It really is too easy to ridicule what the Rev. Pat Robertson sometimes says. It's a bit like making fun of a man who mumbles stuff to himself on the subway about Martians, moon landings and 9-11. It's kindest — it's smartest — just to look away.
But millions of people regard Robertson as a source of wisdom, even though few people I can think of have said so many seriously dotty or malicious things during moments of epochal distress.
This week, as images of the suffering in Haiti began to reach the outside world, the Reverend Robertson told his viewers on The 700 Club that years ago, Haitians had made an improvident pact by saying to the devil, " 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' It's a true story," Robertson said. "And so the devil said, 'Okay, it's a deal,' and they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free, but ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other," presumably this most recent lethal earthquake.
A few moments later, Robertson did add, "We need to pray for them," and, "Right now we're helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable."
But it's hard to detect the hand of God, much less His loving touch, in those remarks.
Enough about Robertson. It's important to turn attention to Haiti.
It is moving to hear so many stories of so many Haitians bearing up with bravery and grace. And it is impressive to see the world dispatch so much help to Haiti. Medical and search-and-rescue teams have arrived from such distant and dissimilar places as Iceland, Israel and Fairfax, Va. Food and medicine is being sent from as far away as China, and as close as Canada — and Cuba. In fact, the Cuban government is letting U.S. medical evacuation planes, which are military aircraft, fly over Cuba to reduce travel time. Catastrophe has at least temporarily overcome animosity. The U.N. secretary-general, U.S. Cabinet officials and prime ministers are beginning to visit, bearing pledges of aid.
But when the famous faces have gone home, the bright lights packed up, and much of the news snaps back into normalcy, Haitians will face some of their darkest, most desperate hours. The struggle to survive — to build lives with clean water, safe food, medical care, security, education and real opportunity— will be as urgent, if not as dramatic, as rescuing people from the rubble and ruin. Haiti will still be a great human emergency. It will last a lifetime.