Wednesday, January 27, 2010


The statistics are grim. While the January 12th earthquake in Haiti has taken more than 150,000 lives, it has displaced more than 3 million people in Haiti. In fact, there are many internationals still unaccounted for, and many counted as among the dead. The suffering in Haiti raises again the question of suffering and pain. People continue to ask questions like:
  • Where is God?
  • What is the point of all this pain and grief?
  • What is God trying to tell us?
  • Is evil the winner after all?
  • Isn't God in control?
  • What did Haiti do to deserve the earthquake?
  • Why God?
Both sensible as well as insensitive comments have been made. The infamous insensitive one is by the American TV evangelist, Pat Robertson who dares suggest that the Haiti quake is a 'blessing in disguise.' Suppose the most ardent supporter of Robertson may claim he is speaking some 'truth,' the timing of the statement is grossly inappropriate. Here is the list of some writings about the Haiti quake from notable thinking evangelicals.

1) "The Devil in Haiti" (Richard Mouw, President Fuller Theological Seminary)
Clearly a vigorous reaction against Robertson, Mouw argues that it is NOT God's will for earthquakes like this to happen.

2) "Why Lord? Haiti and the God Question" Dr. J. Kameron Carter, (Associate Professor, Duke Divinity School)
Carter adds a disclaimer saying that he does not like these questions. The problem he says lies in the 'way' the questions are worded, and the 'presuppositions' behind each one. He gives an insightful comment that this question 'prevents us from asking other important social, cultural and political questions.'

3)  "Does God Hate Haiti?" (Albert Mohler, President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Mohler addresses the problem in two ways. Firstly, that Haiti is already some form of a political disaster. Secondly, he warns us that "The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger." He calls for all, not just Haitians to remember that all are groaning under sin.

4) "God Bless the People of Haiti" (Roy Ciampa, Professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)
Ciampa chooses to focus on the faith of the Haitians, and pray that God will strengthen and encourage the people there, who have lost possessions and people.

5) "Where was God in the Earthquake?" (Fleming Rutledge, popular preacher)
Rutledge gives a thoughtful theological view. In it, she helps us avoid asking the wrong questions, both theologically and pastorally. Pastorally, she says that anyone who claims 'God has a reason' is both 'cruel and heartless.' The best answer is "We do not know."

6) Christianity Today's Special Section on Haiti
If you are keen to explore further the issues on Haiti, this section is a helpful collection of articles, news updates and places where you can give to the cause of helping Haiti.

My Comments
Almost all of the above are in some ways a counter-response to Pat Robertson's infamous TV interview. Yet, I find it quite a sad situation when the media generally remembers Pat Robertson's words more than other thoughtful views as listed above. Why should any one focus on one tiny part of the Christian community and then use that to label the rest of the evangelicals? My feel is that 'balanced reporting' remains a challenge. Kudos to all those who have given an alternative reading to the Haiti question. I am also appreciative of those who chose to withhold comments and focus instead on the immediate help and relief. May are doing that right now.

However, there are people asking real questions about pain and suffering. The Haiti earthquake is but another opportunity to wrestle with this. We can avoid it, but eventually we have to face it. Even though the question is hard, even impossible to answer, it highlights the limits of our human strengths. I have written a theological commentary of the Haiti question last week. I hesitated about blogging it here at that time, choosing instead to put in on my Facebook account, limited to friends. I might publish it here later this week. For now, I concentrate on directing energies not to philosophies about suffering, but on listing people and organizations on how to help.


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