Archive for January, 2010

PostScript: A Devil’s Advocate

January 29, 2010

During lunch, it came to me that there isn’t all that is to be said on this topic of abortion.  Not by a long shot.

There is the law – the hard Word that tells us how things need to be, even when it hurts, or is inconvenient, or demands very real and tangible personal sacrifice.  There is no way to soften that Word, beyond stressing that Biblical Christians everywhere are commanded to place themselves alongside those whom the Word of the Law has convicted, to speak the Word of healing that can come in the aftermath.  The nature of this blog often focuses on the Word of Law – the hard and convicting Word that says that there is right and there is wrong and that these things are not open to our modification, and are not dependent on our agreement.  I often end up speaking the law to a culture and society that wants to reject the Law in favor of creating their own, less difficult form of law.  But the Law is only half the story, and I would be grossly remiss and terribly callous to forget to speak the remainder of the Word here as well.

Perhaps you’ve had an abortion – or know someone who has.  Perhaps it happened in the distant past.  Perhaps it was just this morning.  Perhaps you’ve never really felt guilty about what you did, and reading my blog stirred an uneasiness within you that you aren’t sure what to do with.  Perhaps you’ve lived with guilt every day of your life.  Perhaps you know the pain and loss more intimately than words can express.

There is another Word you need to hear.  That Word is forgiveness, and that Word is spoken by one person – Jesus Christ. 

The Law hurts.  It constricts us and convicts us.  But the Word of forgiveness frees and pardons us.  By the Grace of God the Father, the Jesus the Son of God came into our world.  He lived the life we are supposed to be living – a life of obedience and love – but that we cannot live.  He suffered a punishment in His death that our rebellion and self-love deserve.  Being more than man, that innocent death was sufficient payment for everything that you and I have ever and could ever do wrong.  Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was God’s stamp of “Paid in Full” on the debt we owe in our resistance to God.  God the Holy Spirit works ceaselessly in creation, turning people’s hearts to this bafflingly simple truth.  There is forgiveness, and the guilt or shame or hurt that an abortion may be causing you is something you do not have to carry. 

Open your heart and mind to the possibility of this forgiveness, this grace, this hope, this relief.  Seek out a friend or family member whom you trust as a Christian, and ask them to help you find someone who can tell you more about this.  Or, alternately, leave me your e-mail address and I’ll contact you directly.  You don’t have to suffer in guilt and shame.  Abortion is wrong, without a doubt.  But there is forgiveness and peace possible – not through the denial of the wrongness of abortion, but in acceptance of the love and grace and forgiveness of a Father who knit you together in your mother’s womb. 

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A Devil’s Advocate

January 29, 2010

Thanks to a high school friend of mine, Karen, for responding to my recent blog post on a rather peculiar argument against pro-life advocacy.  Karen is most definitely pro-life, but she raises the standard response/objection to any blanket call for the elimination of abortion and an emphasis on the woman’s responsibility to exercise her true choice – the choice whether or not to engage in intercourse.  I wanted to address this issue more visibly, so I’m making this into a post rather than a response to her comment on that previous post.

Karen writes:

So, Paul, I’m playing devil’s advocate here because I don’t believe in abortion. However, you state that a woman’s right to choose ends at her decision to choose to engage in sexual activity. How does rape play into that argument? Obviously, a woman who is raped did not choose to engage in that sexual activity. Should anyone have the right tell her that she must carry that baby to term (by making abortion illegal)?

This is the classic objection – a woman is forced into non-consensual sex which results in a pregnancy.  It’s a compelling argument at the emotional level.  You have a woman who is clearly the victim of a terrible crime.  Now she is burdened with ten months of bearing a child and giving birth, a constant, daily reminder of the tragedy she was subjected to.  It hardly sounds fair. 

And it’s not. 

The above statements are all true.  Rape is a terrible crime.  Women can and are the victims of this sort of crime.  It is not their fault.  It is truly not fair that they bear the additional burden of bringing a child to term that they never asked for, and may have had no choice in the matter. 

Now that we have those statements out of the way, now that we’ve addressed the truly emotionally charged nature of this objection, let’s think through it.

