The Rev. Pat Robertson's recently expressed opinion that the death of almost 100,000 Haitians in a devastating earthquake was God's judgment upon them for the sins of a few of the ancestors of some of them should occasion no surprise. After all, Robertson offered a similar opinion regarding the terrorist attack upon the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. That was God's judgment for America's sins, he said. At the time, Samuel T. Francis observed that " If 9/11 was God's punishment for America's sins, then I think we got off lightly! "
One of the better-known of the sermons of Charles Wesley is on earthquakes, which he believed to be God's means of punishment when humanity's sins reach a certain level of effrontery. The New Testament contains numerous references to earthquakes. They abound in Revelation, the final and greatest of the books of the Bible.
In Mark 6:11, Jesus is recorded as saying of those towns which refused a hospitable reception to his apostles: " And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. "
Legend has it that the denizens of these two cities of sin were incinerated into extinction by a firestorm of burning sulphur. One must wonder whether each and every one of those luckless people were equally guilty of sin.
In Titus 1:12-13, the apostle Paul gives credence to a statement about the Cretans that can only be considered as a collective negative judgment upon an entire ethnic group. Of course, such wild ethnocentrism abounds in the Old Testament.When people today read these judgments in the Bible, they are apt to spiritualize them, to explain them away as just a doomed state of the soul. When a frank talker like Robertson comes along, it seems that simply another breach of decorum has occurred. He chooses not to spiritualize the scriptures into something that is only tepidly inspiring, something good for the local community.