Patrobertson If there is anything the most elemental study of the Bible, theology and church history will reveal it is the simple, but profound, truth that we have no business trying to explain divine providence in terms of what God is saying or doing in a catastrophe or tragedy. American history is, however, littered with preachers telling us what God was specifically saying to the world, or to some person or group of people, when a particular event took place. The greatest illustration of this problem occurred during the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was once asked, "Whose side is God on in the war?" He said he was not concerned with that question but rather with the question of whether or not he, that is Abraham Lincoln, was on God's side. That is the point!

Lincoln, not even a member of a Christian church, understood better than many ministers when to speak about providence, and how, and when to be quiet. But the problem persists. Ministers tell us why lightning strikes here and not there, or why a genocide takes place in Africa and not America. The most recent illustration of this problem once again brought broad attacks upon both the man and his message. I refer to Pay Robertson's comments last week about the earth quake in Haiti.

A friend, who is a good theologian, pointed out to me a letter that appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. This letter is worth reprinting.

The letter has some excellent literary references. My friend notes that both Luther and Lewis commend mockery to push back the devil. He adds, "Sorry about the biting ending." What do you think?

Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune Letters to the Editor

January 14, 2010

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I'm just saying: Not how I roll. You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings — just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract. Best, Satan

Lily Coyle, Minneapolis


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  1. Jack Isaacson January 24, 2010 at 5:53 am

    PS: Pat, I did NOT write the lyrics to “I never promised you a rose garden”, that’s not my modus operandi. Best, Satan

  2. Albert Anthony Cota January 24, 2010 at 7:31 am

    I was shocked and saddened when I heard Robertson’s comments.
    Did this man forget about God’s “common grace”, the goodness that He bestows even on those that do not care to worship or serve Him? In the same way, this beautiful world lives with the results of man’s “original sin”. The rain (and sometimes earthquakes, tornados, blizzards, etc.) falls on the just and the unjust.
    The deeper tragedy in Haiti and other parts of the world, is that 18 million people die each year as a result of poverty related issues.

  3. bjk January 24, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Well written once again, John. Your point about “whose side is God on” is excellent.
    There is much that is troubling to me in Pat’s comments. At the same time, there is something troubling to me in the responses I am seeing to Pat Robertson’s comments. Are Christians today throwing out the truth that God does judge nations, as well as individuals?
    The letter from Lilly Coyle is quite troubling to me. The “letter from Satan” makes the point that when Satan makes a pact with someone, it is for riches or glory or something here on earth and that only in the afterlife would there be desperation and poverty. Are we to think that there is no consequence for our sins in this life?
    I don’t see any evidence that this earthquake is God’s judgment on Haiti. However, the bloody vodou Ceremony at the Bois Caiman (Dutty Boukman) in 1791 would seem to be something that would indeed invoke God’s wrath.

  4. Jim January 24, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Re: The biting ending.
    I don’t think I would have said it like that. But I’m not altogether sorry it was said! There is something demonic about kicking an oppressed people when they’re down.

  5. Susanne Barrett January 24, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    I appreciate the tipping of the hat in C.S. Lewis’ direction in this Letter to the Editor. It’s witty and pointed and makes a very good case.
    I was horrified by Robertson’s comments as I mentioned on my own blog. There’s this not-so-little thing called GRACE, and there’s God’s love for the poor and impoverished. Those two things alone call us to help as we can and to pray all we can.
    Our associate pastor is teaching a series on “God’s Will” and he has been pointing out to us that God never promises that He will reveal His secret will to us. His will for us is far more general (and that much more difficult to apply): Love and serve God by loving and serving others. That’s His will for us. And His secret providential will is not for us to know … and especially not for us to interpret publicly, no matter how big our name might be in Christian circles. Doing so only damages our opportunities to reach out to a hurting world with the love and compassion of Christ.

  6. John H. Armstrong January 24, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    The comments here are magnificent and Susanne could have written this blog for me. Good work all of you. Thanks for letting so many others benefit from your thoughtful responses.

  7. Nick Morgan January 24, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    I have to agree that trying to interpret and publically declare what “God’s secret will is” in regard to human tragedy and disaster is completely out of line for any Christian, but especially one with so much influence as Dr. Robertson. When I heard his statement, I immediately thought of Jesus’ statement in the gospel about the falling of the tower of Siloam and the people that were killed as a result. I believe Jesus finished with a warning to all of his hearers, (us included) that unless we ALL REPENT, we will die from sin. Jesus clearly instructed His hearers NOT to think that those who had died were “worse sinners than others”. Humility and compassion must mark us if we are truly disciples of Christ.
    God bless!

  8. Keith Duff January 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Awesome letter from Satan. What a hoot – and right on at the same time!

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