Cashing in Pat Robertson’s "pure gold"

Robertson’s evil is sufficient without anyone needing to invent more

Hey, isn’t it a little early for Rex Murphy to be going after soft targets like Pat Robertson in the National Post? And isn’t intellectual hygiene a desirable thing even in the pursuit of such small game? I understand that no sensible Christian of any denomination would endorse Robertson’s Wednesday remarks suggesting that Haiti is cursed because it bought its independence by bargaining with the devil. But to make Robertson’s remarks the occasion for catcalling at the irreligious really seems like going over the top. Rex writes:

He, Robertson, fulfills every agitated secularist’s caricature of a “dedicated” Christian. If Pat Robertson didn’t exist, Richard Dawkins (with a little midwifery from Christopher Hitchens) would have to give birth to him.

Well, golly, Rex, that’s as may be, but Dawkins and Hitchens didn’t have to invent Pat Robertson, now did they? They found the world with him already in it. I’m afraid all of us, believers and infidels, must deal with the Christianity we’ve got.

Murphy goes on to complain that “Robertson’s outburst is pure gold for the ‘enlightened’ secularist view our age holds of the Christian outlook. It will continue to be mined in the late-night monologues, stuff the op-eds of ‘progressive’ papers, and will serve as justifying illustration for the demeaning hostility that is a marked feature of much modern thinking on faith.” Perhaps though carelessness on the part of the author, this has been stated in such a way that the most rabid atheist could agree unconditionally with it, and add that “The demeaning hostility will continue until it is no longer deserved.”

Since Murphy felt the need to lash out at an innocent third party while carrying on an intramural fight between Christians, I suppose one might point out that even the wicked Pat Robertson is entitled to just treatment at the hands of his critics. In talking about the “curse” he believes Haiti lies under, Robertson was referring to a genuine event in the annals of that country’s revolutionary struggle—the 1791 Voodoo prayer for liberty in the Bois Caïman. As some liberal and perhaps even “secularist” observers have pointed out, this aspect of Haitian history is something of a legitimate problem for traditional Haitian Christians. It might even be a problem for a sincere Catholic who took the trouble to inquire into it! Would Rex Murphy, squeezed into 18th-century breeches and sent by time machine to the Bois Caïman, have happily pledged his life to the destruction of the “pitiless” “white men’s god”? Freely inquiring minds want to know!

One way or another, we cannot find Robertson guilty of “telling [Haitians] the earthquake was their own fault”; as fantastic and irresponsible as his account is, it lays the blame at the feet of the country’s long-dead founding fathers, and there is nothing wrong with or cruel about that in itself. As one old philosopher might have said here, sufficient unto the day is the evil of Pat Robertson. We need not invent more.