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Hope and Despair for Haiti

2010 January 13

It’s been a week of strange juxtapositions.

Apparently in the American church, a star football player can say how he played all his games for Jesus and people respond with “awww, what a nice Christian boy.” But say that you are working to put an end to human trafficking in the name of Jesus, and people wonder if you are really a Christian.

043Then this morning I was at the gym watching the two TVs in front of me. On one was a story about a rich lady with a huge house who had started a rescue mission for disabled dogs. Each dog is given medical attention, a custom-made “wheelchair”, and lots of love and attention so they can live out their days as happy dogs. On the other TV were images from Haiti. A father carrying his young daughter whose face had been partly smashed-in. It sickened me to think that those dogs were getting far more spent on them and far better medical attention than that young girl ever would. Those dogs get to live as happy dogs, while that girl if she survives, will be deformed for life. With a facial deformity, she cannot get education or find a job. If she manages to not be trafficked into slavery as maid/sextoy in a wealthier house (Haiti being one of the worst offenders for child slavery), her only options will be to beg or prostitute herself in order to survive. She will become the “scum and riff-raff” that gets condemned for making poor countries the corrupt and sinful places many Western Christians see them as. We might pity her for the few seconds she is on CNN and maybe even send enough food to feed her for a few days, but we’d rather build retirement homes for dogs than do the radical work to change the system that oppresses her. What is our problem?

123And then there are the true scum like Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson who have pulled their typical jackass moves in the aftermath of this tragedy. Pat in your twisted rewriting of history you display perfectly the juxtaposition between what Jesus actually said and what you want him to have said. You want to blame tragedy on personal sins. You take an old Haitian MYTH and read it as fact to support your cause. Sure, the Haitians in order to explain all the shit that has happened to them have a myth saying that when the Spanish came to Hispaniola (the small island shared between the Dominican Republic and Haiti) they surrendered Haiti to the devil in order to dedicate the Dominican Republic to God. Maybe it helps deal with the pain of being a slave nation, that once they threw off the chains of slavery had the US lead a worldwide trade boycott of them and France force them to pay them pack for loss of slave revenue, and then who struggled to survive under that debt, and then were occupied by the US military in 1915 who slaughtered thousands of peasants, stripped their forests of valuable wood, and left the country barren, and who had to deal with the IMF and World Bank funding dictators who destroyed their country and left them with debt that was only forgiven a couple of months ago, and then another US occupation in 1994, and then with trade stipulations and tariff-free US goods that have destroyed their local economy. I would try to create a myth to explain away all that oppression too. But to twist it and say the Haitians deliberately sold themselves to Satan and are now being punished for their own sins (like emancipating themselves from slavery), just shows how out of touch you are with not only reality but with Jesus. When asked whose sin made a man blind, Jesus replied that no one had sinned but that this was a chance for him to be light to the world – to restore sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free. So get your history straight, or at least get Jesus straight and use this opportunity to be a light to the world instead of another harbinger of darkness.

078But then I see the wonderful outpouring of aid to Haiti juxtaposed against the fact that most of it will never reach the actual people who need it most. The government in Haiti is so corrupt that most aid that is sent to the country gets funneled into special-interests groups. The privileged just keep getting richer while the poor in Haiti are making mud cookies because they can’t afford food. So I want to just beg everyone to be careful where your money goes. Any relief that has to go through the Haitian government won’t reach the people. So support organizations that are on the ground with the people in Haiti. We’ve partnered with New Life for Haiti before – a group that works to build schools and clinics in the Marfranc region of Haiti. They are seeking aid now to help rebuild homes that collapsed in the earthquake. Bread for the World has also created a list of trusted agencies working to help the people of Haiti. The system needs to be fixed. We can’t put a bandaid on this wound and hopes it goes away. Unless we push for real change, more people will die, children will start being rounded-up and trafficked, starvation will slowly overtake the country, corporations will seize land from its rightful owners, and the 4,000 troops we are sending in will make Haiti a US occupied territory for the third time in a century. Haiti is the only country to successfully stage a slave-rebellion in the name of freedom. We need to help them be free – free from oppression, free from hunger, free from exploitation, and free from poverty.

