"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pat Answers

Goodness me, I don't suppose that I'll make a lot of friends with this post. As a matter of conscience, I feel obligated to defend Pat Robertson for his remarks of yesterday.

Robertson, on his famous (or notorious) 700 Club show, said that Ariel Sharon's medical condition was the result of his dividing God's land "and I say woe unto any Israeli prime minister who takes a similar course..."

A range of criticisms has been advanced. 1) How can he presume to know the mind of God? 2) This is the wrong time to say this, while a man is fighting for his life. 3) Mr. Sharon is 5 foot 7 and weighs 260 pounds in a high-stress job; if anything he has lived longer and more effectively than actuarial tables would predict.

None of these points is without a degree of validity. However, it is eminently within the province of a minister to interpret events in a Biblical light and to share his conclusions with his flock. That is the very definition of spiritual leadership in the Judeo-Christian sense.

Robertson believes, as do many practitioners of Judaism and Christianity, that it is not only possible to know the mind of God in many instances (perhaps most), but it is a human duty to see if He has left clues to the message of His handiwork. For a man to be stricken immediately after giving up a part of the land, complete with evictions of devoted Jewish settlers, suggests to this minister that there is spiritual causation present. To say that he has no right to communicate such a view to his students or parishioners is the height of absurdity.

Is Robertson right? I don't know. Is he wrong? I don't know. But I believe that he has every right to that view; that once he holds it he has a right to promulgate it; that once he has those rights he may well have a spiritual imperative to speak.

12 comments:

tbmbuzz said...

Scott Ott's take:

Robertson: Ignorant Remarks Caused by God’s Wrath

By Scott Ott, Editor-in-Chief, ScrappleFace.com
News Fairly Unbalanced. We Report. You Decipher.

(2006-01-06) — Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, who yesterday told viewers that God’s wrath spurred Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke, today said his own “ignorant remarks are another manifestation of God’s anger.”

The popular TV personality said God punished Mr. Sharon, 77, for dividing the land that God gave to the Israelites, and that Mr. Robertson’s own periodic claims to know the Lord’s motivation behind specific events are part of God’s judgment on the American church.

“If Christians would read the Bible, instead of just watching TV, they would understand that people who claim to know exactly why God does what He does are usually false teachers,” said Mr. Robertson. “God disciplines American Christians for their willful ignorance of the Scriptures by having me embarrass them every 60 days or so with another ridiculous remark.”

Mr. Robertson said that God had judged Ariel Sharon by making him “old and morbidly obese” and thus a high risk for cardio-vascular problems.

“It’s like a lightning bolt from heaven,” he said.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Darn it, Scrappleface beat me to it. It has been my conviction for some time that Pat Robertson's descent into public buffoonery is God's retribution for the stupendously evil comments he made in April 2001 about China's enforcement of its one-child policy. Because unlike Robertson, my reading of scripture and history teaches me that God's justice is a little more subtle than smiting a fat old man's cerebrovascular apparatus with a lightning bolt. And since the Catholic Church teaches the Priesthood of All Believers, I'm just as entitled to my say as Robertson. Perhaps more entitled, since in addition to being a Christian I'm not a raging fathead.

Hunter Baker said...

I have the same negative reaction to the Falwellian and Robertsonian pronouncements, but Jay is pretty much right here. If you were to look back to the Puritans, for instance, they constantly did this sort of thing. The instances I can think of were usually matters of collective guilt, but I wouldn't be surprised whether they also thought about and talked about such things with individuals.

The basic problem, of course, is that while we feel justice is done when bad things happen to bad people, there are also bad things that happen to good people. A test of faith? A character developing moment? A gateway to something better?

What really strikes me is that there will be giant outrage over this and nobody will scream left-wing like that Robertson is being denied his First Amendment rights. Of course, he is not being denied his First Amendment rights because that occurs when gov't restrains you. I just recall that the lefties screamed about those same rights being damaged every time the public got mad over some unpatriotic remark.

James Elliott said...

Of course, he is not being denied his First Amendment rights because that occurs when gov't restrains you. I just recall that the lefties screamed about those same rights being damaged every time the public got mad over some unpatriotic remark.

