Pat Robertson: one neuron shy of a synapse

Pat Robertson has for years been a parody of Billy Graham—the evil twin, or the stupid cousin, or spiteful understudy. Nothing he does should surprise me, but he has this incredible ability to do so. The latest, of course, is his statement that the reason Haiti got nailed with an earthquake that devastated the country and killed thousands, is because of a “pact with the Devil.”

There are plenty of other folks on the net being hopelessly outraged by Pat’s grotesque insensitivity. This is the moral equivalent of telling a rape victim that she deserved it because of the way she dresses. You’ll recall that New Orleans, according to Pat, deserved to be ravished by Katrina because the city had agreed to host a gay convention. It’s become a common chorus with Pat. Once there’s a new disaster, Pat just adds another verse to the song.

The formula is simple: “[Victim] deserved the [disaster] because of an act of [moral turpitude] committed [in the past or to be committed in the near future.]” “They brought it on themselves,” really just summarizes it safely, and can be said with that sad resignation which suggests it was preventable had they only decided they loved Jesus enough.

Of course, one can ask the philosophical question, “Why would God do this to believers?” because we all know that among the thousands of dead, there will be ample representation of Christians. This question will be answered in one of two ways. First: “Had they done more to bring Christianity to their home, this would not have happened.” (Brilliantly non-falsifiable, and great at reinforcing victimization.) Second: “We can’t know the mind of God.” (No, except when you impart motives to Him.)

And the truly annoying thing about all this is that Pat Robertson will be forgiven. Even in making his statement about Haiti, he immediately suggests we pray for the victims; thereby doing the right thing and allowing folks to forgive his heartlessness. In the same way folks forget and forgive the fact that Pat Robertson and his wife engaged in pre-marital sex, producing a child. They forget that Pat Roberson invested in mining interests in Liberia, supporting one of the most repressive dictators in Africa in a regime that has committed countless horrors. They forget all the other times that Pat has shot his mouth off in an equally ridiculous manner.

Here’s the ultimate hypocrisy: this society is more than happy to take the antics of a religious minority (extreme fundamentalist Muslims) and generalize it to a benign population; and yet we don’t do that with men like Pat Roberson (equally fundamentalist, equally rich, equally out of touch). He’s a fornicator who has advocated assassination of foreign leaders and invests money with murderers, yet we don’t attribute those moral failings to all other Christians. Ted Haggard and Paul Crouch have engaged in sexual contact with men, but we don’t assume all Christian leaders are homosexuals. Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker had extra-marital affairs, but we don’t assume that all Christian leaders are unfaithful to their spouses.

Obviously someone like Pat Robertson should be ignored. The problem is that he won’t be ignored. And for those of us who do not support hateful and thoughtless sentiments such that he offers do ourselves, our nation, humanity and the truth a great injury by remaining silent. In silence, we are complicit in his action. Don’t be silent. Let folks know that this sort of nonsense isn’t part of being an American, a Christian or a human being.

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9 Responses to “Pat Robertson: one neuron shy of a synapse”

  1. I’ve been tempted to turn off the 700 Club in my employer’s waiting room because we have a policy that prohibits hate speech.

    The most obvious hypocrisy, though, is that hurricanes that hit Virginia Beach have NOTHING to do with Mr. Robertson.

  2. I’m a Christian and take exception to Pat Robertson’s words (and hypocrisy), particularly because bad things can happen to good people and that doesn’t mean they should have been better. Take the story of Job from the Bible? Would Pat have been like one of Job’s friends, suggesting ad nauseam that he must have sinned, or would he see the truth of the trials Job was going through? My guess is he would have gone off the deep end on accusations of evil.

    And who exactly does this sort of accusation even help? Whether his ravings are right or not, does it entice anyone *ANYONE* to convert to Christianity or give it a second thought?

  3. >>This is the moral equivalent of telling a rape victim that she deserved it because of the way she dresses.<<

    Actually I think in this specific case, it's more like blaming a rape victim because of the way her great-great-grandmother dressed.

  4. I don’t think Pat’s comments are particularly reasonable. As someone pointed out, if Katrina was God’s wrath on New Orleans He missed; the French Quarter was hardly touched!

