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

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pat Robertson's Perspective

A friend, who wishes to remain anonymous (for good reasons which will be evident upon reading the appended message), sent me the following note which provides a very good analysis of what drives Pat Robertson and his followers to say the strange things they regularly say:

As the son of parents who have sent God only knows how many thousands of dollars to Pat Robertson, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Jimmy Swaggart and others of their ilk over the years, I have watched these TV preachers -- and their supporters -- with keen interest. You are absolutely correct about Robertson's reckless rhetoric, but it is precisely his willingness to make such statements that brings in the cash.

There is a paradox in people like my parents and other followers of the Robertsons of the world. They are true believers who doubt their beliefs. This is why they glom onto signs and become breathless at the prospect of a prophecy fulfilled. If they truly believed, they would not need constant reassurances and proofs. They are fearful believers -- afraid of God, afraid of Satan, afraid of Death, afraid of Themselves.

Robertson pointed to Sharon's stroke and then to the Bible and said, "See, the Bible said this would happen, and it happened!" It was his way of exciting his base of doubtful believers.

He not only bucked them up by giving them a proof. He also gave them a sense of superiority. They came away from his show believing they have knowledge others do not have, some because they are ignorant and others because they will not see the truth. His listeners believe themselves to be an enlightened elite.

There is a line in Daniel about the King of the North attacking Israel. My mother currently believes the King of the North is Turkey, and she is expecting an attack by Turkey on Israel any time. Over the years the King of the North has also been Iran, Iraq, the Soviet Union, the European Union, and the United Nations.

Pointing out to my mother that predicting attacks on Israel is like predicting cold in winter has no impact on her. Pointing out that she has believed in numerous Kings of the North over the years does nothing to temper her belief now. Each time a new King of the North is identified by Robertson or some other Evangelical preacher, she gets all fired up, and out comes the checkbook.

My parents are also believers in the Rapture (the righteous will go straight to heaven without the inconvenience of dying, and the rest will be left behind to endure seven years of tribulation ending in the battle of Armageddon and the establishment of 1,000 years of Heaven on Earth.) Israel plays a central role in this. Before the Rapture can happen, Israel must be fully established. Anything that holds back Israel holds back the Rapture.

There are plenty of Christians who opposed Sharon because they saw his position regarding the West Bank as holding back the Rapture. An expanding Israel gets them to heaven quicker.

So there really are three reasons for Robertson's remarks regarding Sharon. First, they keep the money flowing. Second, they give believers a feeling of superior knowledge. And third, they are a way of gloating over the destruction of a man whose policies were delaying Jesus' return to Earth.

This is how I see it, anyway.

8 comments:

Hunter Baker said...

I think the writer is looking past something. Pat Robertson really does believe what he says. I think that is evident.

You have to know his history. Robertson was pure patrician America. Dad was a Senator. Pat was Ivy League law. He threw all that away to become an essentially Pentecostal preacher. Now, I don't agree with him about his various pronouncements on the Middle East, but I respect his sacrifice of mainstream status.

The other issue is whether Robertson is diving for checks out of some need for money. Listen, the guy started his network with peanuts and sold it for a freaking mint years ago. He doesn't need to get the flock all excited in order to make money. The man is worth big bucks.

The 700 Club is not nearly as influential as the press thinks it is. Robertson and Falwell are sideshows compared with Dobson and Colson. But Robertson is no mean huckster. He believes what he is selling all the way.

Matt Huisman said...

I agree with Hunter. I think some of these followers are not driven so much by doubt as they are by their excitement in their overwhelming conviction and by a misunderstanding of how to appreciate prophecy.

I don't know about you, but there are times when I read through the Old Testament - where people always seem to be following pillars of cloud and fire - and wonder how they could have been so clueless.* I believe that many of today's believers see the same thing, and react by being ever more vigilant in their search for modern day signs from God. No one wants to miss out on being there when it happened - and they get themselves into all kinds of trouble because of this eagerness.

* Fortunately for me, I'm aware of enough of my own cluelessness to see that I would probably have been in the same boat.

Jay D. Homnick said...

With respect, I feel that this characterization is lacking in sensitivity; a sensitivity that would reflect not only compassion but a sense of deeper truth.

It is a total misreading of the evidence to imagine that people like his mother have some deep-seated doubt that needs papering over by donating to mountebanks, or that needs to be assuaged by cocky assertions and auguries.

