I have been watching the uproar of the crazy respone of Pat Robertson to the Haiti disaster. I have been asked by several for my response for a pretty insensitive non-Christain like statement. I get a daily newsletter called God Issues from Dr. Jim Denison, President of The Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, Texas, and pastor of the Park Cities Baptist Church. And I think he wrote a great and Biblical Response…..So I am passing it on to you…. Here is part two
Haiti and the devil (part two) by Dr. Jim Denison
The tragedy in Haiti continues to claim the attention of the world. According to this morning’s Wall Street Journal, Haitian officials have said that the death toll could top 100,000. The earthquake was magnitude 7, estimated by the United States Geological Survey to be the equivalent of half a million tons of high explosive, or the energy of several nuclear bombs. Could this disaster be the judgment of God?
In his comments on the tragedy two days ago, Pat Robertson spoke of a pact made by the island’s inhabitants with the devil. His statement has been criticized by many and defended by others. Rev. Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network has released a statement: “His comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed.”
What is the actual history behind this allegation?
First, I want to be as fair as possible to Rev. Robertson. He is by no means the only person who refers to this alleged pact with the devil. While the historical record is ambiguous, as we will see, this tradition has been widely quoted over the centuries. The CBN statement made on Wednesday notes that their ministry “has been working to help thousands of people in Haiti over the last year, and they are currently launching a major relief and recovery effort to help the victims of this disaster. They have sent a shipment of millions of dollars worth of medications that is now in Haiti, and their disaster team leaders are expected to arrive tomorrow and begin operations to ease the suffering.”
Now let’s examine the tradition Rev. Robertson and others have cited. The fact is that no one knows if the alleged Haitian pact with the devil actually happened. The CBN statement notes “the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman.” Rev. Robertson misspoke in identifying this event with the reign of Napoleon III, who didn’t come to power until 1848. But what about the event itself?
Here’s what we know: on August 14, 1791, slaves in the northern part of Haiti gathered to begin a revolt against their French masters. Led by a voodoo priest named Dutty Boukman, they spawned a revolution which expelled the French and established the Republic of Haiti in 1804.
Here the story blurs. One tradition claims that Boukman led his slave followers in a voodoo ritual in which they slaughtered a pig and drank its blood. Then they allegedly made their pact with the devil: if he would free their people from the French, they would serve his spirits on the island for the next 200 years. By dedicating their country to Satan, they caused the economic deprivation and natural disasters which have plagued Haiti over the last two centuries.
Since their supposed pledge to the devil was up in 1991, how could it have caused the January 12 disaster? In April of 2003, President Aristide made voodoo an official religion in Haiti; some claim that this act renewed Haiti’s pact with the devil.
There’s another way to tell the story, however. We’re out of space for today’s essay, so we’ll continue on Monday. In the meantime, the most important thing Christians can do is not to speculate on the causes of the tragedy but to respond with prayer and compassion. Rev. Robertson’s ministry has sent millions of dollars of medications. What will you do for Haiti today?