    Haiti on the other hand, is an enigma. It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere although it is one half of an island that is otherwise quite prosperous. One has to wonder why it is this country just can’t find the leadership and motivation it needs to move forward. Much of the benefit we experience from Western culture can be attributed to its Christian foundation. If abandoning that foundation is a formula for disaster Haiti may be a good example and at the rate we are going we’ll be joining them shortly.

  5. But Haiti hasn’t abandoned Christianity. The vast majority of the population is Catholic (80%) with the largest other group being Protestant at 16%. Their problems do not stem from religion and difficulties thereof, but from many decades of corruption. The Duvalier years specifically resulted in a lack of educational infrastructure which, in turn, means a lack of people able to run a modern economy. Haiti has become a place dominated by outside business interests. As for the Dominican Republic, its certainly more successful than Haiti, but 42% of the population lives below the poverty line, the per capita income is $8,200; with the top 10% of the population making nearly 39% of the income, and the bottom 10% making under 2% of the income. More significantly, 66% of the population is involved in the “services sector” of the economy—which includes tourism and free trade zone activity, both of which have dipped considerably since the worldwide economic downturn. As for religion, the Dominican Republic is 95% Catholic so, depending upon how one decides Catholicism fits into Christianity, they would be considerably less Christian than Haiti, or virtually tied with them.

    Religion is not the deciding factor here, no matter Pat Robertson’s senile ravings.

  6. The other problem for Haiti is the way France ruthlessly exploited it for more than a century-and-a-half after independence.

  7. “depending upon how one decides Catholicism fits into Christianity”

    I thought Catholics created the Bible that all Christians follow at the Council of Nicea. First came the teachings of Christ, then the Church, and last the Scripture, carefully chosen to coincide with existing traditions and teachings handed down orally. Wondering if Catholics are Christians is like wondering if the Founding Fathers were American. Off topic, I know, and I apologize, but I couldn’t resist.

    Regardless, I agree that the issue is not religion, but Pat Robertson’s misguided interpretation of religion and religious obligation. I think Christians, or really more broadly; decent human beings, see disaster not as a time to condemn, but to live up to their responsibilities as humans and lend a hand.

  8. Jack,

    You’re lucky. You’ve led a sheltered life. There are a number of fundamentalist sects which believe that Catholics are not Christians and that the Pope is the Antichrist, and that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon as mentioned in Revelations. Specifically many folks take issue with the fact that Catholics are not required to accept Jesus as their personal savior. This is seen as the reason Catholics will not get into heaven.

  9. Mike,

    Oh, don’t worry I’ve seen the little booklets about how “Bob, went to confession before he died so he’s going to hell” and been lectured about how believing in Saints is evil. I know these opinions exist.

    Please allow me to clarify my point without taking offense, as I have nothing against fellow Christians other than to think my way is better (which everyone does or they wouldn’t actually believe in anything).

    About 1.1 billion people in this world are nominally Roman Catholic. As close as I can estimate, approximately another 500 million Christians have beliefs that are not directly opposed to Roman Catholic teaching. That’s groups that believe in the Real presence, some form of transubstantiation, ordain priests and have a more formal structure and hierarchy. Eastern Orthodox sects, Anglicans, and Lutherans(more or less), generally fit in this category along with many of their offshoots. Back east, many of these sects train and study together (biblical criticism with the Lutherans, philosophy with the Catholics, etc).

    Some sects descended from the Anabaptists (end-timers), and Calvinists tend to view the Catholic Church in a dimmer light. Out of these groups come your stereotypical Bible thumpers. There aren’t very many of them and they mostly live here in the US so we take them more seriously than most of the world. Out of over 2 billion Christians they make up a tiny minority. They read the Bible literally, kind of, and try to avoid anything that has its roots in Catholicism, which is amusing to watch. Like taking Philemon out of the Bible actually sets them apart in any way except letting them keep slaves. I don’t particularly blame them though, organized religion killed millions in Europe, but I think that’s more a testament to intolerance in general back then rather than anything inherent in Catholic or Lutheran teaching.

    Jesus said only through Him could you reach the Father. He also gave his disciples permission to forgive sins. He gave us proxies before he left, and Reconciliation is, as every sacrament, given in the name of Christ.

    Its not that Catholics don’t accept Christ as their personal savior, but that the fact that Jesus is the savior is so basic the discussion of it is like the discussion of addition in a linear algebra class.

    So yeah, I know people disagree with Catholicism and its teachings. That doesn’t mean their opinions don’t lack historical and factual perspective.