A more correct analysis is this: these are people who are overwhelmed by the sense of transformation in our world. It is clear to them that the basic prophetic vision of the Bible has been occurring.

Whether a particular bird in Daniel's tableau is Turkey or Russia is a small detail of the type that niggles at the perfectionist imagination. But the larger picture is clear enough.

Every single Biblical prophet, including Moses himself, predicted an extended exile for the Jews during which the land of Israel would resist full development by any other nation. At the end of that time, a process of return would begin, including - at some stage - a restoration of Jewish sovereignty.

The basic outline of that prediction was always known. And it always seemed to be ridiculous. True, the part about Israel never being successfully developed was upheld by events. But a return after nearly 2,000 years was an absurd prospect.

Yet it happened.

People who are open to the stunning revelation of truth immanent in that event (Ronald Reagan among them) live today in a state of tension. They know that they are in the MIDDLE of an epic movement of history. What will happen next? Can they do anything? Contribute in some way? Be part of the solution? A mover in history rather than a spectator?

This explains why such people are eager to hear analysis from the Pat Robertsons of the world which may tend to shed some light. It also explains why they would support him financially in the hope that his intervention may be beneficial.

True, he often shoots from the hip and thereby dilutes his credibility. This time I'm not so convinced that is the case. His approach here propends toward the reasonable.

Frankly, giving away a piece of the Holy Land to a group of thugs as a payoff in their protection racket is an ugly blot on the landscape of this beautiful moment in history. If Sharon is struck down just as he moves to ramp up this voluntary partition, it invites the very conclusion that Robertson is reaching.

I would not be moved to make such a declaration, simply because I don't know quite enough to deliver it as a verdict. But if Pat feels that the jury has come in already, I am happy to hear that view expressed in the public square.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Apparently, Matt and I were writing contemporaneously and posting simultaneously.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I think you're on the right track, STK. Certainly if the "end of days" is imminent (or better still, immanent), it's best to send Robertson the check sooner rather than later.

"A sense of urgency," we like to say in business. Nothing more urgent than Armageddon, or whatever these folks are expecting.


The same eschatological dynamic applies to the latest Islamist threat, I think, and Christians who think there's something cosmic about this new Israel should best be able to understand it. Every Muslim believes that the natural destiny of the world is to be Muslim, the dar al-Islam enveloping the dar al-harb (that's us).

9/11 was an announcement that the time was now. Even Muslims who weren't convinced were obliged to remain neutral. One wouldn't want to be wrong about such a thing.

Strangely enough, then, since the dar al-Islam is temporal, it's necessary to defeat its expansion militarily, to show that it's God's will that now isn't the time. Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. Joe Muslim can sink back on the couch and watch I Love Lucy reruns in Arabic, the "end of days" to wait for a later generation, and the family minivan locked up tight so those pesky martyrs don't steal it and run it into a mosque or something.

mdvoutlook.com said...

One quick thing. I wouldn't call Robertson, et. al., "Evangelicals." That term has come to be a catch all phrase in the last decade to mean all Bible believing Christians. It is not accurate and papers over the very real difference among orthodox believers. Pentacostal and fundamentalits, who I would not consider evangelicals, are mostly premellenial rapture types. Many other Christian traditions don't buy into that at all. For instance I embrace the Reformed tradition and we could not be more different in a myriad of ways. I often feel like I have more in common with Conservative Catholics than fundies and Pentacostals.

S. T. Karnick said...

Tom, I like your point about the sense of immanency in the Islamic "street." Great observation.

Mike, of course you're correct to point out that there are large differences between traditions within the church. What I would say all the groups named in this discussion—fundamentalists, evangelicals, pentacostals, etc.—have in common, and in which they are different from your tradition and mine, is that they are all descended from Anabaptist thought. I agree with you in feeling more in common with trad. Catholics, Orthodox, Reformed, etc..

Hunter, you're absolutely correct to point out that Robertson gave up a lot in the respect sweepstakes to follow his beliefs, and that he truly believes the things that he says in his unfortunately often mouthy way. But I think he is sincerely wrong in many things, and in particular on the significance of Israel and the Middle East, just as you say. I agree that Dobson and Colson are where it's at and merit much greater attention from the press.

Jay, Matt, you guys are great.

Alvin Miller said...

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At: http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman/

Your jaw will drop!

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