Let me begin with a personal appeal.
Dear Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, please speak to the Rev. Pat Robertson tonight. Please tell him to shut up, sooner rather than later. Urge him to retire to his prayer closet and close the door for a few years. Maybe he can bench press some massive leather-bound copies of ancient Bible commentaries, or something like that.
Honest, GetReligion readers, you already know what I think about this situation. I know that it’s news when Robertson gets another shiver down his spine and decides to speak his mind on the air. I know that it’s news, but is it really as important as all this?
I guess so. Here’s the Associated Press, via CNN:
In what has become an annual tradition of prognostications, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Tuesday God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in “mass killing” late in 2007.
“I’m not necessarily saying it’s going to be nuclear,” he said during his news-and-talk television show “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network. “The Lord didn’t say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that.”
Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.
OK, here is what I said not that long ago in a column for Poynter.org. At that point, I was pleading with journalists to realize that Robertson is a great quote machine, but that he is way out of the evangelical mainstream and rarely within shouting distance of the Christian mainstream. Thus, I wrote:
… (We) have reached the point where some journalists are happy to see Robertson’s face on television screens, because every time he opens his mouth he reinforces their stereotype of a conservative Christian. And they may sincerely believe that he remains a powerful leader among American evangelicals, someone who provides an appropriate “conservative” voice during coverage of controversial events.
If this is true, then why is it so hard to find mainstream evangelicals and traditional Catholics who defend Robertson? Outside of a cable TV niche, where are his legions? In short, I’m convinced it is time for journalists to drop Robertson from their lists of “usual suspects.” That he ceases to be someone they turn to for quotes from “evangelical leaders.” He is a straw man.
Nevertheless, I will concede that there may be a valid news story lurking in this latest tempest in cable-TV land.
There are Christians who pray for God to give them parking spaces and there are also Christians who claim, on a regular basis, that God speaks directly to them.
Well, who are these people and why do they say this? Where do they fit, in the wide spectrum of Christian spirituality down through the ages? Are they the norm? Should they be taken seriously?
I mean, it’s one thing for a determined nun in the slums of Calcutta, after facing the rigors of serving the poorest of the poor, to believe that God is telling her to start an order of nuns to carry on this work around the world.
When something like that happens her claims of revelation will be pondered by other people before they affect the lives of others. These kinds of personal revelations can be controversial, but they eventually must be claimed as valid by others — including the people who speak with authority to a Mother Teresa.
This is an ancient model of revelation and interpretation. Who uses this model today? Who does not?
Robertson is something else. He hears from God and, the next thing you know, he’s in front of a television camera and the green light is on. In whose name does he speak? What is his authority, in terms of Christian faith and tradition? Is he even typical of the rising Pentecostal tide in other parts of world Christianity?
I mean, note the personal pronouns in this new Robertson quote:
“I have a relatively good track record,” he said. “Sometimes I miss.”
In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America’s coastline in 2006. Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring’s heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.
That’s all for now, friends. Sometimes I get angry and it’s best that I stop typing.