The Firing Squad for God

Pat Robertson is nuts. But then you probably already knew that.

Robertson surpassed even his own goofy standard this week when he called for the assassination of Venezeula's president, Hugo Chavez.

We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

Whew.

Been away from the blogosphere for a couple of days, so I'm sure all the good lines have already been used, but let me chime in belatedly with a few observations.

1. Venezuela is our friend. Granted, Hugo Chavez is not chummy with the current administration (whose premature celebration of an unsuccessful, undemocratic coup in Venezuela may have tipped its hand), and he occasionally smokes cigars with his Caribbean buddy Fidel. But nominally — and officially — our two nations are still friends.Abreulifted

We buy almost 2/3 of everything they export (mostly oil). We're both democratic, federal republics. They've got about 25 million Spanish speakers; we've got about 32 million. Plus, you know, Bobby Abreu.

There may be, as the BBC puts it, "tense relations between the two countries," but Venezuela is not our enemy. Calling for the assassination of its president is as dangerously bizarre as if Robertson had called for a hit on Jacques Chirac.

2. Robertson was forced to apologize, sort of. Here's what he said:

"Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement," he said. …

"I didn't say 'assassination', I said our special forces could take him out. Take him out could be a number of things including kidnapping," he said.

So to clarify, he didn't necessarily mean "take him out" like we did with Allende. He might've only meant "take him out" like we did with Aristide.

Robertson also tried to play guilt-by-association, alleging vague links between Chavez and Iran. Not a wise step for him. Robertson really isn't in any position to start a game of Six Degrees of bin Laden. Let's see … Pat Robertson invests in blood diamonds, the sale of blood diamonds funds al-Qaida. Two steps.

3. The State Department has distanced itself from Robertson's comment, but its condemnation seems a bit tepid. Spokesman Sean McCormack said Robertson's statement was "inappropriate."

"I would say that Pat Robertson is a private citizen and that his views do not represent the policy of the United States," McCormack said.

I realize that it's hard to provide a full-on public smack-down of a party leader who once garnered 120 delegates in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination. But still, that's pretty weak.

Robertson is almost always referred to as an ordained minister or evangelist, which is, unfortunately, accurate. This is a frequent source of embarrassment for the Christian church. But it is just as accurate to identify Pat Robertson as an influential Republican Party leader, which he is. It would be selfish for us Christians to hoard all of the embarrassment for ourselves, so perhaps I should adopt this as my primary way of referring to the televangelist GOP statesman.

4. The AP's Richard Ostling notes that Republican leader Pat Robertson is a long-time fan of wetworks, viewing assassination as cleaner and more efficient than declaring and waging war:

Six years ago, Robertson said the U.S. could send agents to kill Osama bin Laden, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein.

"Isn't it better to do something like that … to take out Saddam Hussein, rather than to spend billions of dollars on a war that harms innocent civilians and destroys the infrastructure of a country?"

There's a certain cold logic to this calculus, but it's difficult to reconcile such an approach with Robertson's status as a Christian minister.

The Bible frowns on tyrannicide. Sure, there are some counter-examples from the bloody book of Judges — Ehud's sinister dagger swallowed up in the fat of Eglon's belly, for instance (Judges 3 would make a great movie, but it makes for lousy political theology). But such examples are greatly outnumbered by the many unequivocal condemnations of tyrannicide. The prophet Hosea, for example, said that God would punish the house of Jehu for "the massacre at Jezreel." The massacre in question was Jehu's killing of the evil King Ahab.

Christian opposition to political assassination is, of course, based on much more than such proof-texts. It's also based, in part, on a commitment to the rule of law. Robertson seems to believe that he is not bound by such rules because he has a direct channel to the mind of God.

5. On the other hand, Robertson also claims that God told him, before the invasion of Iraq, that this war would be "a) a disaster and b) messy." So the voices in his head claiming to be God aren't always lying.

6. As always when discussing Republican leader Pat Robertson, I feel it is important to remind you of this:

"Pat Robertson can leg-press 2000 pounds!"

