Controversial charismatic Pat Robertson has put his foot in his mouth with yet another post-disaster remark – this time regarding the hard-hit country of Haiti.
While hosting "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network Wednesday, Robertson said the 7.0-magnitude quake that struck Haiti a day earlier was the consequence of the curse that had befallen the country's people after its founding fathers made a "pact to the Devil" in exchange for Haiti's independence from France.
"[E]ver since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor," Robertson said.
He noted how Haiti shares the Island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic and how the latter is "prosperous, healthy, full of resorts" while Haiti is "in desperate poverty."
"Same island," he emphasized.
Robertson based his comment on a well-known folk tale among Haitians that not all citizens believe.
Robertson's latest remark – coming as television screens are filled with images of bloody survivors and dead bodies stacked on streets – hit a sensitive nerve with secular commentators as well as conservative evangelical leaders.
Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas called Robertson arrogant during an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday.
"It is absolute arrogance to try to interpret any of God's actions as a judgment against this person or that person," the Southern Baptist minister said. " Our duty as Christians is to try to help these people pray for these people and to help them."
Similarly, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded to Robertson's "embarrassing" remarks by highlighting the"Theological arrogance matched to ignorance."
In a commentary posted Thursday, Mohler acknowledged that Haiti has a well-known history of the occult, voodoo, and sorcery. He also said he agrees that God does and will judge the nations and has sovereign power over everything.
But the highly respected evangelical scholar said "we have no right to claim that we know why a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti happened at just that place and at just that moment."
"We can trace the effects of a drunk driver to a car accident, but we cannot trace the effects of voodoo to an earthquake – at least not so directly," Mohler contended.
"Will God judge Haiti for its spiritual darkness? Of course," he added. But humans cannot claim to understand the judgment of God.
To illustrate his point, Mohler brought out a series of unanswerable questions.
"Why did no earthquake shake Nazi Germany? Why did no tsunami swallow up the killing fields of Cambodia? Why did Hurricane Katrina destroy far more evangelical churches than casinos? Why do so many murderous dictators live to old age while many missionaries die young?" he posed.
Mohler argued that instead of asking if God hates Haiti, people should simply say that God hates sin and know that individual sinners and nations will be punished.
"[T]he earthquake reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real message of hope. The cross of Christ declares that Jesus loves Haiti – and the Haitian people are the objects of his love," Mohler concluded. "Christ would have us show the Haitian nation his love, and share his Gospel. In the midst of this unspeakable tragedy, Christ would have us rush to aid the suffering people of Haiti, and rush to tell the Haitian people of his love, his cross, and salvation in his name alone."
Robertson has a history of making controversial remarks following major disasters and crises. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Robertson laid blame on "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America."
"I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen,'" Robertson had said.
Then after Hurricane Katrina, Robertson came out and said it was God's punishment of the United States for allowing abortions.
Robertson has also called for the assassination of Venezuela president Hugo Chavez.
Robertson's latest comments came as the estimated death toll for Haiti reached as high as 500,000, though most news agencies are reporting the toll more conservatively – at around 50,000. Relief teams, meanwhile, are flooding into Haiti to try to beat the clock and rescue as many victims still buried under rubble as possible. Aid workers say there are only so many hours someone can survive under collapsed infrastructure without water and food.