Recent stats say that each generation moves farther and farther from organized religion, despite how much power the Christian Reich seems to wield these days. This may have something to do with the fact that when people see representation of religion, they see dogma, hatred, violence and oppression.
They see the history which included the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and Salem witch hunts. They see what the Taliban did in Afghanistan. They see the holy wars going on in the Middle East between Jews and Palestinians, and closer to home, they see how the Christian Reich has been in the forefront of almost every single human rights abuse we have had to face in this country, from slavery, the Klan and Jim Crow, to women not being allowed to vote, let alone govern, to the wars we have engaged ourselves in.
All of these things, in one fashion or another, has been done in the name of God, and if this is what religion is all about, today's generation does not want any part of it. Now if there is anyone reading this that disputes this characterization and says this is unfair, take a good look at one of the most prominent representatives of the Christian faith for over 40 years.
M. G. (Pat) Robertson's Christian Broadcast Network is seen in 180 countries and broadcast in 71 languages. This has made him a very rich man whose reported net worth is between $200 million and $1 billion. Like many of our most successful televangelists, he amassed that fortune appealing to the lowest common faith-based denominator of the religious viewer unfortunate enough to be suckered into his bullshit.
As you can see from his financial stats, that's quite a few suckers that are buying into the ideas that women should be submissive to men and not be allowed positions of leadership over them, that in 1992 the idea of "one man, one vote" should be discarded in the name of protecting the minority of the South African population "which the white people represent now", that the Constitution is only for Christians, that the United States Government should be the target of a nuclear attack (now this guy is from Virginia, which means he is fucked along with the government should this happen - go figure), that Sept. 11 was a result of "a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said we're going to legislate you out of the schools" (even though in 1999 Robertson was advocating political assassinations of, among others, Osama bin Laden), that "The Antichrist is probably a Jew alive in Israel today" while "Presbyterians are the spirit of the Antichrist", that you should be immune from any criminal prosecution if it is determined that you were motivated by a message from God, and of course, the obligatory anti-gay declaration that homosexuals will mean "the ultimate destruction of the family and our nation."
Oh, and let's not forget that he hates abortion and communism - unless you are from a country that he has business interests in. Robertson has business dealings with China, so abortion there is AOK to him.
"Well, you know, I don't agree with it," he said on CNN, "but at the same time, they've got 1.2 billion people and they don't know what to do... If every family over there was allowed to have three or four children, the population would be completely unsustainable... so I think that right now they're doing what they have to do."
On the flip side of that he loves the death penalty - unless the condemned is connected to his flock, as convicted murderer Karla Fay Tucker was when she married someone in to the Christian Coalition, spurring Robertson to start up a television campaign to save her life on the grounds that she was a Christian and a changed woman since the day she pick-axed two people to death. No one else who became a Christian while on Death Row was ever given this treatment.
We can simply say that Robertson puts his politics before his faith, and considering that this ordained Southern Baptist minister maintains a Pentecostal theology (yes, it pisses many Southern Baptists off), we would be more accurate in saying that his politics is his faith, and that Christianity has always been nothing more than a very effective tool is furthering political ambitions. This would not be news to those who know even the slightest bit about him, but delve into his background and one can see where this all comes from.
Robertson's website claims his ancestry includes Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Virginia, and two United States presidents, William Henry Harrison (who was famous for two things, slaughtering a lot of native Americans and dying just over a month after taking office) and Benjamin Harrison, the great-grandson of the signer of the Declaration of Independence. Somehow Winston Churchill is in his ancestry as well apparently (his mother's maiden name was Gladys Churchill).
Born in 1930 in Lexington, Va., his father was A. Willis Robertson who for 34 years served in both the House and the Senate. After graduating from McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a military prep school, Robertson entered Washington and Lee University in 1946, and two years later he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. In 1950 he received his Bachelors and headed off to Korea. According to his website, he says he served as the assistant adjutant of the First Marine Division in combat while there, but let us not forget the old Credence Clearwater Revival song "Fortunate One".