7. Addendum: Via Teresa Nielsen Hayden, "The Big Scary List of Pat Robertson Quotations."

  • Karmakin

    “There’s a certain cold logic to this calculus, but it’s difficult to reconcile such an approach with Robertson’s status as a Christian minister.”
    Nope. It’s not. It might be for YOU, but that’s because of your secular moral logic, not your religious beliefs. But we live in a culture where modern Christianity is about the power of faith over the power of works. It doesn’t matter if Robertson calls for the murder of thousands. Even millions. That doesn’t matter one bit. (In fact, he has. But that’s neither here nor there). Because he has “faith”, that means that he’s a better person than I am. And most people agree with this. That is NOT a good thing. It blocks any progress we could ever make on real moral issues…more balance between labor and capital, affordable health care for all..protecting the environment. It also allows people to call for the murder of other people, and allow people to lie about it. And no, I’m not talking about Robertson’s comments. I’m talking about Iraq.
    When it comes down to morality, it’s important that we don’t just know WHAT is moral, but why or why not. This way, we’re able to deal with all the outside cases. Somteimts it’s complicated, sometimes it’s easy. But modern culture throws away all sembalence of morality on these issues. Because the moral debate is limited to if you believe in God or not.
    And that’s morally indefensible.

  • Tina

    Pat Robertson’s name has, for a long time, been associated with tinfoil hat crowd in my household. Unfortunately other people seem to take his words a bit more serious. Scary as it is, Robertson could be considered a leader and is in no way a private citizen. He is a public figure. Incitement to murder is a crime. If a similar statement regarding any U.S. allied government head had been issued by a Muslim cleric you can bet that there would be no discussion of private citizenship or whether or not the statement had been taken out of context.

  • Firebug

    Now we know why Robertson and his allies want the Ten Commandments posted everywhere imaginible. They have so much trouble memorizing them!
    Let’s see. Robertson called the democratically elected Chavez a “strong-arm dictator” and claimed, without foundation, that Chavez would “make [his country] a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent”. In doing so, Robertson bore false witness against Chavez, thus violating the Ninth Commandment.
    Robertson’s statement makes it obvious that he covets Venezuela’s oil (“And I don’t think any oil shipments will stop”; “this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil”). Coveting another’s possessions violates the Tenth Commandment.
    Finally, of course, by calling for the murder of Chavez, Robertson urged that the Sixth Commandment be violated.
    What bothers me the most about all of this isn’t even Robertson’s statement (which is the kind of “thinking” one would expect to hear in a rowdy redneck bar), but the fact that Robertson claims moral superiority and to speak for Christianity while violating and spitting on every one of Christianity’s basic tenets.

  • Mnemosyne

    “I didn’t say ‘assassination’, I said our special forces could take him out. Take him out could be a number of things including kidnapping,” he said.
    Of course, this is from his first, ass-covering, lying-through-his-teeth statement where he expected the media to take his word for it and not do what they actually did, which was to play his own words back to him. He did talk about “this doctrine of assassination” and said, “If Chavez is worried about us assassinating him, we should go ahead and do it.”
    Isn’t there a rule somewhere about not bearing false witness (i.e. lying)? You know, like a commandment or something?

  • EliB

    So to clarify, he didn’t necessarily mean “take him out” like we did with Allende.
    …I’m sure you know this, but yes he did necessarily mean that. The sentence you didn’t quote from his original remarks used the word “assassinate”. Robertson is lying, and ineptly.

  • none

    So to clarify, he didn’t necessarily mean “take him out” like we did with Allende. He might’ve only meant “take him out” like we did with Aristide.
    Or maybe he meant the US should “take him out” in the sense of buying him dinner and treating him to a movie. Or maybe he wanted us all to go to a ball game together. Unfortunately, it’s a little harder to find alternate interpretations for what he said earlier in that same talk: “if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.”

  • Alan

    Maybe I’m just overeager for “Left Behind Friday,” but sometimes I really do wonder if it’s possible that George W. Bush really is the Antichrist and people like Dobson, Falwell and Robertson are the False Prophets who are supposed to prepare his way. Sigh.

