When I got a Facebook nudge about this, I thought my friend was kidding. “Pat Robertson said it was their own fault.” Snicker, snicker, you know those crazy fundies. But my friend wasn’t kidding. The “Reverend” Pat Robertson, the right-wing commentator, who “Biblically-based news show” is little more than the mad ramblings of a false prophet is at it again.
Here’s what Robertson 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 and 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, “OK, it’s a deal.”
And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. 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’re helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.
The idea that Haiti’s suffering, a suffering which has lasted more than two centuries, is due to a fabled pact with the devil is completely devoid of any real historical context. Robertson is referring to the case of Dutty Boukman, a Jamaican-born slave who was a traditional African priest, and who, in 1791, helped spark the Haitian slave rebellion that led to their independence from France (and the end of slavery). According to legend, Boukman offered a sacrifice of a before encouraging his followers to fight the French. The French responded by beheading him, and then going on to lose the war.
So, Pat says, the Haitian revolution was successful because the Devil fought for the Haitian slaves and then kept them in slavery to him ever since then. It’s a neat, logical train of thought, as long as you’re a polytheistic moron like Pat Robertson with a Manichean cosmology. If, however, you have a brain, you will understand the role that both the French Revolution and the American Revolution played in the Haitian Revolution. You will know as well, that American leaders like Thomas Jefferson and other slaveholders were terrified that if their own slaves understood the logic of the Haitian revolution (and the Declaration of Independence–“all men are created equal”) then the wonderful old tradition of slavery would end. So they conspired with the French, Spanish and British (who were generally at war otherwise) to embargo Haiti and keep it from success. The United States did not recognize the only other republic in the Western Hemisphere until after the Civil War had begun.
The past two centuries have been full of pain and suffering for the Haitian people. But not because some long-dead pagan priest killed a pig and prayed to a Vodou god. Instead, it’s because of deliberate and harmful actions of the leaders of the nations, their own and others. Just when Haiti has begun to make a little progress, as has happened in the past decade, the ground shifts, and it all comes crashing down.
God does not hate the Haitian people. In fact, the only God worth believing in is a God who suffers when people suffers and who empowers us to act act in His name to serve them. And right now those of who have been given the means to act in His name on behalf of the people of Haiti need to do so.
And don’t worry about the God of Pat Robertson. His God is a crazy, creepy, powerless old pervert who likes to watch people suffer when they don’t pray the right way. And he’s just pretend, thank God.