His old pals in the Marines most certainly didn't because in 1986, they contested his painting himself as a "combat Marine". Their recollection of him was as the only Marine with a U.S. Senator for a father. The "Fortunate One" was pulled out of his combat unit and reassigned to a desk job that was so lax, he was known as his unit's "liquor officer," because it was Lt. Robertson's assigned responsibility to keep the officer's club stocked with alcoholic beverages from Japan. He never served a day in combat, so it was understandable why his war "buddies" would be so pissed. In 1988 Robertson ran for president and one wrote this to his local newspaper:
There is a person who calls himself a combat Marine. He is not. His name is Pat Robertson. I saw him often in the division headquarters where he was clean-shaven and clothed and showered. He was in charge of making sure that the officers' booze ration was handed out and re-supplied. He was a lieutenant. He was in my battalion. The line company marines I saw smelled badly, looked poorly. For months at a time they were cold, eating C-rations. Trying to stay warm and dry was a constant battle. These line-company men were the combat Marines of the First Marine Division. Neither Pat Robertson nor I could carry their gear. He is trying to get elected by standing on those frozen bodies I saw, by putting himself in the company of those seven Marines who repulsed the enemy. Imagine a person who aspires to be President being so loose with the truth, so lacking in grace and so dishonorable.
He says God talks to him. I'd like to hear what God says to him about this.
Robertson might have responded that God told him to file suit against his detractors, because in 1986 he got involved in a libel lawsuit with Congresspersons Paul McCloskey, who served with Robertson in Korea, and Andrew Jacobs. The suit maintained that in addition to the accusation that his father pulled strings to give Lt. Robertson his cushy job, McCloskey and Jacobs said that he was also carousing with prostitutes and hassling Korean women. In March of 1988 at Robertson's request, a federal judge dismissed "with prejudice" his suit against McCloskey. Robertson is ordered to pay $28,000 of McCloskey's court costs, and is prohibited from suing McCloskey again over the Korea story.
Two years after his hellish experiences in Korea with drunken Marines and prostitutes, Robertson was back stateside, and upon returning he was promoted to first lieutenant in 1952. In 1955 he received a juris doctor degree from Yale University Law School, but he failed the bar exam in the State of New York, which is why he never practiced law.
"When I was at law school, I studied constitutional law for a whole year - I read a thick book of cases on constitutional law," he said in a March 1986 speech to Yale University Law School. "I did all kinds of research. But I confess to you, I never read the Constitution. I graduated without anybody asking me about that."
Robertson went on however, earning a master of divinity degree from New York Theological Seminary in 1959. That was the year he and his wife Dede moved to Tidewater, Virginia. Arriving in November of that year, his intent was to purchase a local bankrupt UHF station, which he did in 1960 for $37,000. He called it the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and Oct. 1, 1961, it went on the air for the first time. Robertson needed money though, and since the network refused commercial advertisements CBN conducted a telethon in 1963 to raise funds to keep the station alive. Robertson told his viewers that a "club" of 700 contributors, each giving $10 a month, would allow CBN to meet its expenses. Two years later, the annual CBN telethon had been so successful that Robertson added a new program to the end of his station's broadcast day aptly named The 700 Club.
Until the 1960s, CBN was about straight-up religious broadcasting, although rather twisted for a Pentecostal. For one thing, Pentecostals will tell you that no one knows not the time nor season when Christ will return, and that he will do so like a thief in the night. Apparently Robertson thought himself the exception to the rule because he kept predicting (erroneously) when Christ was to return. In May 1980 he said the Tribulation was supposed to be in the Fall of 1982, with the Soviet Union being the focus of all of God's judgment, and according to people who worked with him, as early as 1979, CBN was even making preparations to televise the Second Coming when it happened! Well, the Fall of 1982 came and went without nothing more than a Prince song talking about partying like it's 1999 because in the year 2000 it was "party over oops out of time." Robertson must be a Prince fan, because in 1990, he rescheduled the Tribulation to April 29, 2000. It has been quite sometime since then, so we should be expecting another prediction soon.
It wasn't until the 1980s and the campaign of Ronald Reagan to the presidency that Robertson really started to play in the political field. He spoke at a "Washington for Jesus" rally on April 11, 1980, saying of his fellow "Christians" that "We have enough votes to run the country. And when the people say, "We've had enough," we are going to take over."