First off, the statistics on how many abortions are related to a proven rape are low.  Even classic abortions-rights people tend to shy away from this argument for the legality and necessity of abortion on demand because it just happens too infrequently.  Some fascinating information on related studies here.   This is another interesting article, but I don’t see the supporting documentation so I can’t recommend it as definitive – and it appears to have a definite bias which further needs to be acknowledged.  Another interesting but definitely pro-life article is here.   For those of you who like Wikipedia, here’s what they have to say on the subject.   Frankly, it’s hard to find definitive statistics from sources that are pro-abortion.  The frequently cited percentage of abortions performed that are related to rape is 1%.  The first article takes issue with this, but does so on speculative grounds. 

But let’s ignore that for a moment, because this ultimately isn’t a percentages argument.  It’s a human argument, and we need to have an answer that not only pro-lifers can live with, but that the woman who has been victimized by rape and is now pregnant by that rape can live with. 

My argument would go something like this.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Basic, easy to remember.  If the baby inside that woman’s body is truly a human baby, then aborting the baby is the equivalent of murder.  Murder is every bit as wrong as rape.  If the mother thinks that she will somehow have more peace about what has happened to her by killing the unborn child inside of her, she is mistaken.  I have no doubt that she may not want that baby.  I have no doubt that bearing that baby is going to be emotionally painful for her as well as physically costly.  She is already emotionally and physically traumatized.  Aborting the baby does not negate that, but only furthers the trauma in both realms.

I am a Christian.  I believe that every baby is a gift of God, even if it is a gift that was unanticipated or unwanted.  We are not the arbiters of when a baby is a good thing – a baby is *always* a good thing.  The woman who is the victim of rape can reject the violence and degradation that was foisted upon her to a certain degree by carrying through with the very positive and life-affirming act of bearing the child to term.  She may not decide to keep the baby – there are plenty of loving couples who would be happy to adopt that baby, and who would also be willing to come alongside the mother during her pregnancy, to provide support and encouragement and love, as well as to assist with the financial realities of bearing a child.  Some women do choose to keep the baby themselves. 

Life is good.  Always.  Taking a life is bad, always.  Sometimes it may be a necessary bad thing – to administer justice, to defend oneself, etc.  But taking an innocent life cannot be a positive act, even if that innocent life is costly to the mother in terms of time, energy, physical and emotionally.  I believe that God can work powerful joy and healing through the process of pregnancy, and that this should be affirmed always – regardless of how the pregnancy came to be from our perspective.  Is it fair to the woman?  No.  Not at all.  Does the unfairness of that dictate that she should have the right to terminate the life inside of her?  No, it does not.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  There are many people who suffer grave injustices every day.  There are many people who suffer unfairly in a myriad of ways because of the actions of others.  The response in those situations is always to come alongside the one who is suffering, who has been marginalized, who is dealing with the very real unfairness of their situation.  We come along to support, to encourage. 

I look forward to responses on this.  I have used this argument before with people, and I am always open to a perspective I haven’t considered before.  Women deserve to be loved and respected and treated with equality – and so do the unborn children that they bear.



But He’d Still Be a Human Being!!

January 28, 2010

I’m not sure how much media attention this is receiving, but I thought it was interesting all the same.

CBS is causing controversy by agreeing to air (for the full going rate of $2.5 – $2.8 million dollars) a 30-second advertisement sponsored by Focus on the Family and featuring Tim Tebow and his mother.  If, like me, you had no idea who Tim Tebow is prior to this issue being raised, read about him here.  Tebow’s mother was pressured to have an abortion when she discovered she was pregnant with him.  Unlike most abortions, this pressure was based on actual medical issues that threatened the mother’s life.  Obviously, she didn’t have the abortion.  Focus on the Family claims that the ad is simply going to affirm life.  Certain feminist groups are disgusted that someone would have the temerity to challenge the prevailing minority wisdom that says abortion rights are a done deal and never to be revisited in public discussion of any kind. 

This gets interesting in a recent episode of The View, in which one of the show’s interviewers had a rather controversial statement to dismiss both the pro-life decision as well as the desire by Focus on the Family to air a spot during the Superbowl. 

