One year ago today a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the nation of Haiti, killing an estimated 230,000, injuring 300,000 and leaving more than a million homeless. The recovery has been slow, with a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 3,000 and civil unrest after a contested election. There are even more people living in tents in Haiti today than there were two months after the quake.
In the face of all of this, there are two stories. Both communicate something about the church.
The First Story
The first is from Pat Robertson. After the earthquake he spoke of a deal with the devil that effectively cursed Haitians. He went on to encourage prayer and support for Haitians, but those comments were trumped by that devil deal business.
It’s easy to beat up on Robertson (we have before), but in this case he’s just an example of one kind of story. Lots of people tell this story in the face of tragedy, and sadly, they often end up on the news saying foolish things. This story is about why. This story focuses on blame. It tries to explain the unexplainable, to give answers where there are no answers. This story differentiates us and them. This story prompts reflection. This story says something is wrong, here’s why.
The Second Story
The second story is from Shaun King, a pastor in Atlanta. After the earthquake he launched aHomeInHaiti to provide shelter to Haitians. His effort tapped churches all across the country and sent $1.5 million worth of tents to Haiti. When interest in Haiti had nosedived, he gathered 175 celebrities and auctioned their tweets as a part of the TwitChange campaign, raising $500,000 for Haiti (they’re doing it again on Jan. 29).
It’s easy to put King up on a pedestal, but he’s just an example of one kind of story. Lots of people tell this story in the face of tragedy. They’re our unsung heroes and they rarely make the news. This story is about what now. This story focuses on solving problems. It doesn’t offer explanations or answers. This story unites people. This story prompts action. This story says something is wrong, let’s fix it.
Neither story is bad. They each may be necessary at different times. But each story carries a different message. Each story communicates something different. Profoundly different. One story is still inspiring action a year later. The other story is mostly forgotten.
Which story is your church telling?