Thursday, August 25, 2005

Christian Responses to Pat Robertson

Crossposted at Sacred Space: Reflections from the religious left

After Pat Robertson called for the assassination of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, we saw a number of moderate and progressive religious leaders step forward to denounce his statements. Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches called Robertson's words "appalling to the point of disbelief". Bishop Peter D. Weaver had this to say:

Rev. Robertson's stand calls us to perpetuate the Cold War, urges us to join the terrorism we reject and pushes this world into a deepening spiral of violence," Weaver said. "On the basis of the Bible, the spirit of Jesus Christ, and Christian tradition, I urge Rev. Robertson publicly to apologize and renounce his misguided statement."

In an Aug. 24 letter sent to the White House, Weaver also asked President George Bush to reject Robertson's call for violence against Chavez.

Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ has said

"It shouldn't surprise us that someone who prayed a few years ago for a hurricane to afflict others in order that his own enterprise be spared would also endorse political assassination," Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, told United Church News on Wednesday.

"The fact that we aren't surprised [by Robertson’s comments] does not reduce the outrage that Christians of many theological perspectives feel at Robertson's remarks," Thomas said. "They deserve condemnation from all of us."

It is important to add that even very conservative religious voices are denouncing Robertson's words. According to Christianity Today's blog Al Mohler, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has said of Robertson, "He has brought embarrassment upon us all."..."With so much at stake, Pat Robertson bears responsibility to retract, rethink, repent, and restate his position on this issue. Otherwise, what could have been a temporary lapse of judgment can become an enduring obstacle to the Gospel."

And the same blog entry tells us that American Family Association spokesman Ed Vitagliano objected to a call for violence in the name of Christ

"We do not think it is a Christian thing to do to call for assassination of another country's leader. We understand the nation does things it thinks it should to preserve survival, but for someone who is a minister we feel greater care should be taken in representing the name of Christ. The name of Christ should not be mixed in, even accidentally, with the call for an assassination."

Finally, this last excerpt is not from a religious spokesperson, but this piece by Patti Davis in Newsweek Society is just too good not to share.

The Sin of Blasphemy

At the risk of sounding quaint, this is just not the God I was raised with, and it certainly isn’t the God who answers me. I close my eyes sometimes and say, “God, I gave someone the finger today when I was driving. I know I shouldn’t have.” And what I hear back is something like, “I saw that. And I’ve told you before, that was a child of mine too. A tailgating one, but my child nonetheless.”

I’m actually feeling a lot better now about my temper flares in traffic. At least I’ve never considered using weaponry.

I’m sure the members of the Christian Coalition won’t take my suggestions, but they might want to consider making a rule that anyone who calls himself a Christian has to have some passing acquaintance with the teachings of Jesus. I’m no Biblical scholar but I am absolutely sure that Jesus never suggested assassinating anyone.

When I lived in New York City, I used to give money to a homeless man who stood on the same corner of Columbus Avenue every day, rain or shine. He was never pushy, he was always polite, and I just felt like giving him money. One day, I saw a man in a business suit getting right in this man’s face, waving a Bible at him and telling him he was a sinner and he had to accept Jesus and ask forgiveness for his sins. I walked up, gave the homeless man a five and said to the sidewalk preacher, “You know, Jesus would never do what you’re doing.” I walked away quickly before he could hit me with his Bible. And I walked away feeling very sorry for Jesus. People keep doing things in his name that are so un-Christianlike.

Well, if I felt sorry for Jesus then, I feel like weeping for him now. Shouldn’t people like Pat Robertson just go start their own religion and leave Jesus out of it?

Patti Davis' words about her conversations with God remind me that Pat Robertson is a beloved child of Godde too. Dang. I still have a hard time with that sort of thing. Maybe it's time for me to revisit Anne Lamott's Loving Bush: Day 2

It was like being in the Twilight Zone. It was a nightmare. It was clear that the pastor, Veronica, was speaking directly to me. She said that Christians have a very bad reputation in the world, because we have earned it, with our hate and self-righteousness. We speak in reverent terms of grace, justice, equality, mercy, and then we despise people who were also created in God's image, who are Her children too. She said that if George Bush had been the only person on earth, Jesus would still have come down and died for him.

This drives me crazy. That God seems to have no taste, and no standards. Of course, by the same token, on most days, this is what gives some of us hope.

And it brings me back to the words of "Here I am, Lord, by Dan Schutte

I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.

Maybe I need to reflect on those words some more today...and remember that it's not just Robertson who has a stony heart that needs fixing. When I start to slip into schadenfreude in response to Pat Roberston being scolded by his own allies, it's probably time to humbly invite some divine repair work on my own heart.