My heart is breaking over Haiti. I see the state of Christianity in our country and I despair if with our shallow faith and judgmental hearts we can work for good in this world. But as messy and as hopeless as it all can seem, I realize I have no choice but to have hope.


24 Responses leave one →
  1. Lisa Robbins permalink
    January 13, 2010

    Julie — thank you so much for posting this . . . God have mercy!

  2. January 13, 2010

    thank you for coherently saying what I have been trying so unsuccessfully to express…. sometimes my anger and frustration get between me and my words.

  3. January 13, 2010

    Thank you so much for writing this. It articulates so much of the frustration I am feeling over this. And Pat Robertson? Gracious providence. There aren’t words for it. My heart is broken for Haiti and you are so right on here.

  4. Joe Carson permalink
    January 13, 2010

    NY TIMES has article that describes how shoddy design/construction in Haiti is universal and likely contributed to the many “pancaked” structures that have killed/trapped thousands.

    “Apparently in the American church, a star football player can say how he played all his games for Jesus and people respond with “awww, what a nice Christian boy.” But say that you are working to put an end to human trafficking in the name of Jesus, and people wonder if you are really a Christian.”

    sure, the player entertained them; while someone willing to “suffer for righteousness’ sake” threatens them. But plenty of Christian professionals enable the institutional evil in Haiti, via their roles as well-paid functionaries in law, business, finance, etc – and to that the Church is complicit and critics as you use Robertson as a useful outlet for angst, without really rocking any boats in “status quo” in Haiti.

  5. January 13, 2010

    Amen, Julie. I love the way you have provided historical perspective and a voice of reason in the midst of tragedy. great post!

  6. beth permalink
    January 13, 2010

    Thank you. This is just beautiful.

  7. January 13, 2010

    Great post, Julie. Thank you.

  8. Jenny McDonell permalink
    January 14, 2010

    I don’t think you should make a comparison between the care people give to animals and the care that they give to people. Who are you to judge where a person spends their love, and who on? I understand that we all need to help each other- but don’t knock someone for caring. Point out all those people who don’t care for anyone or anything- there are plenty of those.
    Comparing the people of Haiti to dogs is disgusting. You basically said, I like my gym and my 2 TVs- take the stuff the dogs have and give it to the people of Haiti. What is that?
    Instead of spending your money on a gym, why don’t you donate it to the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, and for exercise go to your local Animal Shelter and walk a dog. We are all God’s creatures. Even the dogs.
    You could take a page from the buddhists.
    For real.

  9. Amy-Lynn permalink
    January 14, 2010

    Jenny, I am sad that you missed the point Julie was trying to make about a young girl whose life is worth MORE than a dogs and yet will be treated worse than a dog and be made to believe she is more worthless than an animal. It is true we need to care for all of God’s creation but not at the expense of human life. The pet industry is a BILLION dollar industry. It is no longer about providing food and a nice home for a pet but about frilly clothes and fancy purses to carry them around in and plush beds. Even you have to see how ridiculous it is that 1 billion PEOPLE will die of hunger this year and yet we have dogs on special calorie reduced diets because they are obese. This young girl was created in the image of God she bears His likeness and deserve all of our efforts to ensure she grows up knowing she is not an animal and that her life matters.

    Thank you Julie for this post and the link to organizations that can assure our money will go to the people. You are a blessing!

  10. January 14, 2010

    Excellent post!
    Your last line says … “sometimes we have no choice but to have hope.” That’s hard, but true – because without hope, what else do we have?

  11. Shelly permalink
    January 14, 2010

    I truly appreciate coming across your blog, as you have given me a better picture of where Pat Robertson was getting the ‘devil’ thing. I have a difficulty wrapping my mind around the concept of why God has such individuals claiming him as their creator, but at the same time, I have to remember that Man also makes choices, and God allows us that freedom for a reason.

    I also have to remember that individuals like Robertson have been given power and money, and that is so often a corrupter.

    Thank you for your thoughts on the tragedy. It’s also important that you put the call out for giving to go through an agency other than through the government so that aid goes to the people, not to line pockets of officials.

