Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Robertson's Comments: Bad Theology, Dumb Politics

Hugo Chavez is a bad man. But ruminating on the advantages of his extermination, as Pat Robertson did, is not only questionable theology from a Christian perspective, it's also not very smart.

Robertson's spokesperson attempted to explain the comments by saying, "We are at a time of war and Pat had war on his mind when he made the comments." Maybe, but last time I checked the US is not at war with Venezuela. Mr. Robertson's attempt to link Venezuela to both communism and Muslim extremism was bizarre, to say the least.

Christians believe that the Bible is the revealed Word of God. It tells the human race not to kill, although it recognizes that because of the sin that pervades our beings, there may be times when nations are forced to defend themselves. When soldiers asked Jesus' cousin and herald John the Baptist, for example, what to do in order to align their lives with the will of God, he didn't tell them to give up soldiering; he only advised them to not use their power as a pretext for treating others unjustly or to practice extortion.

But there can be no possible Biblical justification for a Christian to call for the execution of a leader of a nation with which our country is not at war.

From a political perspective, Mr. Robertson's comments were unwise. He is seen by those in other countries as being part of the ruling elite in America, although for the Bush White House he may be deemed an expedient, though potentially embarrassing, contact and among Christians I know, he has zero influence. Nonetheless, his remarks are impolitic, playing into the hands of America's enemies, giving them propaganda to prove notions that America is out to conquer others and take their oil.

As a Christian, I am far more concerned about the potential impact that Robertson's un-Biblical comments could have on the perceptions of faith in Christ. None of us is perfect, of course. We all say things that we shouldn't. The sad thing is that Mr. Robertson says these sorts of things a lot and has a powerful megaphone.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Pat Robertson apologized for his remarks.

23 comments:

Adriana Bliss said...

I'm glad you posted about this, Mark, I actually came here pretty sure you would. And even though I don't know you well, I clearly know you well enough as your comments were exactly what I figured them to be! Pat Robertson's comments were not only stupid and unChristian, but profoundly. I cannot for the life of me imagine a man who fancies himself a "leader", a man who professes to be a follower of Christ's teachings, would at any moment in time think this is "ok." There shouldn't be any justification for the comments - he needs to be humble for once and apologize.

Citizen Grim said...

I dont think he should apologize just to save face, unless he actually changes his mind.

If it's what he truly believes, he is entitled to say so. I dont think anyone should be forced to apologize for their beliefs, wrong-headed or not.

Of course, we are just as entitled to the belief that he is a lunatic, genuinely off his rocker, and has been for many years.

Adriana Bliss said...

You're probably right re the apology - I just find any kind of justification for his off-his-rocker comments ridiculous.

pduggie said...

Its interesting.

Robertson has spoken before about assasination, usually in the context of a nation with which we may or may not be at war.

Maybe he considers venezuela becoming marxist (an ideology that he consideres an enemy of American civilization) a casus beli.

His theology of assasination seems to be based on a idea that there is greater justice and effectiveness in 'striking the head' of an enemy than undertaking massive war against soldiers. He probably feels justified by people like Ehud in the bible and Riehnhold Neibur in Nazi Germany.

I guess its better to have him suggest assasination than invasion.

Meade said...

For whom does Pat Robertson speak? I'm not a member of the Christian Coalition or the Southern Baptist Church or the 700 Club, so he certainly does not speak for me. He has no standing as a representative of my government. I suppose I should be embarrassed to be giving his rantings any attention at all.

Robert said...

This reminds me of Jimmy Swaggart's comment (regarding what he'd do if a gay man looked at him with lustful intent):
"I'd kill him and tell God he died." This was regarded by his audience as quite humorous.

Frankly, the idea that any gay man _would_ do such a thing strikes me as the funny part. . .

Ged of Earthsea said...

Actually traditional Christian Just War theory says not that there may be times we need to defend ourselves, every sinful violent act since the first has been so rationalized, but that there may be times when we are required to defend an innocent third party.

Cicero said...

Dude...we aren't at war with Venezuala and therefore under the most lax "Just War" standards, Chavez isn't to be assassinated.

Primarily it's stupid on account of the Great Commission: Hugo could use it as an excuse to crack down and expel evangelicals from the country.

Furthermore it hurts relationships we may have with locals. I'd be extremely offended if a religious leader of a foreign country called for the assassination of my president; no matter who my president actually was.

In summary, Robertson is a well-meaning fool.

Miles said...

