Christian Broadcasting Network Founder Dies at 93
Well-bred southern women of my generation were taught from childhood onward that it was wrong to speak ill of the dead. But I can think of nothing positive to say about the Rev. Pat Robertson, who died Thursday at his Virginia Beach, Va., home. The highly controversial former minister was 93.
CBN & Christian Coalition Radicalize Voters
Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in 1960 and played a leadership role in radicalizing and politicizing conservative Christianity in the following decades.
The highly controversial former minister also founded the Christian Coalition in the late 1980s to mobilize conservative Christian voters. The coalition’s mission is to promote the pro-family agenda at the local, state and national levels, train leaders to effectively support that agenda and protest anti-Christian bigotry, among other things, according to its website.
Robertson Claims Christ’s Political Support
A polarizing political and religious leader for more than four decades, Robertson cultivated a large following, convincing millions of conservative Christians that Jesus was a Republican. If they loved Jesus, they had to love the Republican Party and its increasingly extremist agenda.
The broadcast mogul campaigned for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination and was criticized for mixing church and state. He ultimately dropped out of the race when it became apparent that George H.W. Bush would become the Republican nominee.
Robertson was a strong supporter of Donald Trump’s candidacy for president in 2016 and predicted that Trump’s re-election in 2020 would usher in the long-awaited end times. That prediction fell flat, as has every prediction of impending Armageddon since biblical times.
The former pastor initially supported Trump’s claims of voter fraud in 2020, but suddenly and quickly changed his mind, saying, “The president still lives in an alternate reality. I think it would be well to say, ‘You’ve had your day and it’s time to move on,’” the New York Times said yesterday.
700 Club Takes to the Airways
Robertson created and hosted The 700 Club on CBN from the mid-1960s until 2021, when his son, Gordon, took over hosting responsibilities. Unlike other Christian television shows in the 60s, The 700 Club used a talk show format and featured guests, testimonies, music and news stories with a Christian slant. The format continues to this day.
“Mr. Robertson built an entrepreneurial empire based on his Christian faith, encompassing a university, a law school, a cable channel with broad reach, and more,” the New York Times said in a post following his death.
“He was able to blend Republican Party politics and conservative politics with the Bible, and in so doing he presented a consistent message that if you were for Jesus, then you were for the Republican Party,” former 700 Club executive Terry Heaton told Salon, a progressive news and opinion website.
Heaton worked as senior producer at CBN in the 1980s, but “feels responsible for helping create the conservative news bubble that reshaped the American religious right and ushered President Donald Trump into office,” according to the Religion and Politics website. He now says that The 700 Club was not producing news – it was producing propaganda, and he wants to make amends. He should.
You can read my thoughts about mixing religion and politics in my post, “Should We Have Politics in America’s Pulpits — Hell No!’ Click here. I also had choice words about the civil war that is tearing American Christianity apart in my post, “For God’s Sake, Christians! Pull the Plug on Hatred,” here.
Leaves ‘Blight on America’
A post on the Esquire website summed up Pat Robertson’s legacy quite well. “He was the beginning of a blight that is still causing untold damage among our fellow citizens.”
LGBTQ+ Nation lamented, “Through his children, his followers, and his network, he created a culture of hate that will unfortunately last well beyond his existence.”
It will take decades to undo the damage Robertson did to this country.
Outrageous Claims Win Support
The LGBTQ+ community was one of Robertson’s favorite targets. Over the years, he spread false stories about gay men wearing rings that would cut people’s fingers when they shook hands in order to transmit HIV. He blamed COVID on same-sex marriage and said that “a righteous God will do to us what he did to Sodom and Gomorrah” if the Equality Act passed.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Robertson and televangelist Jerry Falwell placed blamed gays, feminists, doctors who performed abortions and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Nine years later, he blamed a devastating earthquake in Haiti on black Haitians who, he said, had made a pact with the devil in exchange for Satan’s help in gaining their country’s independence from France in 1804.
The former minister also had harsh words for fellow Christians when claimed that liberal Protestants “’embodied the spirit of the Antichrist and that feminism drove women to witchcraft,’” according to the New York Times.
“David John Marley, the author of ‘Pat Robertson: An American Life (2007), said that Mr. Robertson’s statements were calculated to arouse his core following: Christians who felt ignored or mistreated by the elites. The more he is publicly vilified, the more his minority-under-attack thesis appears to be true.”
He won support of his core followers despite the outrageous nature of his claims.
Robertson Leaves Ugly Legacy
It’s unfortunate that Robertson’s legacy of hatred will plague the United States and the Republican party for years to come.
Without him, it’s difficult to imagine violent, right-wing extremists taking control of the Republican party and promoting white Christian nationalism as they are doing.
And without Robertson, it’s hard to envision a man like Donald Trump sullying the Oval office for four long years.
Pat Robertson’s hateful words and the damage he inflicted on the United States will be his legacy. May God forgive him.