You can see the clip here, but the transcript of the relevant statement is below:

“The only argument against any of it is,that,  you know, he could just as easily become some kind of rapist pedophile.  I mean, you don’t know what someone’s going to be.”


Joy Behar’s statement continues further as she backpeddles slightly from this statement.  What most people will get upset about is what a terrible example she’s chosen.  They’ll focus on the incendiary nature of her statement, as this other coverage of the incident predicts.  However, the awful sounding language is not the point we need to pay attention to.

The point is that whether Tim Tebow grew up to be the impressive sportsman he is today, or had grown up to be a pedophile rapist, he still would have grown up to be a human being!

Abortion rights cannot be maintained simply on the insistence on a woman’s right to decide.  It must be maintained on the basis that somehow or another – by arbitrarily drawn lines and shaky proclamations by the medical community based on nothing more than expediency – what is aborted during an abortion is not a human being.  It must be maintained that the ‘collection of cells’ in the uterus – as pro-choicers are fond of calling an unborn baby – is not actually human, and therefore can be disposed of at the mother’s discretion.  No different than a fingernail or a lock of hair.

If that ‘collection of cells’ is actually a human being from conception, however,  then abortion is murder, and the woman’s right to choose whether or not to murder the human being inside her becomes legally as ridiculous as it actually sounds.  Nobody else has a right to choose whether or not to kill an innocent human being.  The woman’s right to choose would have to be relegated to where it rightfully belongs – the right to choose whether or not to engage in sexual intercourse.

Behar’s deft commentary points out the fact that the question isn’t whether Tim Tebow’s mother would have given birth to a human being.  Of course she would have – and did!  That’s what babies inside the womb are, and that’s what they continue to be outside the womb – human beings.  This poor attempt to justify abortion based on the type of person a human being may or may not grow into being is one that I’m sure Behar wasn’t intending to make.  But it’s certainly going to get her some attention.

Dawkins is Right – Sort Of

January 27, 2010

Leave it to uber-atheist Richard Dawkins to call out Christians for their hypocrisy – correctly.

In an article in the Washington Post, Dawkins scathingly mocks and criticizes Christians who have sought to distance themselves from ever-embarrassing Pat Robertson and his recent comments on the Haitian earthquake disaster.  For my thoughts on this matter, you can refer to an earlier blog post of mine.

Let me begin by saying that there is truth in Dawkin’s painful excoriation of mainstream American Christianity.  Too many Christians immediately censured Robertson for his controversial comment.  Rather than explore the theological ramifications of what Robertson was rather ineloquently saying, they reacted on impulse.  Good Lord, we can’t be saying those sorts of things in public!  Good Lord, that’s not how God works!  Good Lord, Christians are going to sound like idiots again!  There might be a plethora of reasons ranging from reasonable to ridiculous to scrap Robertson’s comments.  But I haven’t heard many nuanced attempts to actually interact with what he said. 

What Robertson did was to acknowledge the very Biblical idea that spiritual realities manifest themselves in the physical realm.  As I stated earlier, where I believe that Robertson erred was in making this connection to an event that is historically tenuous, without (I’m assuming) the guidance of the Holy Spirit as to whether or not this correlation – in this instance – is warranted.  What Robertson was getting at is part of Biblical Christianity though – God works in ways that we are often baffled by, that can be terrible to behold.  What Robertson doesn’t know is whether or not that is what is actually happening here. 

Dawkins rightly attacks both those who are too quick to attribute physical disasters to the Hand of  God, as well as those Christians without the depth of Biblical understanding to recognize that such attributions may not be without theological merit.  The error is not in saying that God might be behind this, but that God is behind this, for this or that reason.  The error is not in wanting to focus on helping our fellow human beings in whatever circumstance they find themselves in (precisely because of our inability to know what actions are specific Acts of God and what are simply ‘natural’ disasters or the everyday consequences of being sinful people living in a sinful world), but the error lies in assuming that theological implications are not there to be explored and prayed about.

