This is a paper that I had written for my journalism class. I realize it’s outdated by about eight months, but my tone towards Robertson and CBN remains the same. I understand that I could have made the same dumb mistake as Robertson did, but that does not excuse his comment. And the fact that CBN quickly defended his claim only shows the religious bigotry of their organization.
The red letters of the New Testament (Jesus’ words) are the basis for my standpoint on the world. His teachings about loving one’s enemies, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the lonely, etc, are all based off of two commandments from the Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. This perspective helps me to see that my life isn’t about serving myself, but rather serving others as I would like to be served, even if I am never served in that way. Selfless love is the central tenet of my standpoint. My role with mass media is to relay this message in its purest intent. To show a video, a TV show, or write a newspaper or magazine article that boasts of one’s own “selfless” actions actually contradicts the definition of selfless love. If I were to give a homeless man a free meal and then go around telling all my friends of my good deed, was it really a selfless action? Therefore, my role with mass media is to adhere to the message in the process of delivering it, or, to put it plainly, to practice what I preach.
An example of such a contradiction in terms comes from a TV show called “The 700 Club.” It’s a show that airs on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Its host, Pat Robertson, carries a charismatic smile and demeanor in each broadcast. At the same time, though, he has made comments that carry heavy implications of a smug self-righteousness, a kind of attitude contrary to the main tenet of the Christian faith. And even though he has made outrageous comments regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the destruction from Hurricane Katrina, his most recent verbal blunder occurred in the wake of the Haitian earthquakes. The original intent of this particular broadcast was to highlight the devastation in Haiti and raise funds to send relief teams and provisions to the nation in need. But in the process of doing so, Pat Robertson made a comment in an attempt to possibly explain why such a devastating event happened in the first place. He said:
[The Haitian slaves] were under the heel of the French…. They got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you if you get us free from the French.” True story. And so, the devil said, “Okay, it’s a deal.” And, uh, 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 another.
– The 700 Club
Essentially, he has blamed the earthquake upon the sins of Haiti some two hundred years ago. Given my standpoint of learning from the words of Jesus and the teachings of the Bible, the book of Romans teaches quite clearly that no one sin is greater or worse than another. We all know that certain sins cause greater destruction than others merely in the action (a murder is usually more destructive than a little white lie). And since this is the case based upon the same standpoint that the Christian Broadcasting Network and Pat Robertson claim to adhere to, then why did Robertson go so far as to say that Haiti’s sins caused their own destruction? Following that logic, we should all be punished with some kind of devastating event. And yet most of us here in America are sitting quite comfortably (comparatively speaking to the millions of refugees in Haiti). The only reason I can give for Robertson’s comment is that he was acting outside of the standpoint he claims to believe in. Ultimately, he was not practicing what he preaches.
And yet I may be assuming too much of Robertson and the network he works for, CBN. Perhaps he holds a standpoint much different than my own; that is to say, he probably believes in a different interpretation of the same text both he and I read and receive instruction from (the Bible). From the video clip of his Haitian comment, it’s probable that he believes if someone sins, they receive punishment for that sinful action. The problem I have found with it (and why I am in strong disagreement to his comments) is the one I’ve already stated: Why have I not been punished for my sins? True Christianity’s role with mass media is to relay the message of selfless love. But what with Robertson said in the raising awareness broadcast, he seems to have practiced a self-righteous love that serves no one else but himself.
With as angry as his words have made me – since they appear to contradict my standpoint – my response must not be the same as his. I am not holier than him and should not even begin to act like it; it could have been me saying those words. But no matter how great the possibility of me saying the same thing as Robertson did, I do not believe that his comments are therefore justified. In my honest opinion, I feel as though Robertson, especially given the privilege and responsibilities of a TV broadcaster, ought to admit his err to the public. But before he could have done that, CBN posted an online article defending Robertson’s claims. This has only made my disagreement with Robertson’s claims stronger; now I see the entire network of CBN as one with a goal to deliver their own self-righteous message and not the selflessly-loving message that is true Christianity.
There are many Christians within the world who might agree with Pat Robertson in his claim that Haiti’s sins reaped an eternal curse that led to the earthquakes this year. But I think the Haitian Christians might think otherwise. Their standpoint carries a much stronger personal tone because it is their nation that is suffering. Their homes, their churches, their backyards, the places where they grew up have all been devastated by these earthquakes. For the Haitian, much was lost. And instead of helping them to regain what they lost, Pat Robertson, with his “pact with the devil” claim, took even more from them; their integrity. Instead of highlighting the slave revolt of the late 18th/early 19th century as a positive and hopeful event, Robertson described it as a sinful act, which may imply to the Haitian people that God did not intend them to be free.
Loving others as I would have them love me involves respecting their integrity. Had I been in Robertson’s shoes, either before or after his comments, I would have to think of how that message was received by the suffering people themselves. What would they say to me if I told them that their reason for suffering was because of sins their ancestors committed? To go a step further, how would I feel if I were in the Haitians’ shoes? What would I do upon hearing Pat Robertson’s words? How would I feel? These are the kinds of questions anyone working in broadcasting (be it TV, newspaper, magazine, internet, etc.) must ask themselves whenever discussing opinions and beliefs during a catastrophic time. As for me and my standpoint, my allegiance to the red letters of the Bible tells me that loving someone else as I would love myself involves using encouraging words and saying uplifting things. After all, the main tenet of the Christian faith is supposed to be an uplifting one in the first place.