You can hardly expect mainstream media outlets, given their predisposition to caricature evangelical Christians, to stop giving Pat Robertson a high profile every time he says something moronic. But others can at least stop enabling him.
Robertson’s latest gaffe was to suggest that God was behind Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s suffering, as he hung onto his life after his second stroke in a month.
“(Sharon) was dividing God’s land, and I would say, ‘Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the [European Union], the United Nations, or the United States,’” Robertson said on his Christian Broadcasting Network program, The 700 Club, last week. “God says, ‘This land belongs to me, and you’d better leave it alone.’”
This after his embarrassing warning in November to the citizens of Dover, Pa., whom Robertson said “had just rejected [God] from your city” when voters threw out their school board, after they overreached in their efforts to bring intelligent design into science classrooms.
“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover,” Robertson said, “if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God.” He said in a later clarifying statement, “If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them.”
Robertson obviously has forgotten the time-old (but not necessarily Biblical) principle of enticing with honey rather than vinegar. Not that that matters to him, for he has a history of statements that push a rat-a-tat, bad news “Gospel” message that seems to rejoice more in condemnation than salvation.
No problem with the damnation aspect of the message, by the way. It’s just problematic when you proclaim that you are also God’s mind reader, like when Robertson and Jerry Falwell agreed (since retracted, but in doubtful sincerity) that America got what it deserved in the 9-11-01 terror attacks on the U.S. I wish these irrational doomsayers would get as worked up over the secularization of the church as much as they do about removing God from government.
Now certainly God is involved in contemporary events, either shielding with or removing His protective “hand,” according to His mysterious purposes. The problem is that most of what is going on in current events has no outline in the Bible — at least with any specificity. Consequences of personal sin are often obvious, but the actions of Dover, Pa. or Ariel Sharon can’t be clearly accounted for scripturally — no matter how distasteful to the likes of Robertson.
But Pat’s proclamations are too irresistible for the mainstream media to ignore. For them he serves a delightful dual purpose: entertainment value, and he enables them to broad brush Christianity with clown paint. Journalists do so by saying Robertson “claims about one million viewers daily” for The 700 Club (look at all his followers!). He also started the Christian Coalition. He led the founding of Regent University in Virginia Beach, as well as the Christian Broadcasting Network. And he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988 (26,761 votes in Iowa — wow!).
Look closer, however, and his influence is easily ignorable. Even if the viewership numbers are correct, I doubt most 700 Club viewers tune in to hear Pat’s next big insight. The Christian Coalition is nigh dead. CBN is marginal. The fact that Robertson has partially implemented a vision, with many organizations that admittedly do some fine work, doesn’t mean he personally has earned credibility worthy of instant media attention. Those successes reflect the efforts of the rank-and-file more than the figurehead.
Rather his long list of public utterances, claiming God’s authoritative perspective, should render Robertson suspect. He warrants the same amount of attention as Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, Jesse Ventura, and Pat Paulsen — that is, none. He doesn’t stand for the mainstream evangelical Christian perspective on world events, and shouldn’t be represented as such.
It would help if other media figures like Sean Hannity and Matt Drudge, who usually exercise discerning news judgment, would stop giving Robertson attention. They could promote a more intellectual, thoughtful Christian identity by instead using pundits like Marvin Olasky, Charles Colson, and Hugh Hewitt more regularly for takes on current events.
And true believers in the public eye could also outwardly disavow Robertson, so everybody knows his true place in Christian thought. The mainstream media otherwise will place him in our embrace by default.
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