  • Dave Lartigue

    The line I used on my own blog was:
    I’m sure we all remember when Jesus told his followers, “But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, send in a team of covert operatives to take him out, preferably with a well-placed headshot. It’s cheaper than a war.”

  • Beth

    Sorry, that anonymous post was mine (and despite those precious few seconds I saved by not typing my name, Mnemosyne and EliB still beat me to it.)

  • Andy

    I totally bought his defense. When he said “take him out,” I’m sure he meant that we should meet him for drinks somewhere low-key but elegant, followed by dinner at a restaurant with an impressive wine selection, then maybe a twilight stroll through Manhattan’s West Village, topping off the evening with espresso and cannoli at Cafe Reggio. Right?

  • none

    The Swimming Pool Q’s. . . I am in awe of you, sir.

  • Mark

    No, obviously Pat meant “assassination” in the sense of “character assassination”. Because, you know, that’s what the special forces are trained for. For his next trick maybe he’ll call for the “assassination” of, say, Sen. Clinton, and we’ll see whether that defense holds up in court.
    (Like most Protestants[0], Pat thinks secular governments have a get-out-of-hell-free card with respect to the Sixth Commandment–anything they do is defined as Not Murder. (For the implications of this, see “Is God a Taoist?” from Raymond Smullyan’s The Tao Is Silent.) Likewise for the commands against idolatry, worship of false gods, giving false testimony, and theft. It seems the only sin they’re not allowed is adultery, as Clinton discovered the hard way.)
    [0] Catholics at least have Just War theory to fall back on, though in practice it usually sanctifies whatever wars the powers and principalities want to fight. (There are always a few Quakers and other pacifist weirdos in the church, but not enough to matter unless one of them gets elected President and pulls our troops out of Vietnam.)

  • VKW

    Let us not forget that Holy Pat has also prayed, on his very own TV show, for God to [paraphrase from memory] change the membership of the Supreme Court. This would, at the very least, require that something nasty happen to the families of some of the “liberal” judges.

  • Nate

    Instead of evangelist or Republican leader, I’ve been calling him a: “fundamentalist cleric.”

  • michael

    I don’t know why everybody is so upset…
    Robertson only said he wanted to “take him out”….
    presumably for dinner and a movie….
    OH, it’s the homo thing

  • michael

    Alan,
    Don’t worry, I am certain the Antichrist will be more knowlegeable and more efficient than our holy roller in chief.

  • pharoute

    “Let’s get rid of this trouble maker” where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, it’s what the Sanhedrin/Roman authorities said…

  • jwhook

    I always appreciate your take on events, Fred, even when it’s late. Out of all the comments about Robertson, I think the most pertinent, and useful, is that he can and should be labelled Republican leader.
    If you’ve read his complete “apology”, you’ll find that it’s not even really an apology. He said the words, but then he went on to justify his point of view.

  • B-W

    If you’ve read his complete “apology”, you’ll find that it’s not even really an apology. He said the words, but then he went on to justify his point of view.
    And by abusing the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, no less. But I’ve said plenty about this my own blog, already….

  • Reverend Ref

    jwhook: His apology is aptly, “I’m so sorry I got caught.”
    It reminds me of the same kind of sincere apology serial killers recite at their sentencing.

  • http://www.unpartisan.com/articles.php?id=7619 Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator

    Televangelist Robertson Under Fire

    Pat Robertson’s call for the U.S. to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is sparking outrag

  • http://ilx.wh3rd.net/thread.php?showall=true&msgid=5156208#6157773 I Love Everything

    Pat Robertson says Bush told him there would be no casualties in Iraq

    Slacktivist finally weighs in on this:
    Robertson also tried to play guilt-by-association, alleging vague links between Chavez and Iran. Not a wise step for him. Robertson really isn’t in any position to start a game of Six Degrees of bin Laden. Let’s …

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    When he said “take him out,” I’m sure he meant that we should meet him for drinks somewhere low-key but elegant, followed by dinner at a restaurant with an impressive wine selection, then maybe a twilight stroll through Manhattan’s West Village, topping off the evening with espresso and cannoli at Cafe Reggio. Right?Forget Pat–Andy, you can take me out anytime.