It’s painfully easy to shoot one’s mouth off.  I do it all the time.  Fortunately, I don’t have the public exposure of Robertson or Dawkins.  There are those Christians who receive press coverage for saying controversial things in the midst of troubling times.  They don’t necessarily represent Biblical Christians, but the media highlights who they want to highlight.  I’m guessing that Robertson has received a lot more mainstream limelight and press time on major media outlets than any of the innumerable Christian organizations that are currently devoting their time, money, resources, sweat and blood to the relief efforts.  Judge for yourself if there is a bias at play in that sort of coverage disparity.

So, Dawkins is right on in calling the knee-jerk reaction of many Christians’ to Robertsons’ remarks hypocritical.  The problem is that for many of them, it might not have been hypocrisy but ignorance at play.  It’s hardly a comforting alternative.

But Dawkins is incorrect about more than a few things here as well. 

Dawkins asserts that the judgment of God is the “centrepiece” of Biblical Christianity.  While those moments of righteous judgment on God’s part are certainly memorable, they hardly constitute the center of the Biblical witness.  They do, however, for much of the center of Dawkins’ rejection of the Bible.  That’s a key difference.   He later clarifies that our entire theology is based on “an obsession with sin, with punishment, with atonement.”  That’s far closer to reality.  The center of Biblical theology is not the problem of sin, but rather  the solution to sin.  A great deal is said about the effects and reality of sin, but throughout this, the Biblical witness constantly points to the promised solution for sin, the cure found in the Son of God becoming human to suffer and die in our place after bearing witness to the work of God through Himself in reconciling a broken creation and a rebellious human race. 

Christianity is not a “long celebration of suffering”.  Biblical Christianity is a brutally honest acknowledgment of the suffering we bring on ourselves, and focused on the suffering of God Himself to deliver us from such suffering.  Our suffering is not laudable any more than it is effective.  It does not solve the central problem of our existence – rebellion against God.  It is simply the natural consequence of rebelling against the legitimate author and authority of all creation.  What the Haitians are enduring is terrible.  What the elderly man dying of cancer is enduring is terrible.  What the elderly woman dying of natural causes in her sleep endures is terrible.  What the child suffers during the angry exchanges of parents in the midst of divorce is terrible.  The effects of sin are pervasive and terrible.  But when they are mounted up in numbers in the hundreds of thousands, they command our attention and our response in a way that all too often escapes us on the individual level.  Haiti is not suffering something more terrible than what countless people suffer every day.  But it is the economy of scale of that suffering, if you will, that pulls us from our stupor and rips from our hearts the anguished question of why

It is a question that Dawkins is ill-equipped to answer, despite his pithy starting point.  The question of why a simple matter of plate tectonics should elicit such an outpouring of empathy and giving and support is the very sort of thing that Dawkins is unable to account for.  There is no explanation for why such things stir us so, or why so many people give sacrificially to alleviate the suffering of others.  Dawkins doesn’t have an answer for it, because his assertion is that this is the way things have always been.  This is normal.  The Bible asserts that this isn’t  the way things have always been.  This isn’t normal – even if it’s what we’re accustomed to.  The Bible provides a rationale for our outpouring of sympathy and help, just as the Bible at the same time acknowledges that the wages of sin are death, and that death can come at any time, in literally any form. 

Dawkins can ridicule all he want, and I trust he’ll continue to.  I appreciate his willingness to call Christians on their inconsistencies, but he needs to be better informed himself about the allegations he makes about the Biblical witness.  I pray God’s forgiveness for  him for such errors.  I pray that he will seek same forgiveness for himself.  He could be a powerful proclaimer of the Gospel.  Perhaps he just needs to hear it correctly.


Strange Bedfellows

January 27, 2010

In the annals of oddity (and that second n is really crucial), this has to be one of the more curious recent entries.  Tragically, it probably isn’t the strangest.

In a bid for God-only-knows-what, Holiday Inn has announced a new special bed warming service in some of their British establishments.  I thought that this might be some sort of Onion-esque frivolity, but appears to be legit.  Based on the included photo, I have to conclude that the idea is that these bed-warming employees are actually in the bed with you, as opposed to being in the bed until you get in.  There appears to be a snuggle factor here, not simply the warming up of the sheets. 

