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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Terry, as a fellow Orthodox, I must ask, how would you differentiate between comments like these of Robertson’s, and the Church’s celebration of the death of the heretic Arius (“Pretending blindness that he might not see the light, Arius toppled into the pit of sin, and his bowels were torn by a divine hook that he might give up his whole substance. In a repulsive manner his soul came out, and he became another Judas by his own purpose and character, but the Nicean Council proclaimed openly that thou art Son of God, equal in the throne to the Father, and to the Spirit also”)? In both cases, physical ailments are being credited to God that may have had more natural causes.

    That may seem like trolling, but I am genuinely curious. I assume some differentiation is possible, but by what criteria?

  • Stephen A.

    Peter has unintentionally compared a polemic from the ancient Roman world with the comments of a modern, yet medieval, preacher, and the comparison works quite well.

    Once again, Robertson deserves all the venom spewed his way from secularists and conservative Christians alike. Terry’s article is spot-on. Coffee-spewing comment, indeed.

  • brian

    I wonder how many people watch the 700 club where Robertson made these comments.

    I wonder if they this large television audience thinks Robertson should be taken seriously, the journalists trying to “get religion” should listen to Robertson and try to understand what he’s saying.

    Or should those regular viewers of the 700 Club just be written off as crazies and dismissed as irrelevant because they pay attention to what Robertson says.

  • paddyo’

    The only thing I’d note — beyond the very good question about whether we in the MSM should simply ignore Robertson altogether on ANYthing and EVERYthing — is that this wasn’t one of those looking-for-a-source sorts of stories, but merely the reporting of one rather wing-nutty reaction to Sharon’s stroke. It’s not as though AP was thinking, “Hmm, I wonder if we should interview Christian leaders/experts about the meaning of Sharon’s stroke.” Robertson blurted it, word got around, and AP reported it — nothing more. As I’ve said about Robertson in the past, the guy has a following, a national TV profile, and that, sadly, makes what he says “news” sometimes, wince-inducing though it may be.

  • Bartholomew

    But it’s not just old Robertson – this is standard Christian Zionist stuff. A few years back I visited the Christian “Embassy” in Jerusalem, where I was told that both Johan Jorgen Holst’s heart attack and the Los Angeles earthquake were God’s payback for the Oslo agreement.

    It’ll also be interesting to see how this plays out in the Israeli religious far right – they put a death curse on Sharon a few months ago, while Rabbi Yosef Ovadia predicted that

    God will strike dead “the evil one” who moves Israelis from the Gaza Strip, an influential rabbi and politician said, without referring directly to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

    …”How cruel is this evil one who does such things,” [Rabbi Ovadia] Yosef said in an apparent reference to Sharon. “The Holy One wants us all to return to the Torah, and then he will strike him with one blow and he will die. He will sleep and never wake up,” Yosef said

  • Herb

    Peter, Scripture contains both themes, doesn’t it? Of course the problem is sorting them out. Acts 1 (Judas)and 12 (Herod Agrippa I) are one strain, Luke 13:1ff is another, Job another, and Acts 5 and 1 Corinthians 11 (“some of you sleep”) still another. Which one applies in which situation? Probably Luke 13 is the sum of them all — “you will all likewise perish” — like how? — I would submit, “perish without any hope”, is the point of the comparison.

    For us evangelicals, Pat Robertson is usually a total embarrassment, because he subsitutes his right-wing “traditions” for Scripture, and proceeds to carry out a prophetic ministry based on them. If he would at least apply them to himself first (Luke 13), it would go a long way towards helping the situation.

    As for the media, they will generally always set up a straw man and proceed to bash it. It’s a lot easier to do that, than to sort out the complex issues involved.

  • Joe Perez


    You wrote: “If this is true, then why is it so hard to find mainstream evangelicals and traditional Catholics who defend Robertson?”

    Two critical questions. First, what’s your basis for this assertion? Have you personally interviewed numerous evangelicals and traditional Catholics and concluded that Robertson has no following? Have you specifically asked questions such as these: “Could the stroke of a world leader be interpreted as punishment by God for his political decisions? If not, why not?”

    I find it hard to believe that you’re right on this one. If you were right, there would be uproar among conservative evangelicals when all I hear is silence. I think most traditional believers would side with Robertson.

    Second question: I notice that you write that mainstream evangelicals would disagree with Robertson. But if Robertson is a conservative evangelical, then why is this relevant? Shouldn’t a reporter be speaking to conservatives to get the conservative opinion? Once again, I find your conclusion that Robertson is out of the conservative mainstream to be dubious.

  • Matthew M.

    This is the top story on Yahoo! News right now.

    I’m leaning towards what Joe said on this one, actually. Sure, Robertson is known for saying outrageous things, but I’d bet that a lot of Christians (particularly pro-Israel ones) would at least consider his thesis to be within the realm of the possible, though probably not a cut-and-dried cause-and-effect like Robertson suggests.

    I have no idea why Barry Lynn is called upon to dispute PR’s remarks in this case. They had nothing to do with separation of church and state, particularly. Maybe the MSM just see him as the anti-Pat.

  • Avram

    Anyone think God gave Robertson prostate cancer a few years back as a way of telling him not to say these kinds of things?

