Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti: Why Politicize Tragedy?

At a time when our nation should be rallying together to help Haiti's citizens at this critical time, conservative broadcast pundits and preachers have found it imperative to both politicize the tragedy of Haiti and offer nonsensical theological blather about the cause of the catastrophe.

Syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh politicized the calamity by saying that President Obama would use the Haitian tragedy to boost his standing with the "light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country."  Limbaugh also seemed to want to scuttle the fundraising for relief efforts when he protested, "We've already donated to Haiti.  It's called the U.S. income tax."

On Glenn Beck's January 14, 2010 radio show, he implied that he has a problem with the Obama Administration's pledge of $100 million to Haitian aid.  Beck believes that the military should be providing security only and allow private charitable organizations and NGOs to do the rest.  IN short, he wanted to create Katrina 2.0.

At least one-third of that island nation has been brought to its knees by tragedy, and the best the Beck can offer is criticism of the Obama Administration's desire to spend $100 million there.  This amount in comparison to our total government outlay is a drop in the proverbial bucket.

And television evangelist Pat Robertson was apparently criticizing the indigenous citizens' adherence to various forms of Haitian voodoo religion as a cause of the earthquake, though he did not do so directly.  On the January 13, 2010 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, Pat Robertson bizarrely claimed that Haiti was hit by the crushing earthquake because it "swore a pact to the devil" to get "free from the French" hundreds of years ago.

This insensitive comment was only the latest in a long line of remarks made by Robertson regarding other disasters.  For example, in 2005 he linked the tragic aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina to the legality of abortion and the presence of homosexuals in New Orleans.  And he earlier agreed with the late Jerry Falwell about the cause of the September 11 terrorist attacks.  Falwell commented on the September 13, 2010 edition of The 700 Club Falwell said then that the attacks could be attributed in part to "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

It is unfortunate that there is little we can do against ignorant, insensitive, and anti-humanitarian remarks such as these, except to be aware of them and, as many progressive organizations are doing, to shine a light on these buffoons.  This might go far to begin the cleansing process.  It is only by educating ourselves and exposing these bigoted, politicized, and mean-spirited attitudes that we may be able to put this kind of prejudice in its proper place.

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