Center for Ethics and Leadership

Friday, January 15, 2010

Contemptible Christianity

Working with my students in the introduction to theology last fall, I decided to assign them a few passages from Revelation. Chapter 19 speaks of the enemies of God being cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. This is the beginning of Christianity's argument that God's judgment is terrible and swift for those who align themselves with the devil.

For centuries the church has wrestled with these texts, at times embracing them, and at others providing softer interpretations of them. My guess is that most Christians do not know that the inclusion of Revelation in the New Testament was hotly disputed in the fourth century as the canon was being closed.

The question of whom God judges and how was raised again in the worst way by politican and pastor Pat Robertson yesterday. Robertson has a track record in spiteful Christianity. Readers may recall that he and Jerry Falwell suggested that 9/11 might have been God's punishment for America's sins. Those of us with a special attachment to New Orleans will not forget his attributing that disaster to the Crescent City's unique ambiance.

Robertson has now crossed over into territory that is beyond reprehensible for a Christian pastor. Citing a Haitian legend from the late 18th century that claims that slaves made a pact with the devil to free them from French colonialism, Robertson has located the source of this week's earthquake in divine retribution.

Many have already called Robertson's remarks stupid and racist. Let me call it like it is: contemptible Christianity.