Please Do Not Listen to Pat Robertson

Good Lord, he’s done it again.

Another horrible natural calamity, and Pat Robertson has again opened his mouth, inserted his foot, and generally embarrassed people of faith.

I won’t repeat what he has said, but the gist of it is that he has claimed that this catastrophic earthquake befell Haiti because they are under the spell of demonic powers.

Basically, he has taken an actual “folk tale” that Haitians tell themselves, and passed it on as if it’s historical fact or theological truth.

A little background…

Haiti, as you must know, has been a country of heartbreak for more than 200 years. While it’s the second oldest free democracy in the Western Hemisphere, it has never flourished the way anyone imagined a democracy might. (A cautionary tale for “democracy-spreaders” in our own time, btw…)

There are myriad reasons for this…internal corruption and fighting…strong dictators who did not develop the people…foreign interference.

Lots of things have gone wrong, generation after generation, in Haiti.

And so, surely the people began to ask themselves: “WHY?!”

As someone who’s been there five times myself, I ask that a lot…why is a country filled with such beautiful and spirited people beset by so much heartbreak, year after year after year?

One explanation came in the form a story Haitians tell themselves. The story goes that the founder of Haiti, its first “Liberator” from the French, made a deal with the Devil. Basically: help me free the country, and the country will serve you forever.

In theology school, we called this an “Etiological Narrative,” a story that gets told to explain “why” something is the way it is.

Why is there morning and night?
Because God made the “greater light” to rule the day, and the “lesser light” to rule the night.

At least, that’s what the ancient people who wrote Genesis believed.

Why does rain fall from the sky?
Because God created the waters “above” and the waters “below.”

It doesn’t mean it *literally* happened that way. But as human beings saw a blue sky that sometimes opened up and rained, as they saw the blue of the ocean that sometimes met the curve of the sky, there was a certain logic to the explanation. It helped something confusing make sense.

It’s more poetry than scientific fact…more folk tale than history book. It’s a story humans tell themselves to explain “why things are the way they are.”

This is the case with this folk tale from Haiti.

BTW, lest you believe such tales only develop in “poor and backward” countries, I would remind you of the “Curse of the Bambino,” the story that –until just a few years ago– lovers of the Boston Red Sox told themselves about their woeful place in baseball history.

Nobody in Boston *really* believed God had cursed them (New Yorkers are not allowed to weigh in on this… ;)) It was a *story* they told themselves to explain their plight.

There is not one shred of historical proof that this Haitian “curse” ever happened. It’s a LEGEND, that attempts to explain the hardship of Haiti.

Unfortunately, Pat Robertson opened his big mouth and repeated it as if it was FACT, as if it explains something *real* about the history of Haiti.

But there are even *more* reasons to condemn Robertson here.

He’s wrong theologically too.

God does not send natural calamities to sinful people, any more than God gives extra goodness and wealth to the faithful.

The rain, Jesus says, falls on the just and the unjust.

God does not curse entire societies to lives of suffering.

It’s easily provable in this case, by reminding you that my dear friends, Lila and Ken Foree, are currently trapped in Haiti, with a team of twelve. Lila and Ken have led mission teams there, from Highland Park United Methodist Church, for more than 30 years. I had the great good fortune to be in Haiti with them five times, while I was Minister of Outreach at that church.

I do not know two more holy and humble people than the Forees. To my mind, I place them alongside of Mother Theresa, in terms of their commitment to the poor and suffering. They have spent (literally) years of their lives, thousand of dollars of their own resources, in the country of Haiti…and in the city of Petit, Guave.

For years, I have wanted to write a long blog about my experiences in Haiti and specifically to write about Lila and Ken, who I consider among my dearest friends, but I’ve never gotten around to it. (I am sure I will soon…)

I mention them now because, as many in Dallas will know, they are currently stuck in Haiti in the aftermath of that earthquake with the current incarnation of those mission teams. Communication is tough. But it is known that all members of the group are accounted for and alive. (I am aware that there is probably additional encouraging news coming out today, but I am not at liberty to share, nor is it entirely confirmed…)

God would not send an earthquake to punish Haiti when there are so many decent, loving Haitian people…people with incredible hearts, generous spirits and abiding faith. And God would not punish the saints I know: Lila and Ken Foree.

