The aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti is overwhelmingly sad. Hundreds of thousands of people dead. More than a million are homeless. Water, food and tents are scarce. I’m touched by all the humanitarian aid pouring in from the Red Cross and other international relief organizations as well as celebrities such as Wyclef Jean (Yele), George Clooney (“Hope for Haiti Now” telethon) and Chelsea Clinton (spinning fund-raiser). But I grow incensed when people use religion to justify why such calamities occur. The Rev. Pat Robertson’s comments are especially hurtful because they preach an overly simplistic view of life: When you’re good, God allows you to prosper, but when you’re bad, God rains down his wrath on a sinful people.
Did these Christians forget the story of Job? The Old Testament biblical figure was highly esteemed by God for his religious ardor. If the idea of theodicy holds true - which New Yorker writer James Wood so artfully explores in his New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday - Job should have been spared from suffering because of his piety. A bet between God and the Devil led to Job’s torment: the death of his children, the boils on his body and the jeering by family and friends to curse God and die. Turns out bad things happen to good people and vice versa. As Job said, “What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”
A wise friend and I talked about Haiti and the woes it has endured over the centuries. But rather than viewing the tragedy as a condemnation by God, she saw it as a sign of hope. That we - the world - can help our fellow brothers and sisters rebuild their country to the state it deserves to be: a society where families can work, feed and educate their children and live in security and peace.
God isn’t punishing Haiti for a test failed. God is testing us to see if we’ll be His hands, arms, and hearts of compassion. Thankfully, some of us are rising to the challenge.