Pondering the Haiti Earthquake–and Other “Natural Disasters”
“When the earth experiences Your judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Is. 26:9)
In the book of Revelation, the Bible describes a time when God will judge the sins of earth with natural catastrophes and supernatural signs including earthquakes. The result of these catastrophes is stated in Revelation 16:9, “They cursed the name of God who sent all these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory” (New Living Translation).
It seems strange that people wouldn’t confess their sins when faced with the power of nature’s God. But is the response to the recent Haiti quake instructive of the secular mind-set that Revelation tells us will be prevalent one day?
The politically correct (secular) view of the Haiti quake was that God was not involved in the calamity–only (maybe) in the relief efforts. How do they know? Why was there such a strong aversion to even considering that God could be a part of this natural disaster?
Here’s the obvious reason: Secularists want to convince the world that there is no God–that they are the ultimate authorities and their forms of human government, including humanitarian relief, are the main things that should be trusted and appreciated. The atheistic interpretation of reality instructs people that there is no God, no such thing as sin and thus no sins to be repented of.
From that vantage point a future Revelation 16:9 taking place in an atheist dominated world makes total sense. No God–no repentance–even when it’s a smart thing to consider.
Now you know why the secular press and blogs went so spitefully after Pat Robertson’s interpretation of the Haiti earthquake. The The Huffington Post was quick to criticize his perspective on January 14, 2010 saying that “Pat Robertson said Wednesday that earthquake-ravaged Haiti has been “cursed” by a “pact to the devil.” Others said the remarks were insensitive, out-of touch, and had no place in the post-earthquake debate.
Here’s what Pat Robertson actually said. “Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it’s a deal.”
“Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle; on the one side is Haiti on the other is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God and out of this tragedy I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now we are helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable.”
One cartoonist condemning Robertson’s words drew a map of a fault line running through Haiti and another one traversing the lips of the CBN founder. It was a cheap shot.
Pat Robertson was not saying as fact that the earthquake was God’s judgment. He was just trying to understand the disproportionate aspects of suffering that have visited the Haiti portion of the island of Hispaniola. Could there be some spiritual reasons? Fair question if you believe in God, Satan, blessings and curses.
I worked with Pat Robertson during the 1980’s and spoke to his staff at the Christian Broadcasting Network on a number of occasions. He is a wise and compassionate Christian leader and entrepreneur. He’s not an uncaring hell and brimstone preacher–but a high profile prophetic individual with a traditional Christian worldview. For this reason he’s regularly quoted out of context, just like Jerry Falwell was for years. He’s one of the favorites of the Christian-bashing crowd.
Pat Robertson and CBN and its Operation Blessing arm are one of the world’s most effective private charities. They don’t wish curses or difficulties on anybody, but rather for over thirty years have served numerous catastrophes and relief efforts on a global scale. They are one of the key organizations now working to help rebuild the lives of the Haitian people.
Pat Robertson simply mentioned the checkered past of Haiti’s history. I’ve read that same history and have also deeply pondered why Haiti has experienced such unusual poverty and suffering over the past three hundred years. I’ve never been to Haiti–but I travel to Puerto Rico every November to train young people. I have a number of friends who work in Haiti, and our organization–Youth With A Mission–lost one staff member in the horrible quake. We are currently using our YWAM properties in St. Marc as emergency housing for refugees.
Haiti has marvelous resources–the same as the Dominican Republic and shares the same beautiful island–but it is the poorest, most corrupt nation in the Western hemisphere. 80% of the Haitian people believe in witchcraft (Voodoo), and the average Haitian makes $1400 per year compared to seven times that amount on the other half of the island.
Is Haiti under some kind of supernatural curse? Or, at the very least, have some very bad human decisions brought darkness, unbelief, poverty, and physical judgements to a people who could be as faith-filled and prosperous as many nearby neighbors (e.g. forty percent of Puerto Ricans attend church)?
