Friday, August 26, 2005

Pat Robertson: All About Accountability

So, Robertson now lies about what he said, claiming that the phrase "take him out" meant something different than assassinate Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez.

I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time.

No, you were not misquoted. It's on tape, Pat:

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he [Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.

Wait... so fibbing didn't work, and now Roberton says he's sorry. "I spoke out of frustration, he says. And then turns around and hints at comparisons between himself and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the WWII German Christian who participated in an unsuccssful attempt on Hitler's life. Well, Bonhoeffer had two legs and so does Robertson, so they're alike there...

Forgive me for not taking Robertson's apology at face value for the present... he's abused the rest of us for too long for me to trust him.

Ted Olson on CT's Weblog has done a nice job of covering evangelical responses to Robertson, though was kinder than I would have been. Weblog also underscored just how out of control Robertson has been over the years, both in comments the evangelical broadcaster has made and in highly suspect business deals (including one involving a gold mine with the murderous Liberian dictator, Charles Taylor). Robertson has an immense personal fortune and years back negotiated a deal where he sold his Family Channel for millions, as well as insuring his 700 Club gets aired on the Family Channel no matter what happens. ABC/Disney, who bought the channel from FOX, is stuck with Pat's rants.

Worse, so are we.

Bottom line? Robertson is accountable to no one, no one except a voice he says is God's. Trouble is, to an observer that voice and the voice of selfish greed appear to be indistinguishable.

Does that sound harsh? Of course. Is it true? I sure think so.

Robertson's comments would be one thing if limited only to himself. But how much do they reflect some of the trends among evangelicals overall?

Robertson's comments about assassinating Venezuela's president didn't come about in a vacuum. They are rooted in the same confusion between the cross and the flag many evangelical American spokespersons seem to suffer from. Consider National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard's comments regarding Christian prayers leading to the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons. (Regarding Robertson, Haggard expressed a mixture of disappointment in Robertson and disappointment in the media for making it such a big deal. Sure, buddy, blame that ol' seklar media.) Or how about one of the initial four planks used back in the 1980s founding of the allegedly Christian Moral Majority: "A Strong Military."

Uh, like the war protestor's sign said... "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" No wonder so many folks like Tim LaHaye novels... their politics just may bring Armaggedon to pass!

This nationalism has haunted evangelicals, and before them, fundamentalists, since the early twentieth century. But it had strong counter-currents within conservative theological circles as well, counter-currents which seem recently to have all but dried up.

But back to Robertson, and his comments re assassinating Venezuela's Chavez. I found the use of the word "doctrine" by Robertson particularly sinister:

This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I
think the time has come that we exercise that ability.

I can't help sensing a mix-up between doctrine as God's Revelation and doctrine as political muscle-flexing. The Monroe Doctrine in a nutshell can be seen as a strong nation letting everyone else know that it won't take kindly to anyone messing around in its back yard, whether or not that back yard actually belongs to it. The doctrine is pragmatic, not moral, especially when considered from a Christian framework.

But Robertson makes self-evident the same riff I've sensed among many Christian Right folk. What's good for America is God's will. God's will is what is good for America. And we're talking economically here. I love especially Robertson's assumption that the "oil to our south" is de facto ours, no matter that it happens to lie beneath another nation's soil. I also love the fact that a leader elected by the poor -- the very people Jesus Himself goes to considerable pains to side with over against the rich -- is the leader Robertson is freaked out by. Where was Pat during the Apartheid regime? Oh, yes. He was investing in Krugerrands. Where was Pat when my friend John Ngaa was nearly murdered himself, and saw many others murdered before his eyes by Liberian dictator Taylor's troops? Ah. Yes, his gold mine...

What would Jesus do?

I think He'd puke.

As for God being on America's side, it isn't true. Maybe we all ought to re-read Mark Twain's War Prayer again, if nothing else. (I guess it takes a pagan like Twain to slap the self-congratulating faces of us sanctified souls.) God isn't on the side of nations... he is calling humanity to be on His Side. Our response to that call certainly does not begin with oppressing, assassinating, and dehumanizing others as allegedly doing His will.

Did you really think it was?


Anonymous said...

i know Robertson's comments are the talk of the town this week, but is it surprising? The man is a slug who is constantly vomiting feces from his little paper throne, using godliness as a means to gain, and sadly, i think he's more of a reflection of modern American Christianity than simply some rambling madman who threatens to corrupt a reasonable peaceful and loving Christian community. Anyway keep up the good work J.

Andy Lang said...

We're definitely on the same page. And if Robertson had ever bothered to read Bonhoeffer's "Ethics," he'd know there's a big difference between agonizing for years over the option of tyrannicide (in the case of the plot to kill Hitler) and leading ultimately to the gallows, and a casual death threat issued from an air-conditioned studio. (More at Bonhoeffer v. Robertson.)

Anonymous said...

Yes.... Robertson was wrong. dead wrong, but hmmm.... there seems to be something in God's word about loving your neighbor even if he is a sinner.... like the rest of us unlike the judger. Oh... wait isn't that hypocrissy?

I love a lot of your work, John... love cornerstone mag (still sad it's no longer paper) but love is still kind. Go ahead and justify yourself, but tough love is love.