There are several interesting permutations of the earthquake in Haiti.
1. Rush Limbaugh has really blown it this time. Even when I disagree with him, even when I feel he’s crossing a line, he usually maintains some basic level of decency and civility. But this time, he’s pulled a double-whammy:
a. Making racist comments (supposedly in allusion to Harry Reid) while discussing Haiti
b. Blaming Communism for Haiti’s poverty: technically, I’m not aware that Haiti is a Communist country or ever has been. Haiti’s poverty is due to capitalism: the United States stripped Haiti of its resources, particularly its rainforests, long ago. The best thing the US could do for Haiti is to pick the population up and move them here, because we are directly responsible for Haiti’s poverty.. The fact that Haiti is nothing more than a tributary of the US can be shown in that there’s a coup in Haiti every time we have a new president. Bush sent troops into Haiti to put in the guy he wanted. Clinton sent troops into Haiti to put in the guy he wanted. Dubya sent troops into Haiti to put in the guy he wanted.
2. Oddly enough, Pat Buchanan is supporting Obama on this one and saying we should go in to help.
3. Liberal Hypocrisy: Limbaugh is being roundly condemned in a Yahoo front page story. Pat Robertson (below) has been roundly condemned in numerous articles, on most major news services, all over the Net. Meanwhile, Yahoo is not posting front page stories about Joyce Tarnow, the owner of a Florida abortion clinic in Florida, says that Haitians can “stew in their own juices” and “wither on the vine.” Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ebenezer Scrooge, and, apparently, Rush Limbaugh, she is a very vocal advocate of Kissinger Doctrine. Like Limbaugh, she sees poor nations as a drain on US superiority and says we should just kill them all. Somehow, I don’t see posts all over the blogosphere calling her an “idiot.”
I wonder if as many liberal websites are condening Tarnow’s comments the way conservative sites are condemning Libaugh and Robertson?
4. Speaking of Pat Robertson, the man who told you 20 years ago that God was going to kill him if he didn’t get a million dollars in donations, who told us abortion’s OK in China, and who tells people on his show that somewhere out there he knows a person with a bad back will feel better (surprisingly, the Holy Spirit can’t tell him this person’s name), has now said that the Haitians deserved the earthquake because they made a deal with the Devil. For some reason, this crackpot is news.
Now, it never ceases to amaze me how Protestants condemn Catholics for having the Pope but make their own mini-Popes. They listen to guys like Robertson make insane pronouncements, and they look to their gurus for advice on every aspect of their lives. The Holy Father has far less influence on my life, and makes far less pronouncements on daily issues, than James Dobson or Pat Robertson do to their followers.
Nonetheless, several questions are raised by this statement.
5. What does he mean by “Deal with the Devil”? Supposedly, there was some kind of pact with Satan allegedly involved with Haiti’s original bid for independence. He may also have been referring to widespread animism and voodoo. He may also have been referring to Catholicism, as Robertson is well known for his views on Catholicism.
6. Does that mean they “deserved” the earthquake?
Well, let’s look at why the earthquake was so bad. The earthquake was so devastating in part because of horrible infrastructure. Limbaugh can blame communism all he likes, but, again, the buck stops with the US on this one. It’s one thing to talk about people being able to pick themselves up and pursue opportunity, but when you’re in the poorest country in the world, and you have no opportunities, and you have no natural resources ,you’re kind of stuck. And I’m sure Limbaugh would not advocate letting the Haitians come here en masse to pursue opportunity.
7. Now, the problem of Evil. Does God punish sin with disasters? Short answer? Yes. When the people ask Jesus about some recent disasters, such as a tower falling on some people, they ask if the people were being punished. Jesus doesn’t reply directly, but He does warn the people to repent so they won’t die in sin if a similar disaster befalls them.
When disaster falls, we say that “God withdraws His protection.” Rather than saying God punishes with disaster, it’s more proper to say that God rewards devotion and virtue by protecting His people from disasters. But, of course, God does not always protect His people. Jesus Himself suffered the most humiliating and miserable fate possible in His culture.
In fact, Jesus illustrates this perfectly. Jesus had miraculous protection His entire ministry, such as when the people tried to stone Him and He passed through them.
But the Father withdrew protection from Jesus–“abandoned” Him, in Our Lord’s own words–on Good Friday.
So, too, God sometimes withdraws protection from those He loves to test them with suffering or to bring them to Heaven.
It is a delicate matter to deal with the question of disaster. Disaster is most certainly a warning from God. Both Fr. Corapi and Fr. Groeschel warned that 9/11 was a sign from God, and America needs to repent. Is there anything wrong with saying that? No.
Then there was that Bishop-elect in Austria who was forced to resign over controversy about saying New Orleans “deserved” Katrina. Technically he had a point too.
The problem is saying that the victims deserved to die, versus saying that God sent the disaster as a warning. Those are two completely different concepts. The former is the very embodiment of Jesus’ teaching “judge not lest ye be judged,” while the latter is what Jesus Himself said regarding disasters.