Why did a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti? While many of us would answer that question by saying that it probably had something to do with tectonic plates and the releasing of waves that traveled through the earth's crust resulting in a massive shaking, others want to offer a more theological explanation.
One of those "others" is American televangelist, Pat Robertson who claims that the Haiti earthquake was a result of Haiti's determination to be freed of French rule and the pact they had made with the devil. The belief is that the devil can cause a natural disaster to happen.
For those of you who remember the line from comedian, Flip Wilson's routine, "The devil made me do it," to understand this theology, just change the line to, "The devil made the earth do it." So the question becomes, is there any theological truth behind what Pat Robertson is saying? Can the devil really make the earth quake resulting in the deaths of thousands and thousands of people?
From a United Methodist perspective, we believe that evil is present in our world and should be taken seriously. Our membership/baptismal vows state this very clearly.
Question #1 - "On behalf of the whole church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?"
Question #2 - "Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?"
We are also known to pray The Lord's Prayer which contains this theological statement, "...lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."
So yes, our faith teaches us of the presence of evil in the world while also realizing that God's grace is also present in our world! John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed that in any given moment, God's grace is available to us and giving us the power to do what is right and good, rather than what is evil and inhuman.
Our membership/baptismal vows remind us that we don't have to be passive when confronted with evil and opportunities to sin. We can accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil. In other words, we have a part to play in the living out of our faith. We don't have to be victims when it comes to evil. We can receive God's gift of grace to help us turn away from evil and sin.
However, if we go with Pat Robertson's theology that the devil can cause an earthquake to kill thousands of people, this means that the people who died in Haiti had no choice or opportunity to resist. The United Methodist understanding of God's grace that it is a gift that empowers us to resist evil, suggests that Robertson's theology gives way too much credit to the devil.
Instead of assigning blame for a natural disaster on the victims, which is bad theology anyway, our time can be better served by sending in our donations, praying, and seeking ways to minister to a people devastated by a massive earthquake and who live in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.
So stick with the tectonics plates explanation because the devil didn't make the earth do it.