Let’s be even more basic. What are some of the possible realities behind natural disasters and environmental catastrophes that we experience on earth, including Haiti? I can think of four possibilities or combinations or them:
The Bible is clear that the God of the Universe uses weather and physical events on earth to reveal truth and draw people to change their lives. In the 8th century B.C., God brought a vision through the prophet Amos “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1) during the reign of King Uzziah that spoke of the land being shaken by God (8:8), houses being smashed (6:11), altars being cracked (3:14) and even the Temple at Bethel being struck and collapsing (9:1). As Stephen Austin writes, “The prophet’s repeated contemporary references to the earthquake is why it bears his name. ‘Amos’ Earthquake’ impacted Hebrew literature immensely. After the gigantic earthquake, no Hebrew prophet could predict a divine visitation in judgment without alluding to an earthquake. Zechariah says “Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah” (Zechariah 14:5). The panic caused by Amos’ earthquake must have been the topic of legend in Jerusalem because Zechariah asked his readers to recall that terrifying event 230 years later.”
The prophets said for centuries that God used famines, earthquakes, invading armies, and pestilence to bring people to repentance. This is why even insurance companies categorize natural disasters as “acts of God.” This is a valid, historical view. As C.S. Lewis famously stated: “Judgment is a severe form of mercy.” When we don’t listen to God in our hearts, he uses environmental means to get our attention. The goal is always repentance i.e. a changed life and hope for the future.
The Bible also records that the devil, Lucifer or Satan, has some delegated powers to bring physical calamities upon people. This was the case of the trials of Job whom God allowed Satan to sift to prove and strengthen his faith (Job 1:12-19). In this particular story, fire, invading tribes, and violent winds were used by the enemy to test and impoverish Job. In the end, God used Satan’s physical testings to bring Job to repentance and actually expand his prosperity (42:5-10).
We also know that we live in a fallen world where accidents, both of man and nature happen to people in every culture. The world is no longer a Paradise, but one where “the whole creation groans and travails in childbirth” until it is set free from its fallenness (Romans 8:18-30). Thus many of the physical disasters and calamities we face might not be the direct hand of God or Satan, but simply the fruits of a fallen and imperfect world that are allowed by the Creator.
A final possibility for human suffering is the curse of human sin. Notice the graphic word picture in Isaiah 24:1-6: “Look! The Lord is about to destroy the earth and make it a vast wasteland. See how he is scattering the people over the face of the earth. Priests and laypeople, servants and masters, maids and mistresses, buyers and sellers, lenders and borrowers, bankers and debtors–none will be spared…The earth dries up, the crops wither, the sky refuses to rain. The earth suffers for the sins of its people, for they have twisted the instructions of God, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth and its people. And those who live in it are guilty.”
This possiblity involves God but stresses man’s part in the curse of creation. None of this scenario is God’s fault. It’s the direct result of man’s sin.
So why was there a devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 13, 2010? We don’t know for sure, but it clearly could have been an act of God, or influenced by Satan, or simply involved fallen creation, and/or was a direct result of a curse because of people’s sins.
We have to be very careful in our assessments and words–but let’s not deny that God and supernatural forces could have been involved.
From our ponderings and prayers, we might be wise to give the same answer that Jesus gave when he was asked why a tower fell killing eighteen people. He replied, “Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you unless you repent you will also perish” ((Luke 13:4-5).
It would be helpful for us, and the people of Haiti who were devastated by the earthquake, to seek the face of God for the reasons for their misfortune. In response to their repentance and faith, God just might use this terrible tragedy to break an awful and unusual curse on a nation and for the first time, establish it in righteousness, increased safety (better buildings), godliness and prosperity.
A repentant attitude, along with compassionate acts of mercy, can bring true hope to the people of Haiti.
I appreciate this article. I read a number of comments from people criticizing Robertson. They were usually made without even considering the role Operation Blessing has played in the relief efforts.
Many are just looking for an opportunity to judge. Kinda Ironic!
The most important element of infrastructure is character.
I hope I am there to pour gasoline on your ass in hell.