Stuff White People Like: Blaming the Devil

I know, I know, you've already read or heard Pat Robertson's comments about the earthquake and crisis in Haiti, but it's so tragically indicative of the wrong sort of religion - the toxic sort that makes lots of folks sick - that I simply have to re-post it (and throw in my two cents):

"And you know, Kristi, 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, uh, you know Napoleon the 3rd and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story. And so the Devil said, 'Okay, it's a deal.’ And, uh, they kicked the French out, you know, with Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by, by one thing after another, desperately poor."

This is the same sort of tragic pact with Lucifer that has allowed Jack Black to create mind-bendingly-awesome ROCK!

No, but seriously.

Pat Robertson is doing what white people have been doing for most of modernity: shifting blame AWAY from the devastation Western Colonialism has wreaked on the 3rd World.

Question: if you kidnapped a young child, beat and abused him for 20 years, and then let him go, would you expect him to go live a productive, healthy life?

If you conquer a nation, decimate their economic viability, rob them of their natural resources, strip them of their culture, language and ancestral identity, remove their dignity, rape their women, enslave their men, brainwash their children, fragment them and turn groups of them against one-another, and do this for HUNDREDS OF YEARS... do we really need to blame the DEVIL for the hardships they face when you pull out?

A man once said to me, "African culture abhors order and law." I wanted to punch him, but he was a large man.

First: as if there is some singular "African" culture. But more importantly: most of Africa's woes - including its poverity - are a direct result of robbery and decimation by Western Empires.

We made the mess... But THEY made a "pact with the devil." Boogedy boogedy boo. It's racist beyond belief, and ignorant beyond measure.

On the liberal talk radio station I listen to, a "liberal/progressive" caller called in to say, "We need to move beyond race in this country. We're ready. We don't need to be obsessed with political correctness - it's time to move forward."

White people love to say things like, "It's time to move forward," because it just might get us out of having to take responsibility.

But we have to take responsibility.


fef said...

Even though Pat IS right (what he said is a known history fact), he has fallen victim of what I call here, in my spanish-speaking country, preaching the Bad Olds, that is contrary to the Good News (Gospel - Evangelion), to preach condemnation instead of salvation.

He focused on the bad part instead of offering the Solution for the bad part.

There's a story that I would like to share with you about a man who was drowning in the river because he could not swim. He managed to grab a cactus to stay afloat even though it stung him.

Not far, on the shore, there was a Christian with a Bible on his left hand and the all-accusing finger on his right hand, yelling: "stupid, let go of the cactus! It stings! It is perforating your skin!". The drowning fellow just ignored him by reasoning: "If I was to let go of this cactus, wouldn't I just drown? I have to hang on to it as hard as I can even if it stings!".

The christian was right, the cactus was stinging him. But the guy in the river was also right, he would drown if not for the cactus. Now, wouldn't it be much nicer and effective if the christian was not to say a word and throw him a lifesaver (life preserving device)?

The guy in the river would immediately grab the life preserving device and let go of the cactus by logic, by common sense, and save his life.

To preach the Good News, the Gospel, is to give lifesavers. To preach the Bad Olds is to criticize the drowning dude for staying afloat with a cactus. John 3:17.

Sometimes you just have to call things how it is, but most of the time you must wait for the right time before saying it.

Felipe F. from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Peter said...

Interesting story, thanks for sharing, Felipe. I appreciate the visit.

I will say, Pat's story is HIGHLY problematic, and no serious scholarly person or historian regards it as anything more.

Al said...

Even IF the pact with the devil story is true, emphasizing it says:
--God isn't big enough to counteract what the devil might be doing.
--God doesn't REALLY love everyone, He just says He does, but only blesses the white guys.
(There might be other un-godly things it points to, but those two come to mind.)

Ira said...

Many Haitians believe the vodou spirits helped to secure their release from France. Many Americans believe God helped secure their freedom from Britain. At certain times and places, the idea that a people's deity (or deities) might work out a victory on their behalf was not uncommon.

I don't see how this equates to a "pact with the devil," however, so I am loathe to suggest that Robertson is right on any level.

