THE BLOG

Pat Robertson's God is a Jerk

Somebody has to stand up for God here.

God does not send earthquakes to punish poor people. Or tsunamis. Or AIDS. Or any other disease. Just because God does that in any number of religious texts doesn't make it so. Any god who did that wouldn't be worthy of a single human thought, much less human service. And "heaven" with that kind of God in charge sounds a lot like hell to me.

People of faith have struggled with human suffering since the beginning; just read the book of Job. "Blessed are the poor" comes straight out of Jesus' own mouth, a response to self-satisfied religious figures in his own day who said the poor were being punished for some sin, a claim Jesus explicitly rejects in the gospel of John in the story of the man born blind (John 9:3).

It's too bad every bit of religious idiocy that comes out of Pat Robertson's mouth gets a headline. And it's worse that every Christian with access to a media outlet doesn't immediately grab the mike and denounce what he says and at least offer another Christian response to it, however unsatisfactory, and there are no easy answers to the suffering of the innocent.

Having faith doesn't mean that God is going to protect us; there's probably more faith in Haiti than in the Vatican. It only means that we have hope, and that when things like this happen, when poor, oppressed, forgotten people are ground down under yet another heel -- even a natural disaster -- we see the image of God ground down, we see Jesus crucified again, we see our very selves and our own children crushed.

Catholics sometimes call it solidarity, and it's a hell of a lot more than writing a check. It means recognizing our own hand in the suffering of the poor -- and not just blaming God for "allowing" it to happen. It means asking how the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere can be just a few hundred miles from the richest country that has ever existed. Or how 2 billion people live on a dollar or two a day or lack access to clean water or secure food when it is well within our power to provide those basics. If God is pissed about anything, I'd look there.

We've allowed Haiti to happen, just as we allowed Katrina to happen, just as we allow poor people all over the world to be left basically defenseless against the onslaught of nature and globalization and environmental destruction. God is just our excuse for doing next to nothing about it.