A few interesting thoughts.  The first article linked above specifies that it is a “willing” staff member who will come and help warm the bed.  What does willing mean?  Willing, as in I’d like to keep my job and they told me to go and do this?  What about I really like the idea of snuggling up to total strangers for short periods of time.  Is this an improvement?  Who is going to monitor the safety of these willing employees, to ensure that their service does not extend longer than the arbitrary five minutes or “until your nightly chamber warms up”?  Are there requirements on what the client must be wearing in order for this sort of service to be provided?  Will a client get to specify whether their bed warmer is male or female?  Should they be able to specify?  After all, it would seem that if the goal is a warm bed, having someone you’d rather not be in bed with you doing the warming would ensure that all parties conclude their warming/snuggling duties as quickly as possible.

Holiday Inn states that it’s like “having a giant hot water bottle in your bed”.  Which seems to demand the question, why not just put a giant hot water bottle in the bed, then!?!?!?!?!   Is the issue of how to stay warm reaching such a crisis proportion that this is the only possible solution?  Are they afraid people will run off with the hot water bottle?  Do they not have electric blankets in Kensington?   Further, I love the fact the article author references a scientist of some sort to help corroborate the promen health benefits of this sort of service.  I feel so much better about this service now.  It’s scientifically vetted.  Unlike, say, a hot water bottle.  Or an electric blanket. 

So I have to wonder why this particular solution.  It would seem to be primarily an economic one.  They already have staff standing around apparently doing nothing.  Why not put them to better use for the measly cost of a few sleep jumpers?  It must be cheaper than hot water bottles and the attendant costs of heating said water to put in the hot water bottles.  It must also seem cheaper than utilizing an electric blanket that the client might accidentally leave on all night, incurring substantial utility costs.  And it’s undoubtedly cheaper than keeping rooms a few degrees warmer. 

At the risk of insulting Holiday Inn, this is *not* just like having a hot water bottle in your bed.  It’s like having an oddly dressed complete stranger in your bed.   This would seem to prove a singularly uncomfortable solution and a rather crass methodology of harnessing body warmth for some sort of perceived economic benefit (assuming this service increases the number of reservations Holiday Inn receives, rather than driving folks away).  It seems demeaning to even the most willing of employees, particularly at a point in time where jobs are hard to come by and people who aren’t in a position to lose their job could certainly be pressured into participating in this service.  Way to go, Holiday Inn.  Customer service takes on a whole new dimension with you.

If it Smells Like a Duck…

January 27, 2010

I really don’t understand how people can intelligently think that the baby that is brought into this world at birth is substantively different at *any* point from conception onwards.  The artificial distinction between embryonic cells and a baby is so incredibly arbitrary that it simply defies reason.  And the evidence keeps mounting towards this inescapable conclusion.

Now scientists indicate that being rocked like a baby improves the ability rates of in vitro babies, perhaps by as much as 20 percent

Note the carefulness of the people interviewed to refer to the young babies produced simply as “cells”. 

Earlier than Later

January 23, 2010

The rationale is simple.

People can’t predict the future.  So if the Biblical writers appear to be describing events that happen hundreds of years after their life & death, then they couldn’t possibly have written what they did before the event.  It had to have been written after the event.  Perhaps this is accounted for because somebody wrote the prophetic stuff and then attributed it to someone who definitely lived much earlier.  Or perhaps the events referenced in the Bible didn’t happen as early in history as they appear to have.  Perhaps the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) is a much younger document than it has been believed to be throughout history.

It’s a compelling line of reasoning.  It seems very non-polemical, very non-judgmental.  Simply a matter of logic.  The Old Testament has to be newer than it appears to be, otherwise it presents some very difficult to rationalize.  Another argument used to support this theory (and the other way around) is that there hasn’t been any Hebrew writing older than the 6th century BCE (Before Common Era, the standard historical replacement for BC – Before Christ).  If the oldest writing that we have only goes back to the 6th century BCE,
then the Old Testament can’t have been written prior to that.

Unless some older Hebrew writing were discovered.  And it has

Four hundred years older, roughly. 

There will be folks who still seek ways to discount what Scripture has to say by attacking the origin or transmission of Scripture.  But at least one of the popular arguments against the prophetic potential contained in the Old Testament has been dealt a rather strong blow.