Robertson is reading the Haitians' invocation of their gods in a way that demonizes them and seeks to delegitimate their quest for freedom in the 19th century.

I'm sure he thinks that the American revolution was ordained by God.

Of course.

Peter said...

Well put, Ira. It does seem similar, in that light.

Existential Punk said...

People seem to want to 'move on' when it means deflecting from responsibility and/or they don't see it as 'their' issue/problem.

Insightful post, Peter!


Wickle said...

"what he said is a known history fact"

Not to nit-pick it too much, fef, but most historians actually believe that the story was made up by the French Catholics to smear the locals who had the unmitigated gall to throw them out.

However, one would wish that Robertson had at least cracked open his Bible and might read the passage in John 9:1-3 in which the disciples ask who sinned and caused a man to be born blind.

Jesus said that that wasn't what caused the blindness.

Brand New Day said...

Thanks for the valuable conversation! Jer. 31 talks of the New Covenant NOT working like this anymore - people dying for the sins of their forefathers.

I wish we would just move on and talk about tetonic plates and systemic poverty instead of all this devil mumbo jumbo :(

Brent said...

Pete, you’re arguing from the same position as good old Pat. You’re just saying it was the White Devil instead of Satan. If I was going to blame a power I would blame God. There is no need to dress God in white linens of love. Why do we strive so hard to say God is good when He lets things like this happen? Reality is these things happen to caring people or selfish people the same, America just happens to have people who care about live saving building codes more than most the world. Its things like this and what I've been though the last year and a half that drive me to be more agnostic than ever. Why has God allowed it? I'm not seeing the benefits.

Peter said...

No Brent. You are wrong.

Brand New Day said...

Brent - thanks for your honest take
I hope that you will take my suggestion. go to a bookstore, find John Caputo's "What would Jesus Deconstruct". turn to page 81. It is chpt. 4 entitled "Jesus, the Theo-Poetics or the Kingdom and Praxis" read 4 pages. See that God is weak and likes it that way. put the book down. walk out of the store.

if you are anything like me, the Weakness of God will change your world and how you participate in it. you won't be an agnostic - you will just live like one :)
it is really helpful to figure out that God is weak.


p.s. if you take my suggestion, let me know how it goes

Al said...

Just to see what my favorite de-bunkers say about the 'pact with the cevil', I checked snopes, and they link to:

truthorfiction has no entry on the subject.

So, the validity of the 'pact' is definitely in question, and the snopes/salon link refers to colonialism, racism, class structure, and other things along the same lines as Peter originally speaks of.

Sorry, Brent, I can't blame God for a lack of building codes, but neither can I answer why He doesn't keep better tabs on tectonic plates, etc. I expect that your unfulfilled expectation that God should stop all tragedies, and my efforts at understanding why He doesn't are both incomplete efforts at figuring out who God is.

I'm sure we humans have an important part to play in all this, but I don't think I can totally let God off the hook either.

Although I haven't reached the same conclusions as you have, Brent, I'm glad you felt comfortable enough to share your own journey.

And Peter, what's with the "No Brent. You are wrong."? No further explanation?

Rhiannon Y Orizaga said...

frankly i think it is racist but look at pat robertson, he's about 80,000 years old so he probably grew up thinking a certain way and stagnated. no one i know of listens to him anyway.
as for the idea that vodou is demonic, ho-hum. why is every other religion regarded as automatically demonic? did not create the demons, Satan, all the angels, anyway? I can't see the usefulness of that argument, and I don't think anyone else does either. Pat Robertson is a damn fool and I'd say the worst thing about all this is how many people in the twitter universe now think that Rob Pattinson hates Haiti.

Peter said...

BTW, wonderfully said Rhiannon! Especially THIS: "as for the idea that vodou is demonic, ho-hum. why is every other religion regarded as automatically demonic?"

HA! I love it. I think so too...

James said...

I think that Brent had a pretty good point. While I think that the argument that Pete raises is obviously very different from what Pat Robertson said, they are both guilty of oversimplifying a very complex problem. I think that is what Brent was getting at. To blame any one thing, whether it be satan, or god, or the white man is ignorant because the it diminishes the complexity of the socio-political situation in Haiti.

