By Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
During Wednesday's "The 700 Club," religious broadcaster Pat Robertson took the teachable moment provided by the tragedy in Haiti to school Kristi Watts, his African-American co-host, on the origin of that nation's chronic and cyclical misery.
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about," the faith healer, false prophet and former business partner of African despots Charles Taylor and Mobutu Sese Seko said during his program's disaster relief fundraiser.
"They were under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon III and, whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the [French].' True story," Mr. Robertson said with an inappropriate smile.
Meanwhile, Ms. Watts nodded like she's done a thousand times before. As long as their checks continue to clear, no one at "The 700 Club" is in a hurry to challenge the boss' grip on reality.
"And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal,'" the broadcaster said with the confidence of a man who refuses to recognize a fairy tale when he hears it. "The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."
This Faustian version of the Haitian revolution isn't documented in any history book, but the legend of Jean-Jacques Dessalines' pact with Satan initiated on Aug. 14, 1791, is a popular folk tale.
That Haitian legend involving Satan and voodoo rituals has about as much historical credibility as Yankee tall tales about Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, or of Davy Crockett climbing rays of frozen sunlight to liberate the world from the coldest winter ever. So, why is a prominent American religious broadcaster quoting an urban myth as historical gospel?
When Ms. Watts looks back on that broadcast many years from now, she'll kick herself for not saying the things that would occur to any sentient person being confronted with such nonsense on live TV.
Instead of nodding her head, Kristi Watts should have taken the lead in an interrogation along these lines:
KW: Is the devil racist on top of everything else, Pat? Why do Haitians have to pay for their liberation in ways the American colonists who revolted against Britain didn't? We don't have this litany of disasters.
PR: The devil isn't racist, Kristi. That's crazy talk. Satan is a liar and a schemer, but he isn't racist. We can't throw around charges that aren't merited by the metaphysical facts. [He giggles uncontrollably.]
KW: I'm just saying -- American colonists were under the heel of the British, too. They had few resources with which to fight the greatest nautical and military power on Earth, yet they won. How do we know that the Founding Fathers didn't swear a pact with the devil, too?
PR: Because, Kristi, America was founded as a Christian nation. No voodoo was used. The founders treated their slaves compassionately, so there was no need for satanic revolts. Jesus gave America the Constitution, its wise gun laws and righteous men to lead it. Jesus loves America above all other nations.
KW: Didn't you and Rev. Jerry Falwell once say that 9/11 was God's punishment on this country for harboring abortionists and tolerating feminism and the homosexual agenda?
PR: Actually, Jerry said all that. I just nodded my head like an idiot.
KW: What about Hurricane Katrina? Didn't you once prophesy that the destruction of huge swaths of New Orleans was a manifestation of God's wrath?
PR: God moves in mysterious ways, Kristi. Even I can't explain all of the Lord's actions, though I do better than most. But you're missing the point...
KW: Isn't it arrogant for anyone, especially a guy with as dicey a record of predicting the future as you, to say anything about why God allows human suffering on such a massive scale?
PR: I detect a devil in you, young lady. The spirit of dissension is inhabiting your bones. Stand still so I can cast this demon out of you before it carries your soul to hell.
KW: [laughs] And you have the nerve to talk about Haitian voodoo? Please! You need an exorcist and a psychiatrist, Pat Robertson.