Bad things just happen. Period. Sometimes there’s no good way to explain it.

And in fact, if you actually READ the Bible, you find that, time after time, God is especially present in places where there are suffering people…marginalized people…forgotten and poor people. God has a special love for the suffering, sick, and poor. Far from reigning judgment down on them for being in this condition, God call us US to serve them, love them, and minister WITH them, all the more.

So, given the state of the devastation there, my first reaction was to want to curse Pat Robertson…to scream at him…to rant through this blog at his total ineptitude and the shame of his words.

Then, I read this Facebook post from my friend and colleague, Rev. David Weber, who has helped to “center me” once again:

“My prayer is that Pat Robertson gets to experience genuine grace before he dies. Whatever foulness infected him early and has grown unabated must be a terrible and difficult burden. Do not envy him, do not try to follow his teachings. I actually feel some compassion for him, while hoping his “ministry” will fail so that others would not be stained by his anger.”

David’s absolutely right. In a strange way, I too feel compassion for him. He is so *clearly* misguided, and his words are such a vast caricature of the values and teachings of Jesus, that I hope and pray nobody really takes him seriously.

Yes, I know he has ardent followers who do. But most people know in their guts…in their souls….just how wrong he is.

I will probably write much more about Haiti in the coming weeks. (And I may have video of a brief appearance I made on Channel 8 this morning…)

I am heartbroken for the country, personally, and the truth is that I’m *not* taking it all in…because if I did I would simply be a puddle of tears of the floor.

I can’t go there yet….except for a few moments here and there.

It will take years and years for Haiti to recover. This earthquake has affected rich and poor alike there. The rescue effort itself will be slow and halting, as even the rescuers will be dealing with their sense of loss and injury. I am sure (as they asked me off-air at Channel 8 this morning) that I some of my Haitian friends have died.

I just can’t take it all in yet.

But I will say much more.

Right now I will say this:

Pray for ALL the people of Haiti.

Pray for ALL the rescuers now on the way.

And two more prayers I have to ask of you:

Pray for my friends stuck there now.

And pray for the heart of Pat Robertson.

But, please, do not listen to him.

————————————
Note: to those of you stumbling on this blog via links from other sites….welcome!

I’ve done some other writing on Haiti you might like.

Here is my plea for gifts to UMCOR.

Here is my reflection on the three United Methodists who died in Haiti, including one on a mission team I used to help lead.

Finally, here is my sermon from yesterday (audio file) that tells some stories told to me by those who survived the earthquake with the HPUMC team. It includes some of the same stories in the previous blog.

(As always, if you like this post, then “like” this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too…)

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

21 thoughts on “Please Do Not Listen to Pat Robertson

  1. Jesus said to pray that labor's will go into the fields as they are ready for harvest. Now is the time to pray for the people God will send in to Help them and lift them up….not to condem them. Pat Robertson is full of hatred for God, himself, and people. God does not have to send disasters to get people attention that is the reason for the Holy Spirit!!!

  2. Kenneth & Lila Foree are my grandparents and I was blessed to read your thoughts about them. They are wonderful Grandparents and we all love them dearly! We just heard that they are at the Port-au-Prince airport waiting to get on a plane to come home….God able to do abundantly more than we could ask or think!!

  3. Hi Claire: So great to hear from you. Yes, I had heard that too, but didn't want to say anything. I'm glad they've been in contact with you.They are TOUGH cookies, those two…and, like I said, two of my favorite people in the entire world. Like you, I look forward to celebrating with them when they get home!

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful words. hnb, you, too, are correct – unfortunately the word our world too often hears as "Christian" is not the Good News Jesus came to share. In the wake of this tragedy and as we face a weekend celebrating one who DID understand God's grace, good news and vision, may we stand strong, speak truth louder and if necessary, use words.

  5. I've examined a few hundred — maybe a thousand — skeletons and there is no difference between the rib cages of males and females. (Except a general size difference wherein females generally have smaller ribs than men.) But that doesn't invalidate your point, just suggesting a better example.