Hunter I think you're comparing, if not apples and oranges, then apples and pears. One of these things is not quite like the other. You are quite right to point out that First Amendment issues normally arise when government is the one preventing speech, the Constitution being a document about what government can and cannot do. Try explaining that to one of the morons on Little Green Footballs when he talks about his "Constitutional right" not to be converted to Islam or have his wife raped by A-rabs. But I digress.

The issue, typically, in those vocal "leftist" moments you can't help but take a potshot at, is that typically the critics who are trying to silence the speech are claiming or implying that the leftist making the speech does not have the right to say what they are saying. This, of course, flies in the very face of the First Amendment. One of the meanings behind the right to free speech is that political dissent and criticism of government, its actions, actors, and policies, are soveriegn rights, even duties, of an engaged and free people. The First Amendment guarantees the right to dissent and criticism without fear of reprisal by Congress and President (or Parliament and King, to demonstrate the historical significance). Those moments you decry are about defining the debate. The right should not be questioned, though it is. Whether the speaker is in the right is open to debate and criticism.

That's the typical difference. Pat Robertson is free and more than welcome to be a fathead and I'll stand up for his right to say whatever he wants, so long as he accepts its consequences. After all, I'm the guy who got into an argument with fellow lefties when they started handing out "No free speech for racists" flyers. Man, they were stupid.

It's one place where Rousseau (or was it Robespierre? I'm too lazy to check) was right: I may not agree with what you have to say or believe, but I'll fight and die for your right to say or believe it. I think this country would be a better place if everyone took a step back and embraced that idea.

JC said...

Sure he has a right to say it---it's just an idiotic and irresponsible thing to say. What does he hope to accomplish? It seems that every time Mr. Robertson opens his mouth, someone has a new reason to hate the U.S. or at least the right wing.

I think the only time the question of whether someone has the "right" to say something should ever even be raised is when the statement could directly harm the public, e.g. yelling "fire" or "bomb" when there isn't one. You have to be a little more careful with comments like Ward Churchill's (the victims of 9/11 were Nazis and deserved what they got!) which border on treason. I think a better solution in that case is to fire the guy and then ignore him. (Let's not martyr him with jail time.)

Too bad no one will fire Mr. Robertson, since it's a group of activists that support him, rather than a university. Maybe he will experience a divine rebuke in the form of a cold or stubbed toe.

James Elliott said...

JC, while I appreciate the sentiment towards Robertson and your desire to have a reasonable and nuanced standard, you undermine yourself here:

"You have to be a little more careful with comments like Ward Churchill's (the victims of 9/11 were Nazis and deserved what they got!) which border on treason."

The whole %#(*$&)@#& point is that such words DO NOT and CAN NOT border on treason. Not only do they not come close to meeting a textbook definition, such a standard fails to meet any logical, legalistic, or even intellectual standard towards treason. Yes, such comments are offensive. Yes, such comments are inflammatory and completely obscure any intellectual point the speaker may have been trying to make, valid or not (a question very much open to debate). Yes, they make us want to punch the utterer in the mouth. But no, no, NO, they are not treasonous, or anywhere in the treason ballpark.

Matt Huisman said...

I may not agree with what you have to say or believe, but I'll fight and die for your right to say or believe it. I think this country would be a better place if everyone took a step back and embraced that idea.

I think we could make this happen if we just sold it the right way. Your phrasing makes an appeal to selflessness, which is fine. But imagine the buy-in we could get if we just reworded the thing a little. How about this:

I'll fight and die for your right to completely discredit yourself (and/or allow me the opportunity to mock you endlessly).

It has all the charm of your original thought, with just a touch of spite.

James Elliott said...

Nice, Matt. =]

Hunter Baker said...

Robespierre was one of the ones who quite certainly would kill you for saying what you believed if he disagree. So, it t'wasn't him.

Eat the Guillotine, you royalist sympathizer!

James Elliott said...

I was pretty sure it was Rousseau, but like I said, I'm lazy.

"I think it was Descartes who said, 'I am what I am.'"

"I thought that was Popeye."

"Well whoever it was, he's a hell of a philosopher!"

S. T. Karnick said...

The statement about disagreeing but defending has typically been attributed to Voltaire, but it is in fact spurious. See http://www.classroomtools.com/voltaire.htm.

Hunter Baker said...

Something Voltaire DID do was chase out his servants when he and his skeptic buddies wanted to talk about religion. He was worried they'd start stealing the silver if they heard him say there was no God.