  • brian

    I’d like to second what Bartholomew said.

    You may like to say that Robinson is crazy, but this is standard Christian Zionist stuff.

    Pat is not alone.

  • Michael Rew

    Pat Robertson gives new meaning to “a pat answer.”

  • James

    Why does this man keep talking? Of him the proverb is true: Better silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

  • TK

    Avram – good one! Although Pat claims God speaks to him, few Christians believe it anymore. Furthermore, Pat is obviously NOT listening to God as He has spoken through His Word.

    I watched him “religiously” in the 1980′s and 90′s, but now can’t reconcile his teachings or statements with the Bible. Can’t someone shut him up? Even though I can’t stand for anything that the 700 Club teaches, I also can’t believe that there isn’t SOMEONE there who can do something to lessen his voice. Though…as I think about it, I think he would still get quoted even if he stepped down and was never on their airtime again. People will always associate him as a (very poor) spokesman for Christianity…at least the evangelical kind.

  • Kyle

    Never mind Pat: how about the silliness of Christian Zionism generally? The idea that God considers that little strip of desert somehow uniquely “his,” but not the rest of the planet? How ridiculous. Either the whole Creation is holy, or none of it is. Israel is chunk of dirt.

  • Victor Morton

    From the hue and cry, you’d think the head of soon-to-be nuclear power had exulted in Sharon’s fate.

  • Matthew M.

    victor: right on…

  • Lucas
  • treefroggy

    Pat Robertson is G-D’s curse on Americans for watching too much television.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Sigh. I wonder if Robertson is part of some secret club of Christians in the media who goad each other on to public condemnations of others in the name of God. I see this kind of thing coming from Ted Baehr of Movieguide all the time, and he continues to earn the title of “a respected Christian film critic” and one of the main spokespeople for Christians in the film industry. When Jack Valenti retired from the MPAA, Baehr published these words:

    “In his swan song in the commentary section of the Aug. 2 Los Angeles Times, Valenti said that his greatest accomplishment was the movie ratings system. He’s right. He helped to destroy an industry, taking it from 44 million weekly attendance to 17 million weekly almost overnight, and he helped to corrupt an entire society and the world. Furthermore, he created an intense antipathy for the United States of America around the world.

    “If that’s what you set out to do, Jack, you did it, but I hate to see what happens when you face the Judgment of God.”

    Somehow, I get the feeling he doesn’t “hate to see” the Judgment of others. He seems to revel in it and imagine little else.

  • Tope

    How does Pat Robertson decide what is and isn’t the judgment of God? I mean to say – why is Sharon’s declining health a punishment from God, while the explosion in the Sago mine is not a punishment from God on West Virginia?

    Is there anyone out there who really believes that Pat Robertson speaks for God? Given his record of false prophesies, he ought to feel lucky that God has been so gracious not to smite *him* down.

  • Victor Morton

    why is Sharon’s declining health a punishment from God, while the explosion in the Sago mine is not a punishment from God on West Virginia?

    Tope. Be quiet. Don’t give the man any ideas.

  • Stephen A.

    I didn’t know Daniel was such a hottie!

    Daniel, you want to go see Brokeback Mt. with me? ;-)

  • William Sulik

    Terry, you (like all of us) are on the horns of a dilemma, noted by Kendall Harmon, here:

    Damned if you comment, damned if you don’t.

    Or like treefroggy notes, maybe Pat Robertson is our curse…

  • Tope

    Victor -

    Point taken. My lips are sealed!

  • Scott Allen

    Herb is right, Pat Robertson is a strawman. Joe Perez’ analysis is a typical tautology: “But if Robertson is a conservative evangelical, then why is this relevant? Shouldn’t a reporter be speaking to conservatives to get the conservative opinion? Once again, I find your conclusion that Robertson is out of the conservative mainstream to be dubious.” Let’s break this “logic” down: Robertson says he’s a conservative evangelical -> reporters should speak to conservatives, therefore Robertson is “relevant” -> not only that, he’s on TV so he’s “mainstream.” Problems with this circular logic: (1) Robertson is politically conservative, but not theologically so — consersative christians rely on Scripture and careful argumentation, not reckless “newspaper theology” designed to sell books and TV ratings (2) Assuming you want to interview a politically conservative evangelical, why is Pat Robertson (or Oral Roberts or some other TV shyster) “relevant” and no one else? (3) While Robertson is on TV, does this make him “mainstream?” Let’s look at politically liberal christians, which of these Reverends represents them: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Barry Lynn…or None of the Above? I assert NONE. Assuming your conclusion (that Robertson represents conservative evangelicals, evidently on all occasions) is convenient because he makes good “copy.” This tautology works for the MSM, works for dubious Joe. But there are boatloads of solid pastors, authors and speakers who are well-known among Biblical christians (even the Zionist crowd) who routinely disagree with Robertson’s pronouncements. If reporters would attempt to “get” religion a little better (the objective of this Blog) they wouldn’t just ring up “Pat” on the speed dial.

  • shari

    again i wonder, why does anyone care what he says? this is starting to anger me. the media is doing this on perphas to portray all christians a certian way