Why Do We Care What Pat Robertson Says?

One of the most devastating and tragic earthquakes of my lifetime hit the already downtrodden nation of Haiti on Tuesday. It hurts my heart to think about the horror of such a calamity, which destroyed the capital city and killed tens of thousands of people.

But in the wake of this tragedy of unimaginable scope, everyone seems to be talking about something else… Pat Robertson.

Quips about Robertson and his ridiculous comments have been lighting up Twitter and Facebook. He’s been a top trending topic for the last 2 days. And everyone seems to be getting quite a kick out of joining in the Robertson slam-fest. Of the many tweets I’ve seen, here’s just a sampling:

  • “Pat Robertson is kinda like that senile old uncle at your family reunion. He said what? Oh, that’s just crazy Uncle Pat. Pay no attention.”
  • “Why do so many people in Haiti have to die while Pat Robertson lives?”
  • “Pat Robertson, bringing shame to the name of Christ for 50 years.”
  • “I wonder what Pat Robertson blames for the NBC late night debacle.”
  • “Pat talks about the Devil like he’s had business meetings with him… or the two play racket ball…”
  • “Just in case you needed more proof that Pat Robertson doesn’t speak for Christians, here you go…”
  • “Behold Pat Robertson, the unintended consequence of the first amendment.”

Everyone is buzzing about Pat Robertson this and that, but how many of us have actually given money to a relief organization or said a prayer for Haiti? Why do we care so much about what this old dude is saying about pacts with the devil? More importantly, why are we still talking about it?

Christians especially seem to have rushed swiftly to the “denounce Pat!” party. He doesn’t speak for us! Not all Christians are like that! He’s giving our faith a black eye! Can’t he just retire and disappear from the public eye?

I didn’t really want to read any more about Pat Robertson today, but so many people were sending this link around to Donald Miller’s blog post, I decided to click on it. Donald Miller’s post eloquently repurposes Robertson’s gaffe and turns it into a discussion about how being “overtly religious” is dangerous, and that faith in Christ should be intimate, quiet, and personal rather than public and loud. It should be about love and compassion rather than judgment and proclamations. How nice.

Miller’s post was retweeted more than 1100 times and garnered hundreds of comments, most of which expressed a sort of collective sigh of relief from Christians desperate for a moment of better PR. Many commented something to the effect of “Thank you for defending the true nature of our loving God and Savior!”

What saddens me about all of this is that Christians felt so desperate for a “defense” of their faith. Are we really that feeble in our religion (or, excuse me, our “Christ following”) that we need to even comment on dear old Pat? Is it that much of a threat? I don’t think so.

We need to stop worrying so much about having a favorable image. The success of God’s work in the world is not dependent on how people in 2010 perceive Christians, or how people like Pat Robertson contort the Gospel in disturbing and wrongheaded ways. If we believe God is sovereign we need to have confidence that he can overcome all the loudmouth bigots who go around saying idiotic things in the name of Christ (not that we shouldn’t chastise and discipline those loudmouth bigots among us).

We need to quit worrying about how the worst among us are ruining our reputation and instead focus on living Christ-like lives in accordance to scripture and God’s will. We need to worry about our own transformation first and foremost. Are we new creations?

We should love others and ease the suffering in the world—DONATE TO HELP HAITI—not because it will be better for our PR, but because the Bible tells us to and because the Spirit inside us spurs us to outward action. We should exude charity and patience and peace in our dealings with others not because it will win us admirers but because it is the Christian thing to do.

We need to be humble, yes, but not tepid. We should have confidence in the God we serve, the gospel we believe, and the church that we are. Christianity isn’t going to die, and no amount of public relations nightmares will break the body of Christ that has and will continue to move in the world. As the church of the resurrected Christ, our destiny is eternal and our hope never-ending.

Let’s stop talking about Pat Robertson and start living strongly in the light of our calling—which is to spread the message of hope, resurrection and renewal that is the Gospel of Christ.

