What You Will

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Choose this day whom you will serve

Who Hath Known the Mind of God?

The latest proclamation from septuagenarian televangelist Pat Robertson has me pondering.

If you haven't already heard about this, I hesitate to bring it up, but here goes. After Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage, Robertson opined that God was punishing Sharon for "dividing God's land," an apparent reference to Sharon's forced withdrawal last year of 9,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. He also suggested that the assassination of previous Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was a similar case of divine retribution.

(Of course, the modern State of Israel has controlled the Strip only since 1967. Whether the Strip was ever part of the historical, Biblical kingdom of Israel I haven't yet been able to determine. So how exactly did the Strip become "God's land"? Does winning some territory in a war create a permanent divine mandate for how the territory should be managed in the future? Apparently Robertson thinks so.)

There are two contexts that might shed light here. One is that Robertson is a card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool, award-winning Zionist who has met with both Rabin and Sharon, so his remarks aren't only political, they're personal. Sharon figured that getting settlers out of the Strip was the best way to guarantee their long-term safety; apparently Robertson disagrees and is using Sharon's illness as a way of saying, "See, God is in my corner." Such pronouncements, naturally, are entirely subjective. How does Robertson know that Sharon isn't being punished for, say, building the West Bank security fence?

The other context, of course, is Robertson's penchant for interpreting certain unfortunate events as acts of divine retribution. He's threatened Orlando, Fla., and Dover, Pa., with assorted natural disasters — the former because of a "Gay Day" at Disney World, the latter for voting out a school board that added intelligent-design theory to its science curriculum. He endorsed a statement by Jerry Falwell interpreting the 9/11 attacks as divine judgment. Through prayer, he claims to have steered no fewer than three hurricanes away from his Virginia Beach headquarters. (Which, of course, would mean that he was responsible for steering them into other cities—and if he's ever apologized to those cities, I haven't heard about it.) He's also suggested that it would be a good idea to nuke the State Department headquarters and assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

All of this is probably too long of a setup for the following question, but here it is anyway. Just whom does Pat Robertson serve? Take your pick:

a) God the Father?b) The Godfather?

Vote now! America is watching.


Blogger Michael Crowley said...

If you dig into Pat's dealings with Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and his diamond selling schemes, there's really no contest. Pat has sold what remained of his soul to the Godfather.

I keep hearing that Mr. Robertson's audiences are shrinking (although that may be wishful thinking masquerading as opinion in the news), but what gets me is that for every Pat Robertson who goes down, there's a Jerry Falwell or a Franklin Graham or a James Dobson who pops up from out of nowhere, raising their evil little heads above the surface of the earth and spouting out their second-rate Jeremiads at us. Where do they all come from? Why do we keep putting up with them?

Tony Campolo nearly got his virtual head torn off posting over at the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com) for wondering why we as Christians continue to do awful things like back the Bush junta of torturers and evesdroppers. I would like to ask him why aren't we doing anything to stop them? When did evangelical Christianity become the culture of surrender to the lowest moral denominator?

4:13 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

I wasn't even gonna go into THAT ... according to Wikipedia, Pat had an $8 million mining interest in Liberia, which may or may not have had something to do with his vocal support for Taylor. (Rumor has it that Pat also has a closetful of Chuck Taylor All-Stars, which he hardly ever gets to wear.)

But to paraphrase Jesus, the nutjobs you will always have with you. One drawback of Luther's Reformation and every other European reformation/church split/new denomination that followed it is that Protestantism is decentralized. There's no central theological authority with any power to keep preachers in line. And many denominations don't take this responsibility seriously within their own tents. (Swaggart and Bakker were both ordained by the same denomination, but I won't tell you which one it is.) In contrast, Roman Catholicism may be a diverse group with a lot of clashing opinions, but at least there's no question about where the authority lies. In America, freedom of religious expression has its benefits, but it's not without its drawbacks.

I wonder whether journalists hoping for a juicy faux pas to bash Christians with don't make up about two-thirds of Pat's audience these days...

12:50 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

In the Seattle Weekly, Knute Berger uses Robertson's remark not to go after Robertson, but to accuse Robertson's critics of being "in denial about the basic text of their faith."

Brilliant attack, if theologically unsophisticated.


12:24 PM  
Blogger Michael Crowley said...

I just read Mr. Berger's remarks, and I've got to agree with you - his premise (God being that active in human affairs) is sound. It's a brilliant gambit, all right, but he does seem to stop at the wrathful God rather than go on to the merciful Jesus who said, "ou have heard it said... but I say unto you now".

Have you read J.B. Phillips' "Your God Is Too Small"? He talks about Christians who focus on the Old Testament God in more detail than I can go into here.

3:39 PM  

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