  • Andy

    Sadly, Nicole…Andy prays on the other side of the aisle, if you know what I mean.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    And Cafe Reggio sounded like such a nice place, too! We’ll just have to make it a double-date, then. BYOthingie and all that.

  • eriol

    To call Dubya “Holy Roller in Cheif” is an insult to holy rollers- at least holy rollers get drunk on the Spirit. He gets drunk on power. Also he’s a Methodist, which means he’s more drunk then any other Methodist.
    Back to Pat. He Tried to Link Chavez to Iran. Chavez is a socialist, Iran is fascist. This is differnt then the game conservitives played earlier when they tried to make socialist Saddam (not leftist) to be like fascist Al-Qaeda. And all of this is done by facsists. Interesting game, how do they keep score?

  • Rhys

    I believe that the next day Chavez offered to sell cheap oil to America’s poor, by cutting the greedy middle-men out of the equation. By doing so, Chavez showed more Christian charity in a minute than Robertson has in his entire life.
    Chavez is certainly not my favourite guy on the planet, but the main beef the US and Robertson seem to have with him is that he’s helping the poor and sick, using oil revenues to do it. Oil revenues that Bushco would rather go into their pockets and never go out again. What was that thing about Jesus and money-changers again?

  • Shag from Brookline

    Pat should leave Linda Chavez alone. She is a faithful republican. Rather (not Dan!), let’s rehash what Pat did or didn’t do during WW II and whatever mission (religious or otherwise) he may have accomplished.

  • Lila

    Mark said:
    “Pat thinks secular governments have a get-out-of-hell-free card with respect to the Sixth Commandment…. Likewise for the commands against idolatry, worship of false gods, giving false testimony, and theft. It seems the only sin they’re not allowed is adultery, as Clinton discovered the hard way….”
    Actually, the US seems to have gotten away with screwing a great deal of the rest of the world. (ba-dum CHING!)
    And re Robertson’s “apology”–as I told my kids, if it starts with “I’m sorry, but–” it’s not an apology, no matter what comes next.

  • none

    topping off the evening with espresso and cannoli at Cafe Reggio
    So what you’re saying to Pat is simply ‘leave the gun, take the cannoli’?

  • Shmuel

    “Robertson is almost always referred to as an ordained minister or evangelist, which is, unfortunately, accurate. ”
    And, apparently at his own insistence, as “Doctor,” as in this excerpt from Friday’s Washington Post:
    “In large type on the front of the can, the product is labeled “Pat’s Diet Shake.” In smaller type on the back, it is identified as “Dr. Pat Robertson’s Diet Shake.” Robertson is not a medical doctor, but he has a law degree, known formally as a juris doctor, from Yale Law School.”

  • Scott Daly

    Robertson suffers from a severe case of brain mouth disconnection. What I really find interesting is how the conservative institutions have either said nothing or limited their comments to the verbal equivalent of a slap on the wrist followed by ‘bad Pat’. I would be willing to bet good money that if a Democratic leader said the same thing those same institutions would be screaming for his or her head. On a platter. With an apple in the mouth. And they wouldn’t let him get off with a tepid non-appology like Robertson gave. I’m sorry but in my opinion Robertson is no more a Christian than I am the Dahli Lama. He is an oportunist who’s only concern is himself and maintaining the position of power he has managed to get himself into.

  • Rob

    Robertson’s way behind the curve. Fred Phelps has identified the real villain and is going after him himself!

  • Anonymous Coward

    Whoa! Everyone here’s making a big deal out of nothing! So, Robertson slipped, he’s human afterall. Everyone makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect. Stop attacking your enemy’s like a pack of wild pitbulls, you’re only embarrassing yourselves.
    Nothing to see here move along.

  • Derryl Murphy

    More Pat Robertson quotes can be found here:
    http://www.drinkatwork.com/2005/08/pat-robertson-quotes.html
    D

  • Maximus

    As always when discussing Republican leader Pat Robertson, I feel it is important to remind you of this:
    “Pat Robertson can leg-press 2000 pounds!”
    How about this?
    Pat Robertson, Liquor Officer!