  6. I simply want to say I am grateful, Eric, for your great compassion, your giant heart, your insight and your wisdom.My prayers for the people of Haiti and those still in harm's way are fervently constant.

  7. Please explain how it is not possible for those who are in positions of political leadership to make bounding agreements with the forces of darkness. And why cant stories like those about the founder of Haiti be factual stories. The Native North Americans pass stories down from generation to generation through the conduit of word of mouth. So why cant i also assume the Haitians can do the same.

  8. Erik There are 4 reasons people suffer1. Justice – the dark side of love your neighbor as yourself, for as you judge, you will be judged. In short as you do, god will see to it that you are treated in the same way.2. Compassion – those who fail to have compassion for those who are suffering, wil be give the same or similar suffering in order to learn compassion.3. Law – God tells us not to do something, but we do it anyway, we must suffer the consequesnces. Or God tells us to do something, and we don't do it, we must suffer the consequesnces.4. Innocence – There are those who have given themselves to God, to be used as God needs to enlarge the Kingdom of Heaven. Just like Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins, they suffer to help others find God and come to Him.We have no way of knowing why those who suffered and are suffering in Haiti, but God does, as J. Vernon McGee said, "nothing happens in this world, unless God causes it, or allows it to happen." We are not capable of knowing the reasons behind all the suffering in Haiti, but God does and every instance of it, was caused by Him. You do no one any good by telling them that God is not a constant savior. God is present in all things, and all things happen for the eventual good.God is the only source of security in the world, whether you are looking for protection from natural disasters, human harm, or illness. Only God can save. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. If you don't have, you are alone.<><=======><>Gary Sechler

  9. from the post just above: "We are not capable of knowing the reasons behind all the suffering in Haiti, but God does and every instance of it, was caused by Him."What a horrible idea to have to go to sleep with every night. What a frightening way to have to view the world every morning. To really believe this, one would be bound to free every prisoner, excuse every child abuser, and applaud the world's leading despots. They are, after all, acting as mere agents God, yes? God the Master Puppeteer!Pardon me for opting out of such theology..blessings, David Weber

  10. Hi Gary: It's been a long time since our days on the old UM List. I hope you are well. I hope can hear David's thoughts in response to your post, and you will probably not be surprised to hear that mine would be very similar.One thing for sure, we're all in prayer for Haiti.

  11. Hello Eric, I missed you today at church. Please go to the website for DFW International (dfwinternational.org) because you can post The Connections Concert benefitting the relief fund for Haiti for free on their calendar of events. I pray that Pat Robertson reads your blog…and I pray for the people of Haiti and all the valiant people who are helping in recovery efforts!

  12. Estelle: As Sunday grew nearer, I grew more sad about not being there…selfishly, more for me that for you all…I missed being around Northaven folks today.But, it had been over four months since a Sunday off, because of the "leave" situation for MC, so I felt like I needed to honor the plan to be gone…it was a tough call, though.

  13. There may be some people sharing your thoughts, but there are MANY who don't. I, for one, disagree with you. I won't take your time nor mine to tell you the many reasons why but for starters – You begin with using the Lord's name in vain, and then proceed to disclaim the very Word of God. "Ancient people" didn't write the book of Genesis; the Holy Spirit did through Moses. Why should I believe your thoughts and opining over and above someone else's when you begin your diatribe so disrespecfully and so erroneously? The Bible says the world will know Christians by their love – or do you also choose not to believe that part of the Bible? Where is your love, my professing brother? Why shouldn't one who professes Christianity have just as much say as another? One day you both will stand before God, and then we will all know the real truth! Until then – either keep your opinions to yourself or tell God about them, and – I would suggest – stop polarizing Christians.

  14. Please NO ONE take literally anything that Pat Robertson says. He has become very senile in his old age and I have no idea why or how he is still on the air. We Conservatives don't take to heart anything he says anymore so why should you write a sermon about it? All we like sheep have gone astray each on to our OWN way , and the LORD hath laid on HIM the iniquity of us all, praise God. Forgive the guy for being old and senile.

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