Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti and Christianity

There is no doubt in my mind that what we are seeing on the news over the past 48 hours will be one of the most horrific tragedies ever witnessed in our lifetimes.  The earthquake that has leveled Haiti has been shocking and hard to absorb.  When I see images like what I have seen on TV I am torn with the desire to wish I could physically be there to help and assist with the recovery efforts and yet I feel guilty when I pull myself away from the images and get into my daily routine.  But there is one thing that really blew me away on the morning of January 13 as I watched the first reports being broadcast on Good Morning America.  What struck me was the talk on both national and local news about the Christian organizations that have been and are currently heavily involved in the efforts of caring for the poor in Haiti.  And depending on who you listen to, this network is, according to some, as one of the "liberal" new media titans.  The entire morning was spent interviewing people who represented organizations like World Vision, Compassion International, Samaritan's Purse, and locally Matthew 25 Ministries.  You would have thought you were watching some Christian cable network but it was Good Morning America!  It was simply awesome.

I went to work that morning just blown away by some of these great organizations that have been and are doing amazing things in Haiti and around the world for the poorest of the poor.  I was proud to be a Christian and I was moved along with my Senior Pastor to move quickly in organizing our church to partner with the efforts of Matthew 25 Ministries.  So in a matter of less than an hour we set up the means for our church to respond very big for at least the next 4 weeks.  I also am on the Missions Team on our Church Leadership Board.  I was proud to sit with two other lay people and hear their hearts for what we could do to help with Haiti both short-term and long-term. 

But I can't begin to express my feelings without getting vulgar when people who apparently represent "Christianity" and "conservative values" take a tragedy like Haiti and spin it in such a way to promote themselves or their own agenda. 

Pat Robertson claimed on one of his shows that the nation of Haiti made a deal with the devil and has been plagued with tragedies ever since.  Again, and again, and again this guy takes national news and interprets it through the lens of an angry, vengeful God who is pouring out his wrath.  Robertson has done this with his comments about 9/11, the health of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and at least once that I know of he attempted to preempt God's wrath upon Hugo Chavez, much to the dismay of the Christians who were attempting to be the hands and feet of Jesus within Venezuela. 

Pat Robertson stands in such stark contrast to the army of Christians who are doing all they can to help in the relief efforts in Haiti.  In fact, I am beginning to see Robertson as a kinder, gentler Fred Phelps.  I haven't seen Robertson carrying hateful signs at funerals of military people or denouncing homosexuals (well, actually he did blame 9/11 on them on national television).  I just wish that a guy like him was not what the world would be exposed to on television as a Christian leader.  The regular network news has been more representative of Christ by singing the praises of the unsung heroes: missionaries, those participating on short term mission trips, aid workers, and the military, which in my humble opinion, I believe is at its finest when it is a force for aid and compassion more so than a war machine. 

Then we have the godfather of talk radio: Rush Limbaugh!  Haiti is seen through the lens of politics and how Obama is going to use this to his advantage.  I am so sick of this type of political rhetoric.  When is it going to ever end.  I am so tired of the absolute vilification of our President by either side!  Some democrats were guilty of this with Bush and now we see some of those who represent Republicans doing it all the time to Obama.  When will this blowhard just shut up.  I want to have some sliver of hope that our president will do what is right for the country regardless of their political party.  After all, every President I have lived under has claimed to be a Christian.  Do we at least owe him the benefit of the doubt based on our common faith? I want to have a little hope in a sovereign God who is working through the details of history to bring about his kingdom and his grace and love for all people.  A God who continues to work in history through people and despite people at times!

Rush does not represent mainstream conservative people. Pat Robertson does not represent mainstream Christian people.  Please do not judge Christianity based on what you may see on television or what you may hear on the radio.  I honestly wish these two guys did not have the audience that they have but apparently they continue to have a following.  I just want to encourage Christians of all types to make sure that the teachings of Christ define us more than the spin we might subject ourselves to in media.  Cable news thrives on polarizing our country and cable Christianity thrives on boxing people into black and white categories.  We either gullibly fall into these categories and accept the lens that they interpret life through or we strive to be more like Christ.

I find it very, very interesting that John Stewart, who claims to be Jewish, had to open up a Bible on his show and just begin reading from Scripture to contrast what the Bible has to say as opposed to Robertson and Limbaugh.  Check it out for yourself at this link. It's classic:

In the meantime, this Sunday will represent the first Sunday after the Haiti earthquake.  This should be the day where there will be the most outpouring of prayers, support, supplies and love directed to the nation of Haiti.  If Haiti isn't even mentioned in your church then I would seriously encourage you to find another church.  These are the defining moments in history where the church has the opportunity to BE THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.  And if we want to talk about God's judgment let's not forget that the Bible is quite clear on that judgement is coming first and foremost on the house of God. 1 Peter 4:17-19 states that:

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

A day will come where we all will be judged by a holy and loving God.  If my focus has always been about judging others and casting them in a sceptical, critical view to hide my own selfish desires or opinions then I would be very afraid to come face-to-face with a God who will have some issues with that kind of approach.

Also the letter of James has a lot to say about judging others. He states in James 2:12-13 that we are to:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

Mercy is the overriding characteristic that should define us in our actions and attitudes towards others.  May that characteristic define us this Sunday and the weeks, months and years ahead in our response to Haiti as well as any other crises or tragedies within our communities.  May this moment be a turning point for the Christian church to shine like stars and kick the darkness until it bleeds daylight.

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