After several days of silence, I wanted to let GetReligion readers know that, yes, we have been following all of the Pat Robertson news. The MSM coverage has, however, been rather straightforward and there was not much to comment on.
We certainly saw the New York Times story stressing that Robertson’s controversial statement about Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might undercut plans for an evangelical tourism complex in the hills near the Sea of Galilee.
Actually, it was the edgy — some would even say snarky — Sunday Times article that caught my attention. Here’s a sample:
Ministers in Jerusalem were furious after the millionaire preacher suggested that the Israeli Prime Minister suffered a stroke in divine retribution for carving up the Holy Land in withdrawing from Gaza.
The future of the project, nicknamed Jesusland and criticised by some for commercialism in an area of undeveloped rolling hills, is now hanging in the balance. Mr. Robertson released a statement saying that he was merely pointing out the Old Testament perspective on the division of Israel.
Truth be told, I would have liked to have known who created the “Jesusland” label. Was it someone in the Israeli government or at the Sunday Times copy desk?
Then, yes, we followed the Robertson statements that led up to his hand-delivered letter of apology to Sharon. How do you hand deliver a letter to a man in a coma? To read the actual letter, click here and then here. We also saw the White House statement slamming Robertson.
But if you were looking for responses to what Robertson said, I thought it was interesting that Baptist Press released a lengthy article this week by the Rev. Paige Patterson, one of the czars of the conservative era in Southern Baptist Life, entitled “Does Israel still matter?” The goal of the essay, it seemed, was to spell out some of the basic beliefs held by the leaders of America’s largest non-Catholic flock, rather than let people assume that what Robertson was saying was the norm. Maybe there was no connection. But I thought the timing was interesting.
Through it all, many people kept talking about Robertson himself and the question of whether or not he remains a major, symbolic leader among mainstream conservatives and evangelicals. At one point, Dallas Morning News religion-beat scribe Jeffrey “Got Jeff?” Weiss sent out and note to his reader listserv that said, in part:
So does Mr. Robertson have less support today than he did a couple of decades back? Did we pay too much attention to him then? Not enough now? Vice versa?
Here what I’m asking from the list: Are you a fan of Pat Robertson? Do you have a relative or friend who is a fan? Maybe you used to like him but have been turned off by some of his statements? Or vice versa? Or you know someone in either of those positions?
However, I think that many people are missing the point of what Robertson said and why so many traditional Christians are so angry about it.
The key is not God’s point of view on Israeli real estate, although that is a hot topic. And people are not rejecting Robertson’s belief that God can judge the actions of men and women in the modern world. The key to all of this is the religious broadcaster’s suggestion — in this case and others — that he, Pat Robertson, can know and proclaim the will and the mind of God on mysteries of this kind.
Thus, I began my weekly Scripps Howard News Service column this way:
Once again, inquiring media minds wanted to know: Does the Rev. Pat Robertson’s telephone actually have a speed-dial button for the angel of death?
Which brings us to the real question: Has anyone seen anyone calling a press conference to express support for Robertson on this point? Has anyone seen a good news story in which major Christian leaders speak up to defend him or what he is saying?