Knee Jerking and Pat Robertson
[Note: The Author asks that the content be read through as a whole, and digested. I'm sure plenty of readers will be incensed at different points, but that's the nature of highly controversial positions- they cause turmoil. Bear with the author and read through.]
Today, good readers, I’m sure everyone’s heard Pat Robertson’s remarks regarding the ‘divine retribution’ visited upon Ariel Sharon for compromising the territory of the State of Israel. Likewise, I’m sure they’ve heard it in the context of an incensed public that is rebuking Robertson, and castigating his chosen position as ‘evil’.
I first heard about the situation from my wife who is Jewish– she was a bit miffed, her first reaction being aghast at Robertson. My own first thought was ‘That’s an impolitic thing to say for Pat. He’s not been able to keep his foot out of his mouth lately.’
Then, I considered the logic of Robertson’s position. Robertson is a man who is more concerned with being forthcoming and honest with his belief than he is with the popularity of his views — and that is a commendable quality. Anyone can say that which is popular, but to stick to core principles which are not the values of a public information class is extremely hard.
I don’t mind people being upset with Robertson, if they’re genuinely disturbed by his position. However, I do worry that this illustrates one of the large problems with the modern religious community, particularly the Christian and Jewish communities.
These people who castigate Robertson are usually religious — they choose to observe one set of principles for history, and another for current events, though.
The Anti-Defamation League’s US Director, Abraham H. Foxman said “It is outrageous and shocking, but not surprising, that Pat Robertson once again has suggested that God will punish Israel’s leaders for any decision to give up land to the Palestinians. His remarks are un-Christian and a perversion of religion. Unlike Robertson, we don’t see God as cruel and vengeful.”
Yet, if the Torah and Talmud are the origin points of belief, it is a strain on credibility to claim that one believes in the Plagues of Egypt, commandments to slaughter the inhabitants of the Promised Land to a man, and yet hold that God has changed his ways with the advent of mass culture. Was there a Talmudic statement of that five thousand plus years of Jewish religious tradition has overlooked that said God would quit messing around with people after the first 4,000?
Jews in the mid to late 20th century had to wrestle with the theological implications of the Shoah, and what it meant about God’s involvement with the Universe — a horrible, dispicable act befell Jews, the self-ascribed Chosen People of God. How could God let them suffer? Was God, to paraphrase a popular culture reference, now an absentee landlord? Jewish theologians have overwhelming rejected the notion, though they claim no final understanding of God’s intent or reason can be held by mankind to have been involved in allowing the Shoah.
Christians, on the other hand, usually have the New Testament dichotomy with the Old Testament to point to as a reason for theologically breaking from the traditional God of the Torah. God makes compromises, mostly stops slinging fireballs, and begins allowing people to be redeemed to enter the kingdom of Heaven; clearly, this is a very different God than the one who turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn replied to Robertson’s comments by saying
“Pat Robertson has a political agenda for the entire world, and he seems to think God is ready to take out any world leader who stands in the way of that agenda.”
Presumably the good Reverend Lynn is Christian — but one wonders if he believes the actions of Herod or of Pontius Pilate weren’t the result of God’s intervention in the world. Perhaps he doesn’t believe that the power of the Holy Spirit protected early Christians from persecution, or that the Roman Legionares didn’t flee Christ’s tomb in fear when He arose. I’m fine with Lynn if he thinks that this applies only to the Robertson agenda– but am quite worried if a Christian minister thinks that God does not actively participate in the world. One wonders if the Christian faith is going the way of St. Nicholas of of Myra, to become a facet of culture divorced from its original position in life.
Consistency is something I admire, even in those with whom I disagree. Principles aught to be unyeilding to circumstance.
Robertson’s public pronounciations are indeed tasteless, ill-timed, and generally not very nice, as Ariel Sharon clings to life in an Israeli hospital today. Sharon’s recovery prospects look extremely bleak, and Robertson could at least have waited until his next book to say that God was punishing Israel for compromise. Robertson, though, is not obfuscating what he feels about the situation, unlike the media’s treatment of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who said of Sharon, â€œHopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final.â€
Pointing out that Robertson has said that Sharon deserved the ill placed upon his head because he flouted God’s will is popular– but pointing out that only a Muslim leader has publically rejoiced at the prospect of his death is intolerant of other beliefs.