I'm amused by notion of a Christian Just War theory. I picture Christ on the mount elaborating on the ways that it's acceptable to extinguish the life of men in the service of God. A Sun Tzu for the rest of us. Unless of course Christ never spoke on the subject of a just war. In which case I'm less amused pondering how Christ's name and teachings are applied antithetically in the service of man.

Mark Daniels said...

Thank you to all for your comments. There's a lot of good food for thought here so far and I may make more specific responses later. But for now, I have a few emails to write and then I'm off to a meeting, followed by a Bible study I'm conducting. Hopefully, you'll be able to find a summary of that on this blog either tonight or sometime tomorrow. Thanks again!

JBlog said...

Just goes to prove that not all idiots are from the left side of the aisle.

As a Christian, I can say without any hesitation that this guy doesn't speak for me, nor does he speak for the majority of people in my faith.

Robert said...

JBlog ... about those of the
'center aisle' would that mean you're out of the main stream of things?

TJ said...

He is seen by those in other countries as being part of the ruling elite in America, although for the Bush White House he may be deemed an expedient, though potentially embarrassing, contact and among Christians I know, he has zero influence.

I don't doubt that he has very little influence among truly devout Christians. However, so long as the Bush administration invites him to the White House and requests his advice and/or opinions on judicial nominees, it is not surprising that foreign officials consider him to be part of America's ruling elite. And if elite is counted in financial terms, then Robertson most certainly qualifies.

Robert said...

In reply to 'robert' said ... Check out websites to Iran's hanging of 2 gay lads ... 16 & 18 (after 288 lashes) ... where is thy forgiveness for these 'interpreters of "Islam"?') I don't think you have any thing to say to the public!

Nate said...

Amen (dare I say that at a time like this?), lmeade. Robertson, despite his attempt(s), does not represent or speak for anyone in particular - except maybe failed politicos with enough leftover money to pursue media fantasies.

Just as we're told that there's an official push to rehabilitate our reputation abroad (Karen Hughes' new charge?), here's a guy who plays directly into the hands of our enemies' thoughts that we're all about money and oil.

Calvin Ross said...

I am shocked that you do not utterly repudiate Pat Robertson's call for Chavez' assassination. The Christian right is sorely quiet on this. It is a sign of moral weakness that you don't come straight out and say it is deeply wrong in every aspect, not merely impolitic.

Take a stand. Don't dance around a reprobate in your midst.

Deborah said...

Thou shalt not murder/kill.

Hmm...where have I heard that before? I wonder if Rev. Pat Robertson would know?

andy said...

Speaking as a missionary, outside the USA, most people worldwide believe that: a) the USA is a Christian country, and all Americans are Christians, and b) that Christian "leaders" like Robertson speak for all Americans. It's almost impossible to counter the damage done by what Robertson said, because the dissenting responses won't get the same press overseas as the remarks did. But, at the very least (and I agree with Calvin here), I hope that authentic Christians (people who follow Jesus and know Him) will speak up in a firm, clear voice to denounce things like this. The fact that Robertson seems to have Bush's ear is DISTURBING, and regardless of your politics, I think Bush's silence on the issue should also be criticized.

Mark Daniels said...

Calvin:
I don't know if your comment was meant for me or not because that's what I did in this piece, repudiated what Robertson said utterly.

Bill In Longmont said...

Pat does not speak for this administration or ALL Christians.

Those that would have either group apologize or repudiate his ill advised comments are only seeking to further an agenda...or falling into the trap set by those that are.

ccinnova said...

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, who used to work for Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority in the early 1980's, was giving his twice-weekly commentary on a Washington, DC radio station this morning. After his commentary, one of the hosts asked Mr. Thomas what he thought about Pat Robertson's remarks. Mr. Thomas replied that Mr. Robertson should call his own 800 number and ask for prayer to be healed of his idiocy.

Frankly, I couldn't have said it any better myself.

niebuhrian said...

Nice post. I realize the need for Christians to believe in the power of multiple chances. However, one with a megaphone that reaches approximately 1 million through his television show should not be afforded the opportunity to continue this form of embarassing theology and homiletic.

His audience should have the common sense to eject him from the seat of power in which he currently resides. However, it seems that the only thing that can take down a powerful "christian" leader is a sexual scandal and everything short of that is a forgivable offense...

RalphNelson said...

Hey, wouldn't it be great if Pat, in addition to his sincere apology, demonstrated how to treat your enemies (not that Prez Chavez is our enemy by the way) by leading his 700 Club audience in prayer for Venezuela and for its president? Of course Bin Ladin himself would repent and do that before Pat did it, but wouldn't it be great if he did it?