  • Edward Liu

    We’re not attacking Pat Robertson. We’re MAKING FUN of him. Mocking him relentlessly, while perhaps bemoaning the fact that he has the ear of people far more powerful than he should.
    But we’re not attacking him. Nosiree. Attacking him would mean someone would be saying something like, “If Pat Robertson is worried about us character assassinating him, we should go ahead and do it.”
    This isn’t a character assassination. This is just pointing and laughing. Which, in the end, may be worse.
    So, how about a betting pool? Is “Anonymous Coward” 1) a shill for Pat Robertson trying (badly) to defuse this story, or 2) someone who genuinely believes that Dr. Pat did nothing wrong?

  • Lila

    Given the “nothing to see here, move along” line, I vote (3) a person making fun of the actual anonymous cowards who often complain about such “attacks”.

  • eriol

    I’m no good at betting, but I’ll say Anonymous Coward is a good, ironic name even if Anonymous Coward is unironic.

  • Beth

    You’re right, Anonymous Coward. I confess I’ve been guilty of hypocricy in condemning Pat’s mistakes, and I’ve been equally hypocritcal in condemning bin Laden’s repeated slips of the tongue about “Death to America,” and suchlike. I’m not perfect myself. Sometimes I misspeak. So what business do I have criticizing these fine, upstanding religious leaders for being imperfect too?

  • Anonymous Coward

    Actually I’m just a hypocrite, that doesn’t see the point in wasting so much time over such an insignificant lapse of reasoning from a man like Pat Robertson.
    Derryl Murphy made me laugh :)

  • Beth

    such an insignificant lapse of reasoning
    I’m sorry, but when a man with his own cable channel, millions of followers, and friends in the highest level of government advocates the assassination of a democratically elected leader, I don’t see that as “insignificant”. Nor, given Robertson’s long history of extremist rhetoric, do I see it as a lapse.
    If you think condemning dangerous political rhetoric is a waste of time, that’s your privilege. I’m just not sure why you would have wasted so much time complaining about such an unimportant discussion in the first place.

  • bellatrys

    Beth, one thing I’ve learned in my crash investigation of Robertsons’ doubtful associations (in addition ot the fact that his father was a powerful senator with military committee and banking committee positions, and a REMF in WWI, to boot) is that he was very very busy in the 1980s whitewashing certain folks who Americans might not really have thought we should be so cozy with.
    Botha of South Africa, frex, where he reported via CBN that he didn’t see any racism going on there, himself. (You all may recall that Dick Cheney and the high priests of conservativism, Buckley and the late Russell Kirk, were also apartheid partisans.)
    Another guy – he reportedly did three or so episodes on what a stand-up wonderful human being he was, was a certain military man from El Salvador name of Major Roberto D’Aubuisson – a School of the Americas graduate who his sister declares was more to be pitied than hated, since he grew up in a sheltered elite environment and unlike her was not able to escape his conditioning.
    At the same time, an organization that Abramoff was involved in the administration of was also handing out honors to D’Aubuisson. It’s a small, small world.
    Then, consider the fact that over the years Robertson has given over half-a-million dollars to GOP candidates – including more than one in his own state of Virginia, heirs to his Dixiecrat establishment heritage, perhaps.
    All told, this smacks of anything but a man who can be safely dismissed. (Particularly when you consider that he has been fighting local environmental regulations and the Latino population in a poor area of SoCal to bring online an oil refinery he bought some years ago.)
    Just as Limbutt mainstreams/mainlines hate and eliminationist jingoist rhetoric to guys in offices no less than pickups, Robertson sets the seal of clerical approval on wars of foreign aggression for their mothers and wives watching “Christian” television at home.
    Unfortunately, he just spoke a little too much truth, and people are watching these days, not like back when Buchanan and Keyes were spewing gibberish in the 80s, and he couldn’t get away with the “I never!” Orwellian outrage this time. But his side has been winning for a good few years, so saying “haha, the silly” to a gazillionaire tycoon with a media empire whose side has won doesn’t strike me as all that smart, for us on the left…it’s like saying “That Rupert Murdoch, such a boob, putting on airs!” Yeah, but he tells the stories and rules a good chunk of the world.

