Friday, January 29, 2010

God certainly DOES judge nations, as well as individuals.

Here's a particularly venomous post from another site denouncing the very idea that God judges nations:
Militant radical Muslims arrogantly declare that the disemboweling and slaughtering of men, women, and children in the marketplace by a bomb blast is God’s will since they are the wrong kind of Muslim.

Overzealous fundamentalist Christian ministers and freelance evangelicals arrogantly declare God willed that hapless men, women, and children be killed, crippled, and made homeless in the hundreds of thousands in Haiti since they must be a misguided species of Christian.

As it does with al Qaeda, it gives God a bad name.

It is not what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Love your neighbor”---of that one can be certain.
The aggressive ignorance and confusion as well as blasphemy of such an assertion fairly takes the breath away. It is hardly worth answering the person who thinks this way, but if it sways believers at all that is very sad. Unfortunately there may be many Christians who reject the biblical witness of a God who judges sin, because of the tendency toward an "easy believism" sort of diluted gospel message over the last few decades. Easy believism makes God out to be a kindly old grandfather sort of God and encourages an aversion to the very idea of judgment and sin itself. This despite the fact that the whole gospel message is that God Himself came to die in our stead, to pay our sin debt for us because we are incapable of it, which should foster a sense of the dreadful offense of sin. Instead, the watered-down gospel we get these days tends to minimize sin, making God into a nice guy who indulges us in our "mistakes," rather than offering us a costly salvation for our heinous offenses against Him, and reducing our Lord's death on the cross to, well, to meaninglessness -- there was hardly any cause for His suffering so, if there is hardly any offense in our sins. ANY sort of judgment for sin, of individuals or nations both, is now oddly dismissed as some sort of invention by zealots, despite the testimony to it in scripture.

And strange confusions abound. Of course, a lot of it is calculated confusion, not genuine confusion at all, as in the above quotation. The mere statement that God Himself judges unrepentant sinners in horrific ways, which is given as a kind warning or a kind helping hand to repentance, is equated to the Muslim command for human beings to slaughter innocents -- innocents, not sinners. The fact that God commands us to be good to our enemies and to take care of those suffering from God's judgments is studiously ignored by those who want to tar Christians with whatever accusation the devil can invent. The fact that it is God dispensing judgment and not human beings is likewise studiously ignored, as is the fact that God is judging unrepentant sin and not innocent human beings. Clearly there is no point in answering such charges by anyone who so clearly wants to believe them. But there may be a point in trying to show believers just how twisted such reasoning is, and especially to try to instil a sense of the deep offense of sin in the place of the easygoing trivialization of it.

Here's another false assessment of the situation in Haiti:
Haiti is surely a Job among nations….Today, nearly all Haitians are Christians. About half also practice voodoo, an adaptation of their African ancestors’ native religion.
Obviously someone who has no clue what Christianity actually is. Sure, no problem, call yourself a Christian AND practice voodoo and that's all it takes and abracadabra you're a Christian and the whole benighted witchcraft-practicing nation of Haiti is "nearly all" Christian. And also, of course, anyone who suggests a biblical view of witchcraft is vilified. Whatever else you think of Pat Robertson, he's right about God's being behind the disaster in Haiti. But of course the anti-Christians are on his case.
In his narrow, malicious way, Robertson is making a First Commandment argument; when the God of Israel thunders from his mountaintop that “you shall have no other gods before me,” he means it. This God rains down disaster---floods and so forth---on those who disobey.

But Robertson’s is a fundamentalist view. It’s so unkind and self-righteous---and deaf, dumb, and blind to centuries of theological discourse on suffering by thinkers from Augustine to Elie Wiesel---that one might easily call it backward.
Call it "fundamentalist" and you're certain to engender nothing but scorn and derision like this, imputing to Robertson a "narrow" and "malicious" attitude. That really ought to tell Christians that he's on the right track, as Jesus makes clear in the New Testament that those who are following Him WILL be treated this way. Good for Pat Robertson and woe to those who disdain him. Of course it IS fundamentalist, that is, it is in keeping with the biblical revelation, it's what God Himself tells us in His word. If Augustine disagreed, too bad for Augustine -- he didn't always get it right despite many things he DID get right. And what does Elie Wiesel have to do with Christian revelation anyway?
Every Western religious tradition teaches that mortals have no way of counting or weighing another’s sin.
Um, we aren't talking about the sins of individuals, which are none of our business unless made our business, we're talking about the sins of nations here, and that is clearly shown us in the Old Testament. You don't have to be a prophet to understand what the Bible teaches about God's absolute sovereignty over all things (although it may help to be a Calvinist), it's revealed to us in scripture, and in the case of nations we can often infer many things about a particular act of God, just knowing something about that nation's history -- not everything, but the main issues. In the case of Haiti, voodoo fairly hits you in the face as the explanation for not only this particular disaster, but their hundreds of years of deterioration into poverty, their incompetent and exploitative government and the like.
“If that happened to the Haitians because they’re so sinful, then why hasn’t it happened to him?” retorts Bart Ehrman, a Bible scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Your time is no doubt coming. Why would anyone ask such a question?
[Some mortals who fancy themselves mind-0f-God readers cite “fullness of time” here, explaining that if your sinful homeland hasn’t been hit, it’s only because it hasn’t been hit yet; therefore, let us repent all together, in locksquat with prayer mats unrolled!]
It doesn't take the prophetic gift to understand God's mind THROUGH HIS OWN REVELATION TO US, merely a faithful adherence to that revelation, but of course those who hate God don't mind misconstruing it all in the service of their agenda.
“I think,” adds Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, “that it’s supreme hubris to think you can read God’s mind.”
-- Lisa Miller, religion editor, Newsweek, January 25, 2010, p. 14
Well, the poor Jews, but they are unfortunately deluding themselves.