18 responses to “Why Do We Care What Pat Robertson Says?

  1. I haven’t said a single thing about Robertson since his comments, and I agree that our energy is better spent productively– I’ve been doing some organizing for the Red Cross. However, I am reminded of conservative Christians who, after September 11, claimed that no prominent Muslims had denounced those atrocious acts done in the name of Islam, and that therefore we are justified in lumping all Muslims in the pro-jihadist category. There is a certain degree to which it is important to publicly proclaim our disagreement with evil, especially that evil which cloaks itself in the name of good.

  2. I can understand why many of us Christians (including myself) are so quick to say, “Pat does not speak for me.” We still have nightmares from the Religious Right of the ’80s and ’90s, and even though many good mainstream evangelical Christians have come since then to take back Jesus, there are a lot of nonbelievers who still think Robertson and Falwell speak for us, so that’s why we’re so quick to distance ourself from Pat.

    But like you said, the best thing for Christians to do is to donate money to relief groups, not bash Pat. Compared to all the people who are suffering right now, who cares what some idiot on TV thinks?

  3. This is a great post. Thanks for the strong words.

  4. Pingback: Brett McCracken asks, “Why do we Care What Pat Robertson Says?” « The Green Leaf Blog

  5. Pingback: LET’S BE AUTHENTIC « Club Fritch

  6. I think the point of your article could have been made (probably strengthened) without the sarcasm directed at Miller. I know he’s not one of your favorite people, but yikes.

  7. Stephanie Huang

    I love the sentiments expressed here, and I personally could benefit from a lot more confidence in God’s work in our lives.

    That said, I do feel that it is important to let people know that Pat’s sentiments don’t represent all Christian’s beliefs. He is a public figure and like it or not, he is held up as a Christian representative in the media. And his words do so much injustice against Jesus’ gospel message.

    In the end God loves us, and he demonstrated this through Jesus Christ. More than anything I want people to know this in a profound way. But when a Christian LEADER goes on TV and speaks words that go against God’s love – especially to so many who already don’t understand it, I do feel compelled to take action.

    You mentioned something a while back that I think about all the time – that we as Christians need to be even more diligent at correcting our own. Isn’t this the same idea?

    We don’t want to attack Pat the person, but we don’t condone his words and actions.

    • Certainly we should not condone Robertson’s words; I definitely agree that we should “correct our own” when they are in the wrong. But I think this sort of discipline is best done in a more private, “in house” sort of way rather than the very public, twitter-to-everyone-in-the-world way that we’ve been doing. The Christians in Robertson’s life have a responsibility to confront him and call him out for his errors, just as we do when a member of our church behaves in a inappropriate way. But I don’t know that we need to make a big show about publicly denouncing or apologizing for Pat Robertson’s behavior. If asked, we should certainly assert our disagreement with what Robertson said, but to go out of our way to distance ourselves from such utter ridiculousness (his comments were so absurd they hardly dignify a response) in efforts to “protect” the integrity of the Gospel seems to me to make Christians look a little desperate.

  8. How shameful how sad! Pat Robertson and his comments on the Haitian tragedy is racism, pure and simple. And he knows nothing about their history. So I guess slavery was good, right? And you should not try to free yourself from it if you were a slave. But the worst part, his sanctimonious posturing is the antithesis of Christ’s teaching. In fact, Pat Robertson I believe the Devil spoke through you!