The Difference Between Bad and Evil

January 20, 2010

What is the line between bad and evil?  Is there such a line, and how does one walk it?

People do bad things.  Good people do bad things sometimes.  Everyone does.  It’s a matter of our sinful condition.  And as we try to make our way in the world, we have to draw distinctions – or should draw them – between bad and evil.  Between the bad choices that people make – the faulty reasoning they rely on, the flawed character they reveal, the stubborn willfulness that is all too often evident – and the work of evil in and through them.  It’s a difficult distinction to try and draw.  It’s a difficult distinction to live out, particularly if one is directly affected by the behavior or words.  But it’s an important one to draw, I have become aware of recently.  Particularly with the awareness that people are watching.  Watching responses.  Watching attitudes. 

I think our sinful tendency is to classify bad too easily as evil, and to wage war against it with all our might.  Words, attitudes, gossip.  In righteous indignation we give in to the same behavior – or worse – than those we war against.  We feel justified.  Desperate times require desperate measures and all that jazz.  An eye for an eye, we cry, forgetting too easily that if the letter of this law was followed we would all be blind.  If we have been hurt, or offended, or insulted, it’s so easy to slip into the mindset that any response can be justified – must be justified.  To not respond would be to tacitly endorse badness or evilness.  Wouldn’t it?\

The New Testament is full of exhortations to keep peace between believers.  Romans 14:19.  Ephesians 4:3.  Hebrews 12:14.  2Peter 1:5 and 3:14 to a certain degree as well.  The phrase they all utilize is make every effort.  What does this mean?  It sure sounds like it could include choosing not to respond to offense, even if there is a legitimate grounds for a response.  It may mean biting our tongues when we’d rather respond with an equally stinging retort (or truth be told, a slightly more stinging retort).  It may mean being willing to suffer offense for a greater goal – the bond of unity among Christians. 

1Corinthians 6:7 is so powerful.  The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?   Paul is acknowledging that as sinful people – and as sinful believers – we will disagree and people will be hurt by the intentional or unintentional badness of fellow believers.  And while we’re quick to wish to press for the offending party to be brought to justice, Paul instead focuses on our response as the injured.  He doesn’t mince words.  Even the pursuit of justice can result in complete defeat.  Being right, being vindicated – is a secondary issue to the Christian.  In all likelihood, it’s even lower on the list than second place.  Yet so often we seek out rightness and vindication as though in that process we are demonstrating true Christian faith.  Paul seems to disagree.  Strongly.

How many congregations are split apart because of the insistence of treating bad as evil?  How much of the Christian witness is compromised because being right supersedes loving one another?  How often are we willing to witness to the love of Christ by self-sacrifice, rather than vindication?  It’s not a matter of character, it’s not a  matter of this being a way to rub the other person’s face in the situation and secretly score a tactical victory (though Romans 12:20 may tend to lead us to think this is ok, it’s important to note that Paul is referring to an enemy, not a brother or sister in Christ!).  We pray for the strength to do it because it’s the right thing to do.  Because we are called to emulate a Savior who is glorified in humility and humiliation, in weakness rather than strength. 

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

January 19, 2010

Once again – I’m not in favor of pollution.  But nor am I in favor of untenable assertions on limited data.  And in that light, I present these two brief articles for your viewing pleasure & pain:

Is Pollution Slowing Global Warming?

Smoke On the Water


Enjoy!


The Devil You Know

January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson has once again made headlines with a controversial statement, asserting that the massive earthquake in Haiti is simply the latest episode in a long history of suffering precipitated by a demonic pact over two hundred years ago.

So the story goes, a group of revolt-planning slaves met in August of 1791 to solidify their commitment to revolt against French colonists.  As a means of securing supernatural help, they slaughtered a pig in a demonic pact with Satan.  It is this event that Robertson is assuming as the basis of a statement that – whether someone takes time to look into the history or not – is going to sound pretty strange to folks today.