  12. January 14, 2010

    Joe – you make some good points. The homes/building there are of poor quality. That isn’t because of lack of knowledge as much as lack of money and supplies. Most people there build with whatever they can find, and yes most of the homes are just a good gust of wind from coming down. That is poverty. But even the missionary we know who is an architect down there says that it is near impossible to get building materials. There are so many tariffs and taxes on stuff like that (since the country can tax other imports like good they make up with this stuff) hardly any of it comes in. Add to that that the roads there are too bad for most cars/truck to travel on even if they actually happen to have gas that month, and you can see why building and rebuilding is so hard. But something is better than nothing. As soon as regular travel is allowed there again, anyone who can hold a hammer or paintbrush needs to hope on a plane filling their allotted two huge suitcases with building materials and go rebuild the country.

    And yes, many Christians are complicit with the destruction of Haiti – throughout it’s history. Anyone who places power and money above loving people contributes to this. From bankers who loan rebuilding funds to Haiti with stipulations that make it easier for cheap food to be imported from the US which makes it impossible for Haitians to make a living for themselves. To the lawmakers that impose those tariff rates or who voted against canceling Haiti’s debt. Or to the factories owned by US Christians that left Haiti taking jobs away because they were watched too closely there and preferred the freedom to abuse and cheat sweatshop workers in China. Sure, it’s not just Pat Robertson. But he is the one influencing what people think. If he gets them to despise the people there, they will never help. So yes, he has to be confronted with the truth.

    Jenny – you are very right about the irony that I was watching this stuff on TVs at the gym, I just thought the irony was so apparent that I didn’t need to point it out. And I love dogs – they should be treated with love. But yes, I think people are more important than animals. I know many people would disagree with that, but it’s how I think (I’m not a vegetarian either). I was in no way comparing Haitians to dogs, I think you missed the point there. But it is a fact that these dogs will get better care than many Haitian children ever will. There is something wrong with that.

  13. Elisha Murrell permalink
    January 14, 2010

    Thank you once again Julie. I’ve been wanting to donate, but knowing of the corruption in Haiti I wanted to make sure the money actually got to the people who need it.

  14. Erica permalink
    January 14, 2010

    Great post, Julie. It is all just so overwhelming. This morning I was listening to public radio and hearing the account of how many Haitians the humanitarian workers expected to die of thirst today. I heard this while I was turning on the faucet to get drinking water to wipe down my countertops.

    Ugh. What we’ve done to this world.

    I lost it. My daughters were getting breakfast and pulling on snow pants, all the while trying to make out my tearful explanation of why I was so sad. I felt like somehow standing in solidarity with brothers and sisters in pain so I fasted for the rest of the day. Such a tiny thing, but at least it was something. Our home church has ongoing partnerships with ministries in southern Haiti, to which we will give financially as well.

    Thanks for helping to put words to what I’ve been feeling, Julie.

  15. marian permalink
    January 15, 2010

    Julie, I agree with so much of your post. I totally understand and admire the passion about injustice and the desire to see the church respond with God’s heart for people in word and action. Especially understand the frustration over the stupid things people say and think and do while calling themselves Christian.

    I also believe within the “church” especially we must be careful of the distractions. If one thinks there is a “evil” one…..who is out to lie, steal and destroy…..than we must be aware of the subtle trickery he uses to corrupt and cause us to miss the heartbeat of God. That’s true in relationships. Many of us are outraged by Robertson’s comments….I was too but though we absolutely should rise and say we disagree, language, tone, and action is important. Let’s ask ourselves What do we do in our lives, our words, our actions, that brings shame to the “cause of Christ”? Pray for Him, Yes. Be angry, ok. Say it was wrong, yes. Point out facts, absolutely. But is there a line we should not cross? Do the words we say, bring healing and peace, to Haiti, or to the church, or to the world, or to ourselves? Do the words we say, bring restoration gently less we also do something stupid that reflects poorly on Christ? I know it’s worse because of his “position” but as stupid as that was, unless we can say truthfully, our words and actions don’t bring shame, should we go there in harshness and judgment? And even if we can say that, should throw stones? Maybe it’s because I think “words” are seeds we sow and reap harvest just like actions, but I don’t think so.

