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Pat Robertson’s mean Haiti parlour trick [Addenda]

Christian Right/Republican leading light Pat Robertson resurrected a simple, ugly myth which if believed erases any need to understand the Enriquilla-Plantain Garden geological fault slip which devastated Haiti and numbs natural human sympathy toward the victims.

Robertson blamed the suffering Haitians, accusing their ancestors of making a pact with the devil by which current Haitians are cursed. On Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club,” he said:

Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heal [heel] of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or 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 French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it’s a deal.

True? Not to Haitian Christians like Jean R. Gelin. About 95% of the country “claims Christian beliefs,” and about 85% or those are Catholic. And given to greeting crisis with devotional song and prayer, not devil worship.

Nor to careful scholars of the role of Vodou leaders in the successful slave uprising. The cultural role of Vodou in the revolution against French Catholic slave masters is quite clear, but translating that into a generation-spanning pact with the devil is a mean parlor trick for building audience and raising money.

Like the long parade of Robertson New Year’s prophecies, it is a shamelessly successful attempt to command the attention of various audiences.

Addenda

Dan finds theological self-contradiction in Robertson’s argument:

Aside from being absurd on its face, Robertson’s claim doesn’t square with his own theology. Haiti has been “cursed” by, among other things, invasion, occupation, isolation and oppression at the hands of Western powers such as France and the US. So by Robertson’s logic, the US has been used as the devil’s tool. Hardly squares with his “Christian nation” theology. Furthermore, I’d like to share with Robertson a quick history lesson on “pacts with the devil” in Haiti — the French colonial rulers of Haiti found it more cost-effective to work African slaves to death than to provide them with even the barest necessities, all the while claiming Christian missionary motives for slavery (for example, Baptism was compulsory). Think for a second how that flouts the teachings of Jesus. And just to add another bit of foundational blasphemy, this oppressive regime was started under the rule of Louis XIV, who claimed to rule by divine right.

Matt Yglesias wonders if Robertson has disinterred the French slave master point of view:

If you were a white, Catholic French person or Haitian plantation owner, I can see why you would characterize this as a prayer offered “to the devil.” The black Haitians are postulating the existence of two Gods, one for the whites and one for the blacks. The whites regard the God they pray to as the one true God. So if the blacks are praying to some second god, and doing it with a Vodou ceremony, it stands to reason that they’re engaged in a satanic ritual of some sort.

Rice University sociologist Michael Lindsay interviewed Robertson for Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. Lindsay said:

“Pat Robertson continues to distinguish himself as American evangelicalism’s most flamboyant spokesperson. When tragedies strike, people naturally ask questions about why bad things happen to the innocent, and millions of Americans see the hand of God or the devil at work in natural calamities,” Lindsay said. “But few religious leaders today draw the kinds of explicit connection as Pat Robertson has done with the Haitian earthquake. Robertson’s comments reflect as much his rhetorical flourish and skill as a ratings booster as they do his theology.”

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President AL Mohler tweeted that Robertson’s remarks are “Theological arrogance matched to ignorance.”

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January 13, 2010 - Posted by | Politics | , ,

3 Comments

  1. [...] here: Pat Robertson's mean Haiti parlour trick « BaptistPlanet var addthis_pub = 'exil0r'; var addthis_language = 'en';var addthis_options = 'email, favorites, [...]

    Pingback by Pat Robertson's mean Haiti parlour trick « BaptistPlanet | JAENUDIN TAUFIK PERSONAL BLOG | January 14, 2010

  2. The truth is that they did make a pact with the devil.

    Now the significance you put on that pact I guess has to do with whether you believe the devil is real or not.

    But it is one of Haiti’s founding myths.

    http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/small_axe/v009/9.2laroche.html

    According to Haitian national history, the revolutionary war was launched on the eve of a religious ceremony at a place in the north called Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman, in French). At that ceremony on August 14, 1791, an African slave named Boukman sacrificed a pig, and both Kongo and Creole spirits descended to possess the bodies of the participants, encouraging them and fortifying them for the upcoming revolutionary war. Despite deep ambivalence on the part of intellectuals, Catholics, and the moneyed classes, Vodou has always been linked with militarism and the war of independence and, through it, the pride of national sovereignty.

    So, yeah if there is a devil, Haiti made a pact with it. Might explain why even though Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, the Dominican Republic has been far more successful.

    Comment by Steve | January 17, 2010

  3. [...] tangle with televangelical self-promotionist Pat Robertson’s assertion of a Haitian pact with the devil was a humorless exercise until we stumbled across Martin E. Marty’s Jan. 18 [...]

    Pingback by Pat Robertson’s budding secular humanism « BaptistPlanet | January 20, 2010


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