Like most people, when I first heard Pat Robertson’s comments regarding the tragic loss of life in Haiti I was furious. It seemed so callous to me that, in the midst of tremendous human suffering, he would have the audacity to blame the people of that nation for the devastation that has taken place.
My initial reaction was to chastise Robertson for his irresponsible claims. Banging out a few hundred words of angry diatribe would certainly have been a release. But I’m not sure what that would have accomplished in the long run. Had I followed my first instinct I would have missed an opportunity to address his remarks from a more gracious perspective.
We cannot take for granted that it is universally understood that Pat Robertson does not speak for all Christians. Especially with regard to how Christianity is perceived among those outside the faith. And while it may be true that Robertson’s opinions do not reflect those of the majority of believers, the fact that his views are broadcast to millions of homes around the world often times makes his voice among the loudest.
It would be easy to disregard Robertson’s words as sheer nonsense and ignore him completely. But doing so would leave his claims unchallenged. If we do not voice our disagreement, he truly will speak for the whole of the Christian faith in the arena of public perception. And while I do feel there is a need for Christians to publicly distance themselves from Robertson’s remarks, we must be careful to demonstrate the grace and mercy of Jesus in doing so.
Pat Robertson professes a faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of mankind. For many Christians that is all the common ground that is shared with Robertson. But as such we are compelled by the Holy Spirit to embrace him as a brother and offer him the same love and compassion that Christ has afforded each one of us.
This does not mean that we can’t offer criticism of Robertson’s remarks. We are right to challenge theological credibility of his claims. We are right to be critical of the timing of his remarks and of his apparent lack of compassion for those who are suffering. Robertson’s comments were ignorant and heavy-handed. They brought condemnation and scorn at a time that called for healing and compassion. And for that he is wrong.
Let’s be careful not to be equally heavy-handed and spiteful in our treatment of Robertson in the wake of his comments. Often times it is easier for us to join in the mob mentality that is fueled by hatred and anger than it is to offer a gentle rebuke and demonstrate the grace of Jesus. If Pat Robertson’s actions have taught us nothing else it’s that in a time of great suffering our words and our actions must be guided by grace.