  • Harv

    More disturbing is – where is the outrage of the legitimate Christian leaders? Isn’t it about time they just oust Robertson – I seem to remember them trying to railroad Tony Campolo out of the “in crowd” of evangelicals for suggesting that homosexuals could not be “cured” by Christian counseling and that (GASP) his wife was entitled to have a much more liberal view on gay marriages in churches than himself. (Christianity Today) Reasoned, rational talk like that gets calls for excommunication but Robertson’s calling for killing – oh wait he only meant kidnapping – of foreign leaders doesn’t even get as much as a “he doesn’t speak for the rest of us” statement?
    Even in his supposed apology, Pat still tries to spin himself as having done the Christian thing! The nerve of this guy to paint himself as a modern-day Bonhoeffer!
    IMO, regarding Pat Robertson, it is way past time for the Christian community to “take him out”. I don’t mean assasinate – nor even kidnapping. But publicly calling him on the carpet, calling for him to retire, something like that – just to show that the terms “evangelical” and “Christian” are not always associated with hate-mongering, assasination-ordering, fundamentalist fools.
    BTW – the Anonymous Coward is I believe the same guy who makes a fool of himself on the DEL TIMES board that Fred manages. If that is correct, our best move is to ignore his comments – they are not meant to do anything more than get a reaction, not to further the discussions.

  • –susan

    What drives me the most nuts is that major US newspapers (and therefore the international press) refer to Robertson simply as a “religious conservative.” Shouldn’t the religious conservatives who do not advocate murder be foaming at the mouth with anger? Further legitimizing Robertson’s “status” is the fact that they called Americans United for Separation of Church and State to rebutt Robertson’s position. Nothing against Americans United, but this seems to reinforce a “Christians vs. Secularists” to me.

  • http://www.100monkeystyping.com/wlog/archives/001750.html 100 monkeys typing.

    Bleary-eyed Quickies.

    * The longest “Jane You Ignorant Slut”, ever. * Gee Wally, meltdown don’t sound good. You sure you’re not talkin’ ’bout s’mores? * It’s just that the Lord, he works in mysterious ways. * Is it any coincidence that the…

  • Ken

    “I believe that the next day Chavez offered to sell cheap oil to America’s poor, by cutting the greedy middle-men out of the equation. By
    doing so, Chavez showed more Christian charity in a minute than Robertson has in his entire life.”
    You mean the greedy middle-men that run enterprises concerned with moving the oil and refining it? Does Chavez have a refinery in his backyard? Or are America’s poor supposed to bring their homemade stills down to Venezuela and pick up the oil themselves? Because that’s about the only way that America’s poor are going to get their hands on the stuff that makes cars go without the involvement of greedy middle-men.
    “All told, this smacks of anything but a man who can be safely dismissed. (Particularly when you consider that he has been fighting local environmental regulations and the Latino population in a poor area of SoCal to bring online an oil refinery he bought some years ago.) ”
    Yes, because Heaven forbid that someone build an oil refinery! The poor of America (who of course are the only people that count) don’t really use gas for anything, and they don’t really need anyone to bring them food from thousands of miles away; they’re quite happy to live on whatever they can forage for themselves!

  • drieux just drieux

    why can’t you whiney left wing anti-war types accept that Pat Robertson is one of your own? All of the liberals have been doding the bullet that Pat Robertson really put in play:
    We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator.
    Clearly more of the typical left wing america bashing anti-war rhetoric of those who are not willing to support the president to support the troops.
    Also there is that little problem with Pat Robertson’s Radical Leftist Anti-Military Stand where he comes out opposing the use of force to liberate Venezuela so that we can take their petroleum products. Clearly more typical leftist liberal Anti-Americanism.
    So why can’t the left wingers embrace one of their own for being on their side in opposing the divine will of W! and the Holy Crusade against All Monsters Everywhere!

  • John

    The massacre in question was Jehu’s killing of the evil King Ahab.
    Err, Ahab was already dead. Jehu murders Ahab’s son Jehoram, and Ahab’s widow, Jezebel.


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