Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti, Bad Theology, and the Crucified God

The following syllogism seems to be the internal logic to much of the awful theological rhetoric spoken in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti:
  • Everything that happens is a direct result of God's will.
  • Everything that God wills is for a good reason, and comprehensible to human understanding.
  • Therefore the earthquake and massive suffering in Haiti is the will of God, and we may and ought to seek and name the reason for its happening.
No, no, and no.

As Michael Gorman rightly clarifies, Christians are people who worship a crucified God. This same one said, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." He also responded to those who asked about a tragedy in this way: "Do you think that [they] were worse sinners than all the others because they suffered this way? I tell you, no!"

This same one was in his time handed over to the religious and political authorities, rejected and spat on, brutalized and mocked, tortured and crucified. Because of these things he was considered rejected and scorned and cursed by God.

But the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a judgment on every hermeneutic and interpretation of history's course of events as able to be understood as the direct providential will of God -- for the cross is not the judgment of God on a guilty criminal, and the resurrection of the crucified Jesus is the one true God's rebuke of all our idolatrous imputations of divine power, meaning, and finality either to finite human actions of violence, condemnation, and exclusion in the halls and killing fields of religious-political-ethnic-national power or to natural events of extraordinary calamity, calumny, suffering, and death. The triune God is relentlessly and eternally the enemy of death, and his apocalyptic intrusion into our world in the form of a humiliated and executed servant of others is both his radical solidarity with all who suffer and his judgment on all the powers of sin and death through the rejection of any caste system that identifies righteousness as synonymous with wealth, safety, security, success, or health. The incarnate God knew no wealth, safety, security, success, or health, but died at an early age, homeless and without possessions, alone on a tree, disfigured and despised.

This God offers no easy answers for the reality of suffering, either for the truly concerned or for those who want to inform Haitian mothers of the eternally valid reasons why their children are suffocating or crushed to death. Jesus was there in Haiti before the earthquake, and he is there right now, suffering and weeping and dying with the entire nation. We know that the beginning of the end of death has come in him, and we know to long for its coming with every breath. But for right now, our only choice is to be with and for the Haitian people in direct imitation of our suffering God, praying for them, serving them, mourning with them, and longing with them for justice, for alleviation, for a swift end to this terrible time.


  1. Probably the only theological response in the face of such a tragedy that makes Christianity worth living.

  2. I have attempted to join your conversation. Your response is great. I hope mine comes close to echoing yours

  3. Good post. Pat Robertson did not help the Kingdom in his comments earlier this week.

  4. Nice stuff. I haven't read Gorman's newest book yet, but I did read an article of his and it whetted the appetite.