  9. Brett,

    You’re earnest post leaves me perplexed. For starters, “One of the most devastating and tragic earthquakes of my lifetime hit the already downtrodden nation of Haiti on Tuesday”? The Indonesian (and subsequent tsunami) earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004 left nearly 300,000 people dead. The October 8, 2005 earthquake in Pakistan left over 50,000 dead. The earthquake on May 18, 2008 in Western China left nearly 100,000 dead. These were all just as sudden with countless lives lost. The tragedy is not that a massive earthquake hit and tens of thousands have died. The REAL tragedy is that most people in the U.S. didn’t care about Haiti before the earthquake. The REAL tragedy is that the experts were NOT surprised and the rest of us act shocked that such an atrocity of nature can occur. What’s discouraging is the extent of earnest, do good Christians that come out of the wood work when these events happen. If this country truly cared (deeply and profoundly) then we would spend more time trying to prepare these significantly inadequate locations for natural disasters. How many of the well intentioned Christians reading your post are actively lobbying for a reconstruction of New Orleans that will prevent a future catastrophe similar to or worse than Katrina? Same goes for the locations affected by the 2004 tsunami throughout Indonesia. The sad truth is that we, as Christians with platforms, like to find the popular tragedies of the moment to cling to for service and mission. Specifically, as it relates to Haiti, how many of your readers and those lobbying for action, had any concern for Haiti before the earthquake? Regrettably, Haiti’s been on the brink of complete despair for quite a long time now. Where were we then? Where will we be in five years? Ten? And these are just the tragedies by natural disasters. How does the conversation shift when discussing the man made catastrophes? From the recent genocides to the civilian casualties in Iraq since the war started. Also, I’m surprised by your fairly narrow minded perspective on the international context of the words by someone like Pat Robertson. Look at how much money his company pulls in annually. Look at the percentage of viewers he still attracts. Look at how many countries his television program reaches. By all means, it IS a serious concern for such ignorance to be shared on such a large scale. A recent parallel would be the destructive assistance Rick Warren and others gave in Uganda that did, in fact, lead to the deaths of Ugandan citizens (just for being gay). The other point I’m slightly confused on is….Pat Robertson is all that everyone is talking about? Has it been a news topic? Yes. Online and on TV? Yes. Is that all people are talking about? Not from what I’ve seen. Even the liberal sites/blogs don’t have Pat front and center. Swing by msnbc.com or even the Huffington Post to see just how much attention Pat isn’t getting. Pat Robertson proves just how destructive a Christian without a sound intellect can be. I’ve provided two links that I hope you, and others, find useful in processing and assisting those suffering in Haiti.

    http://informationincontext.typepad.com/good_intentions_are_not_e/2010/01/suggestions-for-donors-in-choosing-ngos-to-donate-to-after-a-disaster.html

    http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/01/geopolitical-speculations-about-haiti.html

    • Brian,
      I know your post was to Brett, but I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that Christians are coming out of the woodwork just now that there has been a disaster in Haiti. I personally know of several Christians who have actively worked in Haiti long before the earthquake. I know Christians who moved to New Orleans to minister to those still impacted by Katrina. My own church just raised tens of thousands of dollars to build wells in a few countries. I have other friends who are part of ministries to stop sex trafficking. I try to help the best way I can (laid off several months ago so my funds are very limited) and hope to do more in the future.

      What I’m saying is that just because a ton of Christians weren’t currently rallying to support Haiti before the earthquake doesn’t mean there weren’t many already helping. And for every Christian to take on every single cause (even those that aren’t “popular” at the moment) and be an advocate for every tragedy in the world would be impossible. Most Christians I know have one or two causes they work toward because that’s what has been laid on their heart. And they aren’t all the same cause–they vary widely from living in Yemen, Central Asia, or giving money to whatever organization they can.

      If I misunderstood your post, I apologize. I agree with everything else you said, but I just wanted to make it clear that the Christians I know have not been doing nothing until this tragedy, but are now helping Haiti in addition to their other causes.

  10. Thank you. I purposely ignored commenting on a particular blog’s post about Robertson. I just felt like ignoring him would be best at this time.