  16. January 15, 2010

    Julie, Thank you for your words.
    I work with a school in the Dominican Republic. As a staff we are working to involve our students and their families in the relief effort. There is a long history on the island of hate and mistrust between Haitians and Dominicans. Although the two nations share a small island there is little connection that their futures are tied up together.
    As we pray for Haiti (hopefully coupled with giving toward rebuilding) let us pray also for tender hearts of their neighbors in the DR. Haiti needs the worlds help but most certainly it needs the help of their neighbors to the east.
    For those looking to give to a cause that will go straight to those in need, Filter Pure Filters (or Auga Pure) is one I would recommend. Operated out of the town I live in, they are committed to providing safe water for the underserved. The ceramic water filters are produced here in the DR by local potters and distributed to families in need. With the current crisis in Haiti Filter Pure’s director is looking to take a large quantity of filters over as soon as funds allow. These filters will help provide clean water that is so desperately needed right now. I encourage folks to take a look:

  17. January 16, 2010

    When one pays over 1/2 a million for a race horse or use Operation Blessing airplanes for their diamond mines in Zaire…..

    Hello, America…..PAY ATTENTION!

    Pat is dedicated to, uh um…Pat. He believes in prosperity of the pulpit on the backs of the pew.

    I recently read a comment on taking Israel out of Egypt and how long it took, to take Egypt out of Israel. Interesting concept. One we as American Christians need to think about.

  18. Steven Sienkiewicz permalink
    January 17, 2010

    Turn on the TV and you will see an outpouring of Christian love for a people who are truly suffering. Rather than pontificating from your own comfortable place, do some research and I’m sure you will find that there are plenty of athletes as well as people from all walks of life contributing to the relief effort. It is an outpouring from all over the world. That is how a christian responds to these things. I want to be clear that when I say christian I mean one who is in personal relationship with God in the spiritual realm, not a member of a “religion”.
    Spiritual leadership however has to point toward some hard truths in a time of watered down people pleasing liberal theology. If we read Ecclesiastes we can see that everything has a time and a season. It is common knowledge that voodoo is practiced freely in Haiti. Granted not everyone practices it, but everyone allows for its existence without protest. Voodoo is not Godly and God does not approve of it. Look toward the united States, for around fifty years we have allowed people to manipulate our government into slowly eradicating the Christian foundation of our country. The result is that now our rights as Christians are being stripped almost at will in favor of pandering to Islam, atheism, gay rights and a host of other “alternative” lifestyles. God’s protection cannot stay over us if we continue to let this happen. Same with Haiti. God’s word has been delivered there, but largely ignored.
    It is my opinion that Pat Robertson was correct in his conclusion but incorrect in his delivery, because it only allowed the sensationalism of the new American press to capitalize once more on making fools out of Christians. In other words, he cast his pearls before swine.
    I haven’t heard his whole diatribe but if he didn’t speak love and compassion to the lost it’s a huge error. But nevertheless no man can serve two masters.

  19. January 17, 2010

    I will leave Steven’s disturbing post up as evidence why people like Pat Robertson need to be confronted for spreading unbiblical values and fearmongering lies.

  20. January 28, 2010

    (nice decision to leave that comment up, with an explanation. i agree.)

    I too will add my thanks for the post. If you want to read more about the Haitian/DR conflicts, which are horrible and add to Haiti’s impoverished reality, check out the book The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat.


  21. Jenny McDonell permalink
    November 11, 2010

    I didn’t miss your point when you compared the person to the dog- you missed my point about how there is NO connection-there are lots of people willing to help other people, lots of people with different causes. That’s great.
    Why not complain and draw conclusions about people who do nothing for the betterment of anything other than their own personal profit? Like the government and huge corporations? and i do not understand how you say you are tight with Jesus and you think you (…humans) are better than animals. Why do you think he called us lambs of God? Says we are his flock? A dove the symbol of peace? Sparrows the only living thing to visit him while he was hanging on the cross? Arrogance is not going to make you a better anything.
    If you knew the Jesus I know, you’d think twice about thinking you were better just because you got to be a person this time around. Open your mind. Don’t be afraid.

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