Again, it's not "reading God's mind" to infer God's doings from His own revelation in scripture. It's exactly what He gave us that revelation FOR, so we could understand His operations in this world and be warned.

So many have been disputing what Pat Robertson said about Haiti's "pact with the devil" I had to see if there's anything to it. It appears that there most likely is. It is at least the stuff of legend, and of Christian attempts to exorcise it as well, showing that it is generally believed to be historically true.

Here's one source: Government Of The Devil, By The Devil, And For The Devil By Tom Barrett (03/11/04) From that page:
It is a matter of well-documented historical fact that the nation of Haiti was dedicated to Satan 200 years ago. On August 14, 1791, a group of houngans (voodoo priests), led by a former slave houngan named Boukman, made a pact with the Devil at a place called Bois-Caiman. All present vowed to exterminate all of the white Frenchmen on the island. They sacrificed a black pig in a voodoo ritual at which hundreds of slaves drank the pig’s blood. In this ritual, Boukman asked Satan for his help in liberating Haiti from the French. In exchange, the voodoo priests offered to give the country to Satan for 200 years and swore to serve him. On January 1, 1804, the nation of Haiti was born and thus began a new demonic tyranny.
Many of the links on the above page are now defunct, most of them being pretty old (remember, this was written in 2004, well before the recent earthquake in Haiti). But there are still some live ones that back up the claim of such a pact, and show that it is recognized by Haitians themselves as a turning point in their history.

Some more references:

Reported in 1998, an effort was made by Christians to exorcise the evil influence of the pact at the site where it was originally made in 1791. It doesn't seem to have had much if any effect, as the practice of voodoo has continued just as strong as ever since then.

Here's a U.S. government document that treats this pact as historically recognized if nothing else, and reports on the efforts of the Christians to undo it: U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999. From the report:
While society is generally tolerant of the variety of religious practices that flourish in the country, Christian attitudes towards voodoo vary. While many Christians accept voodoo as part of the country's cultural patrimony, others regard it as incompatible with Christianity, and this has led to isolated instances of conflict in the recent past.

In early August 1998, three evangelical pastors were arrested near Cap Haitien after they had proceeded with plans to hold a religious revival at Bois Caiman. Bois Caiman has a strong patriotic significance for Haitians, since it is the site of a legendary 1791 voodoo ceremony at which slaves swore to rise up against their masters and risk death rather than continue to live in bondage. The resulting slave rebellion was a precursor to the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). The pastors, who had been prohibited by the authorities from holding the revival on the actual anniversary of the ceremony, proceeded instead with plans to hold the event several days before the anniversary, hoping to rid the area of malevolent influences. This offended much of the local populace and local authorities, who arrested pastors Joel Jeune, Jean Berthony Paul, and Gregor Joseph on August 4. They were released on the orders of a judge on August 6.
The story has some holes in it. It may in fact be the truth that they did this, but in 1998 the supposed pact with Satan would have expired anyway since it was made in 1791 for 200 years. Not that Satan honors his commitments of course, but since God is in charge of everything ultimately anyway, he may have to. In any case, the practice of voodoo has not stopped as a result either of the expiration of the pact or the efforts of the Christians, and until this practice is given up by a majority there is little reason to think Haitian society is going to improve any time soon.

There is this other factor that they are nominally "Christians." Well, in the US we are also considered a Christian society despite the fact that there can't really be a very high proportion of true believers in the country, certainly no where near as high as is often claimed. BUT I think we can safely claim to be a Christian SOCIETY in the sense that Haiti is not. I'm thinking of recent reports from Haiti about young men taking food away from women and children and the weak. Such action in most western societies would be denounced, because we ARE a Christian society in that sense. The protection of the weak by the strong is a strong tenet of our societies that has come down through centuries. We may of course be losing it now as we're overtaken by pagan values -- or really, subpagan values, animalistic values -- but we can still see it in operation now and then.