  11. DT,

    You’re absolutely right and I should have clarified. My statements were more in regards to whatever happens to be on the front page of papers and blogs, at any given time. You’re right that (Christian) groups and individuals are throughout these parts of the country and world doing superlative work. The unfortunate aspect of that is…the collective ‘we’ rarely gives them the attention and support they deserve. When was the last time the reconstruction of New Orleans was on the front page of multiple secular or religious publications/websites? You’re also right when stating that not every one can take up every cause, all the time. Yet when it comes to journals, newspapers, blogs and other resources of information, they do have a responsibility (should they choose) to share the stories and events that should matter or concern the greater population. No offense to Brett, but when’s the last time he posted an article or link regarding any hot bed of Christian missionary work? We’ve seen plenty of self promotion of his upcoming book on Christian hipsters, but that’s about all I can recall at the moment. Thanks for responding and highlighting something that I needed to clarify. All my best….

  12. It *is* worth “defending” Christianity against Pat Robertson. I say this as a new Christian who spent most of my life being repulsed from Christianity by people like Pat. I can say that for many non-Christians like I was, Pat Robertson epitomizes hypocrisy and non-compassion that prejudices the entire religion. Was I wrong? Yes. Was I seeing the whole picture? No. But I think my point is clear. Pat Robertson does a disservice to Christianity and every opportunity we have to disassociate from him, that is one more opportunity to save a soul that was repulsed by him.

  13. I think your spot on! And this is from someone whose last blog post was related to Pat. Thanks for the challenge.

    I also felt the same about Millers post, and thought you were right to highlight it.

  14. Brett,

    This is my favorite post of yours ever. Complete agreement sauce. I appreciate your contribution.

  15. “We should love others and ease the suffering in the world… because the Bible tells us to and because the Spirit inside us spurs us to outward action.”

    Whether you are Christian or religious or not, we should love others and ease suffering because we understand the nature of suffering, and we have the power to ease it in this world!

    It’s been repeated way too much, but the bible can be used to justify any action. But when the news about Haiti broke, that’s not the time to flip through the manual to see what’s right or not right. You heart and your mind are usually telling you immediately. And from the looks of it, still more is needed. Haiti is still in our hearts and minds, and in our news and conversations, right now, isn’t it?

    As for Pat Robertson, well as soon as he judged, he was judged, right? The power of a connected, educated world means we can put the ‘crazy old uncles’ in their place. We can’t always do much about them, but we can understand them, and understand what to do with them.

  16. The real tragedy of a Pat Robertson, is that you can say ‘he does not speak for me’ and still (as a Christian) be tainted by his terror tactics: the oh-so-subtle; condescending and patronizing, of the poor people, of Haiti. On his show, he make his remarks with a “sister” sitting next to him. To show I guess, he’s not a racist. Please!
    The West could not and still will not, accept the fact that slaves defeated the great Napoleon and the tens of thousands of soldiers sent to Haiti to put down the slave revolt. In the Western mind there had to be some otherworldly power that contributed to the slaves success. For Pat Robertson, it’s “the devil made me do it”.
    Slaves are not suppose to have the wherewithal in military skills to defeat one of the great powers in the eighteenth century. Even Spartacus didn’t defeat the Romans, though they still keep making movies about him.
    With Haiti, you get only silence on what was the third major revolution in that time. The other two being the American and the French Revolutions. Yet though they won their freedom, France make Haiti pay big time; for succeeding in doing what no slaves had ever done : slaves freeing themselves. For over fifty years Haiti paid “reparation,” amounting to what would be today in the billions. Money, to the slave owners for the loss of their property: the x-slaves. How ironic! America occupied Haiti for almost twenty years in the twentieth century. And through much of its history, proped up despotic rulers. No, Haiti is not cursed because of a so-called pack with the devil. Rather, Haiti is a victim of the sins of the West that built empires on the backs of slaves through institutionalized racism. Haiti in free- ing itself: denied-the-lie-of-their-nothingness.
    They were children of God, not things. In the West where most African Americans are Christian and the descendants of slaves I give you this truth, from a black mystic.
    “By some amazing but vastly creative spiritual
    insight, the slave undertook the redemption of a religion that the master had profaned in his midst” Howard Thurman
    We are still redempting, and there is hope for even Pat Robertson . Amen

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