertson of all people
said. His interpretation was that the death toll of over 300,000 in
Haiti, the devastation of the earthquake, and the intractable poverty of
this hemisphere’s poorest country were the result of a pact with the
devil. This is what Pat Robertson, former presidential candidate,
evangelical minister, and host of the “700 Club” said: “They were under
the heel of the French, 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 will get us free from the prince.’ True story. And so
the devil said, ‘Ok it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. The
Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since
they have been cursed by one thing after another.”
frankly, it would be laughable if it were not for the facts that (1) so
many people suffered so horribly and still do, (2) so many people
believe this kind of ignorance masquerading as biblical and invest
millions of dollars every year in it, and (3) it is such a distortion,
blasphemy really, of God, who is love, and the Gospel of Christ, who is
Jesus was walking along and “he saw a man blind from birth.” His
disciples asked a question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?” The disciples, you see, had been watching the
“700 Club.” It is a very old tendency, seeing human suffering as God’s
punishment for human transgressions. It is a coward’s way of looking
at the world, an utter denial of the response God would hope for, the
sort of response so evident in the Haitian people themselves.
did not think this way. He replied, “Neither this man nor his parents
sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in
him.” It isn’t about sin at all. It isn’t about the devil at all. It
is about the opportunity to love. It is about the opportunity to reveal
God’s works in the world. It is about the opportunity presented by
human suffering to show forth the compassion of God. Jesus went on.
“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is
coming when no one can work.” (See John 9:1-4.)
don’t think for a minute that God inflicts suffering for any purpose. I
think God may allow suffering, either as the consequence of our choices
or because for some mysterious reason that is how things work with
nature. I do not put much stock in pacts with the devil either. For
one thing, I don’t think the devil can ever, ever defeat God, God’s
love, God’s purposes, God’s people, or God’s church.
I do think is that “who sinned” is simply the wrong question to ask.
Pacts with the devil are simply not terribly interesting from God’s
point of view. What does matter is what we do about suffering and need
when we find it.
is ultimately why we have been in Haiti this week. We have been here
to see God’s works revealed. And we have been here to see how we might
fit into the continuing revelation of God’s unfolding dream for
humanity, not least in Haiti. What suffering and need present is not a
question of fault; it is a question of opportunity to do something about
opportunity before us is the very same one Jesus placed before the
disciples, “that God’s works might be revealed.” What has happened in
Haiti doesn’t really say anything at all about God. But what we do
about it does. God’s work is now in our hands. Whether the works of
God will be revealed is up to us.