As to the history, the basis for the demonic pact story goes back to 1814 and French writer Antoine Damas.  There are apparently a few other 19th century primary sources that make the same allegation.  Modern scholarship appears to be undecided as to the actual historicity of the event – not so much whether the meeting took place, as to what happened at the meeting.  Two planning meetings have been discerned prior to the outbreak of rebellion, and the events of the Bois-Caiman meeting are hard to verify.  Some resources:


 
In a lovely – and oh-so-not-Christian response, the religion editor for the Huffington Post tells Robertson to go to hell.  Sooner, rather than later.  But is this the right response?  No, it’s not.  We don’t pray for hell for anyone.  Period.  We can and should pray for the Holy Spirit to open someone’s eyes if we strongly suspect that they are seriously in error, theologically.  But we don’t pray for that person to burn in hell.  Funny how nobody seems to find Raushenbush’s comment to be every bit as inflammatory as Robertson’s.

Robertson is taking plenty of flack from the secular realm.  I think it’s rather unnecessary, frankly.  I don’t think that many people are going to confuse Pat Robertson with a White House spokesman – or as a spokesman for anyone else.  However the response is missing the point.  Is Robertson’s allegation shocking?  Sure.  But would a pact with the devil be shocking as well?  Sure – to anyone that takes Biblical or Christian spirituality seriously. 

To me, there are three main considerations here:

1) The historicity upon which the statement is based
2) The overall stance in which the statement is made
3) The Biblical basis of spiritual warfare

The first point is up for debate.  Scholars are uncertain whether the reported events of the Bois-Caiman meeting.  They don’t seem to dispute so much that there was a meeting, but what the particular events of the meeting were.  There are some who feel that the allegations of satanic ritual may have been fabricated by a French historian more interested in vilifying the Haitians than attempting an accurate historical account.  Based on the uncertainty of the event – and certainly the unverifiability of the alleged happenings of the meeting, it seems monumentally imprudent of Robertson to make such a public statement of causality. 

On the second issue, it seems clear from what I’ve been able to dig up (and please feel free to enlighten me if I’m in error) that Robertson’s statement was not a call to condemnation, inaction, or any sort of vengeful attitude towards the Haitians in their suffering.  There was a number for an aid organization on screen, and Robertson indicated that people needed to be in prayer for these people.  If Robertson had taken a stance of serves them right, he would obviously be fully in the wrong.  But he doesn’t appear to have done that.  He appears to have offered some speculation on why that country might be suffering so terribly from poverty in general as well as repeated natural disasters.

Finally, we need to be careful not to be too quick to dismiss Robertson’s statement of spiritual causality.  Does the Bible affirm the existence of Satan and demonic powers?  Yes.  Does the Bible warn that such demonic powers can have power within our world?  Yes.  Does the Bible affirm the seriousness of whether we align ourselves with demonic powers or with the Triune God?  Yes.  Therefore, if there was a Satanic covenant made, could it be reasonably assumed that this might have real and lasting repercussions?  Yes.  Could we with any certainty say that this particular earthquake, or the general suffering and poverty of the Haitian people, are directly attributable to satanic oppression because of the covenant made two hundred years ago?  Questionable at best.  Such an allegation seems to assume that such a demonic covenant would override the work of the Holy Spirit among the people of today.  And it might seem to imply that if only this were a “Christian” nation, such problems wouldn’t happen – which is VERY unscriptural.

On the whole, the comment seems to be totally unwarranted.  Not that there isn’t such a thing as spiritual warfare going on that might manifest itself in the natural realm.  Not that satanic dealings are to be treated lightly or of no consequence.  But more because Robertson doesn’t know what happened two hundred years ago, nor can he authoritatively know that what happened this week and over the last 200 years definitely is related to an alleged satanic agreement.  We can have our theories, but broadcasting those theories is probably not a necessary thing to do.  Particularly by a highly public Christian profile already known for his polemical stances.  And without any further dealing with the topic on Robertson’s part, we have to wonder what the point of publicly (or privately) speculating on the satanic element is.  Yes, we should pray for the Haitian people – spiritually as well as in this moment of intense suffering.  But we should be praying for all people, in all places, at all times.  Anyone and everyone who may not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior.  Praying for people should be the norm, not something that we’re called to on special circumstances. 

I’d be very curious about other perspectives on this, if you’re willing to share!