Furthermore all the blame is just a worthless diversion. Robertson could have used the influence that he has to raise money for aid. Then maybe his organization could have given 600 tons of aid instead of the 300 that they gave. But instead people were distracted by what was said and the actual crisis gets lost in the mix. Similarly, bloggers and critics could have used the influence that they have to mobilize people to actually do something instead of criticizing what Robertson said.

I am not saying that Robertson should not be evaluated based on what he said. I just think that we, and I am including myself, probably could have waited at least until the bodies of dead Haitians were pulled from the rubble.

Peter said...

I deeply disagree.

"To blame any one thing... is ignorant."

I choose to blame what I am, rather than point fingers elsewhere. Colonialism, slavery and genocide may not have been the ONE thing... but c'mon.

"Furthermore all the blame is just a worthless diversion."

Really? The average westerner has a robust, productive sense of the implications of colonialism, and a grasp on the continued, intimately personal connections we hold with our progenitors? Blame would be worthless if people knew and accepted where blame lay in the first place.

"...we, and I am including myself, probably could have waited at least until the bodies of dead Haitians were pulled from the rubble."

Wait to criticize those who defile the heritage, who redact the problem, and who desecrate the cultural identity of those dead Haitians in the rubble? Wait to advocate for Haitian identity; to respect Haitian history? I'm not so self-deluded as to think my blog here makes a significant impact, but this reminds me of waiting to talk about civil rights, after 9-11. We honored their memories by giving up our freedoms. They called it disrespectful to resist or object.

James said...

I get what you are saying about not placing the blame else where but all blame does not rest in the sins of the west. I agree that the sins of the west are great and many but there are other factors. All I was saying is that I get what Brent was saying. And it does not do anything to help people understand Haiti to make it about one thing.

And I think that it was a diversion. Many of the blogs that I read only talked about Pat Robertson with regard to Haiti. I am not saying to not be critical I am saying that there is a time and a place to call people to action. I do not care if you view your influence as small or large we all have a responsibility to use the influence that has been given to us for good. And in a situation like Haiti it was depressing to me that many people jumped on the opportunity to be critical of Robertson and said little to nothing about Haiti and the actual situation there. I get you are just one blogger but this is a systemic problem in the blogoshpere. I can't help but wonder what might happen if people took the opportunity to compel people to mobilize instead of being critical of some airhead with a TV show.

Peter said...

"All blame does not rest in the sins of the west."

That's true.

"Many people jumped on the opportunity to be critical of Robertson and said little to nothing about Haiti and the actual situation there..."

Also very true.

Thanks for elaborating, James.

Al said...

Just a thought about blame:
Placing blame is probably being judgmental, and can often be based on less than complete knowledge. Often nothing worthwhile results.
Taking blame promotes repentance, healing and restitution.

Although one cannot take all the blame for the many, at least it is a step in a potentially good direction.

I agree, James, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

I think the proof of any pudding will be in a few months or years--will we (individually, corporately) have changed anything, and will Haiti return to its potential?

Brent said...

I've been more convinced than ever that blame (placing guilt) has no benefit in a Christians life. Blaming individuals or even collective groups; which are just many individuals. I could be wrong but I don't remember Jesus teaching anything about blaming others? don't forget causation and blame are different. But if you turn a causation into a blame your actually moving your own personal self into claiming to be more righteous than.
Laying blame anywhere doesn't reconcile or fix anything it’s just a futile exercise in trying to feel more righteous than another. Just as my blaming God is equivalent to thinking I know better than Him what to do with His creations. It may be apart of His plan to let an earthquake happen but my blame is only a personal reflection of my desires, not of Him being wrong. So blaming a concept outside of oneself is not really a good way to heal something because it is fixated on ignoring its own responsibility in the given situation. Its seeing the speck in the others eye when you have a plank in your own. Then taking a splinters of our own "blaming" plank and shoving it into the eyes of another blinding them to what they really need. This mysterious relationship with God, where He can heal our hearts and guide us each to our own better understanding of Him.

Peter said...

Choosing to take blame - as a recipient of empirical power, myself - is sort of my whole thesis for this blog. It's the central theme of my Christianity.

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