Sam Harris, Richard Dawkin, and Christopher Hitchens have nothing on the greatest evangelist of atheism today, Pat Robertson. The Red Cross has reported up to 3 million of God's children have been killed, injured, or left homeless in Haiti after a devastating natural disaster hit one of the world's poorest nations. Lament and compassion are the dominant responses from most people around the world. We cry out with the psalmist, "How long O Lord," and let these tear-soaked prayers [for God's healing presence to penetrate the pain of our world] fuel our compassionate response to the suffering of these sisters and brothers.
Yet our heartbreak has turned to anger as another 'televangelist' offers ridiculous easy antidotes that are devoid of compassion (let alone sanity) and filled with self-righteous pretense. It's sometimes hard as an Australian to understand these aspects that populate the landscape of Christianity in the U.S. This first hit me while I was studying in the U.S. in 2001 and the horror that unfolded on the 11th of September that year. As people grieved, this horror was compounded with the words of Jerry Falwell who blamed the terrorist attacks on the queer community, feminists, and any number of other groups he found it useful to scapegoat. While some of my American friends were shocked but not surprised, I couldn't get over how bizarre this was, coming from someone who claims Jesus of Nazareth is at the centre of their faith!! And now Pat Robertson has continued this tradition of Christians doing altar-calls for atheism by blaming the earthquake on the victims of it. (!?!?!) Robertson said Haitians had "made a pact with the Devil" to gain freedom from the French. Does he apply the same logic to the U.S. gaining independence from Britain?
No. We can't expect logic nor any sense of history. Pat Robertson (who also called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez), would probably have had no problem with the CIA-backed coup that overthrew the democratically elected Aristide in Haiti, a Catholic Priest whose liberation theology drove him to work for improving the condition of the poor in a nation where people literally eat mud cakes to gain some nutrition.
I know Jesus asks us to pray for people like Pat Robertson, but at the moment I just feel angry. The spiritual immaturity that's revealed in the inability to enter into our own pain and the pain of the world by offering such ridiculous 'answers' (blaming the victims!) is shocking. What does it mean when self-proclaimed "Christian leaders" are against the message of Christ? What does it mean when "evangelists" seem to convert people to atheism?!? I think Olbermann's comments articulate the anger of many who are bewildered by such callousness:
Maybe Pat Robertson's comments are another example of 'the primitive brain' dressed-up in Christian-drag that Brian McLaren has recently blogged about. Still, I can understand why many people would hear Pat Robertson's comments and think in comparison atheism is an attractive option. Jim Wallis would be quick to remind us that the answer to 'bad faith' is not 'no faith' but 'better faith.' Let us hope the church's critique of Pat Robertson's televangelism will be the practice of the good news of Christ-like compassion for the victims of Haiti.
Jarrod McKenna is seeking to live God's love in a world where business as usual is costing us the earth (at the expense of the poor). He is a co-founder of the Peace Tree Community serving with the marginalised in one of the poorest of areas in his city, heads up Together for Humanity in Western Australia (an inter-faith youth initiative working for the common good), and is the founder and creative director of Empowering Peacemakers (EPYC), for which he has received an Australian peace award in his work for in empowering a generation of "eco-evangelists" and "peace prophets."