The Rev’d James W. Nutter
January 14, 2010
From today’s Houston Chronicle: “Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson says Haiti has been ‘cursed’ because of what he calls a ‘pact with the devil’ in its history.”
Well, I couldn’t quite believe that such words were said, and then, well, I did. And it grieved me. And it more than grieved me.
One of the things that grieves me is that any person, any Christian, any Christian leader would judge another people—people who are all children of God, people for whom Jesus died, people who are now devastated, hungry, homeless, grieving, and dying—again, how could anyone declare such pronouncements on people in so much pain? The people who say such words worship a different God than I do. These people believe in a different God than the one I believe that Jesus came to reveal. Call him “Abba,” Jesus said. He knows all the hairs on your head, he said. He cares for every lost sheep, he said. Let the little children comes unto me, he said.
Now is not the time to proclaim any judgments. Now is the time for prayer. Now is the time for us as a people, nation, and church, to reach out with help, supplies, and expertise. Now is the time to remember that Jesus calls us to be his presence in the midst of all this suffering.
I have had a couple of people ask me some tough questions when such disasters take place: “How could God allow such things to happen? Where is God in all this?” I do not—and I believe that others do not —know the answer to the first question. I would like to know; I imagine you would like to know; but such knowledge is not ours in this lifetime. As Paul has said, “For now we see in a mirror dimly…” (1 Cor. 13: 12). Like many of you, I have some questions that I would like to ask when I see God face to face. We must be careful; we must be humble, about proclaiming that we know the mind of God. Our God is a great mystery, and his ways are not necessarily our ways. That response can seem rather thin, but there it is—that is as honest as I can be with you. Now, about the second question: Where is God? I do feel like I know the answer to this one: God is right there in Haiti, now. With the workers, now. With those who have died, now. With us, now, encouraging us to send our love and help and support to this broken nation. The One who gave his life for us on the cross is with all people who suffer. He bleeds for all. His arms are extended to all.
I do not believe, I will never believe, that our God, our Jesus, is in the “cursing” business. This does not mean that our God blesses everything—we know better. Our God is in the blessing business, and as his people, and as the disciples of Jesus, we must be about the same. Which is one of the reasons why I am grieved when such comments as Pastor Robertson’s get into the newspaper. There are people in our culture who don’t believe in God, who don’t know what to make of God, who may be curious about God, who might like to know more about God, but then when some Christian leader starts talking about people being cursed because of what their forefathers and foremothers may have done 300 years ago, their common sense, their innate decency, will cry out and reject not only such theology, but they may reject any relationship with God at all. Such pronouncements give a bad name to Christians.
I am writing these words not only because I believe that words such as Pastor Robertson’s are wrong and irresponsible and presumptuous. I am writing these words as a pastor myself because I believe that more reasonable and responsible Christian voices don’t do enough to write and to speak against such sentiments. We need another voice for Christ in our culture. If we believe that we can speak with that voice, then speak we must. If we don’t, then we have given away the public square to Robertson and voices like his. If we don’t, then shame on us. So, Here I Stand; so, here I speak. We have a great God who is in this terrible crisis. We have a savior who identifies with the “least of these.” We have a God who has equipped us and enabled and encouraged us to be his presence and help to all.
James Nutter is the former rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, TX.