A few months later, Reagan was elected president, and Robertson had his angle. It was enough of an angle for him to make some interesting spins on what is binding law and what is not.
"The Constitution of the United States, for instance, is a marvelous document for self-government by the Christian people," he said in December 1981, "but the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society. And that's what's been happening."
A few years later he will also declare that whatever the Supreme Court rules does not have to be taken as law.
"I am bound by the laws of the United States and all 50 states...I am not bound by any case or any court to which I myself am not a party," he told the Washington Post in 1986. "I don't think the Congress of the United States is subservient to the courts...They can ignore a Supreme Court ruling if they so choose."
A year later on The 700 Club, he takes this even further.
"Supreme Court decisions are binding in the court systems," he said, "but in terms of general law, which binds every citizen, why should you and I be bound because of the ineptitude, if you will, or the skill of one or more defense lawyers, or the plaintiffs in any particular lawsuit?"
Answer: Because any decision by a court at the federal level becomes law, binding upon all citizens. Those decisions would include those that defend the separation of church and state, and Robertson has a problem with that.
"The First Amendment says Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof -- nothing about a wall of separation, nothing about separation of church and state!" he said in 1986 "Merely, Congress can't set up a national religion. End of story."
Now remember: Robertson himself cites the fact that he never read the Constitution as the reason why he failed the bar exam!
With this warped sense of the law and the Constitution, one should expect Robertson's worldview to be just as warped, and it is. In a Dec 1984 speech, he laid it out for people.
"I want you to imagine a society where the church members have taken dominion over the forces of the world," he said. "No drug addiction ... pornographers no longer have any access to the public whatsoever ... the people of God inherit the earth ... You say, that's a description of the Millennium when Jesus comes back ... [but] these things can take place now in this time ... and they are going to because I am persuaded that we are standing on the brink of the greatest spiritual revival the world has ever known!"
Robertson began to help this "revival" along by getting himself involved with the Contras in April 1985, attending a fundraising dinner for something called the "Nicaraguan Freedom Fund". Proceeds from this $250-a-plate dinner was supposed to go to equip the Contras, but they barely broke even, despite the fact that Reagan gave the keynote address and Robertson gave the invocation and led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Nope, that kind of star power was not enough to fund a band of terrorists that the US were not supposed to be supporting anyway, but then again the Nicaraguan Freedom Fund was really set up as a diversion for the critics, The real money flowing to the Contras was getting there on the down low through other channels.
Rotten.com (yes, that Rotten.com) has a good article on Robertson, from which a lot of information is used for this entry. In the article, it notes one of Robertson's more charitable causes as it stood with Central America:
The following month, the Christian Broadcasting Network announced they would be sending $20 million for "humanitarian" supplies to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. It was supposed to be food and medicine -- supplies "of a strictly humanitarian nature" -- for refugees. CBN paid the $2 million shipping bill. Talking to a reporter aboard a C-130 cargo plane carrying medical supplies, Pat admitted that "some may get to the Contras." Ultimately, CBN was one of the top sources of private funding for the Contras. In appreciation, the guerrillas named one of their units the Pat Robertson Brigade.
Unfortunately for CBN, giving money like this to a government cause would be considered by many to be a political contribution. And, for one thing, it would jeopardize their tax-exempt status. When the news finally broke, they attempted to deny it in a written statement:
"CBN is helping starving and displaced persons in 15 countries, including some in Central America. The help is absolutely non-political. Articles claiming support by CBN of the Contras in Nicaragua are incorrect."
Later, somebody asked Pat about it. He answered:
"The fact is that the Communists make people suffer. If that makes it political, then, I'm sorry, we're still going to help them."
Robertson always seems interested in "helping" where by coincidence it helps his political ambitions. He has defended the apartheid regime of South Africa, the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines (where his son "ministered" for a long time, appearing on that area's 700 Club program), and the State of Israel, earning him numerous awards from the people he said might be the antichrist.
It is not all politics that drives him, however. Sometimes it's strictly business, as we noted was the case in China, but especially in Africa. Both his relationships with Mobutu in Zaire and Charles Taylor in Liberia were a part of his desires to mine for gold and diamonds in those countries, and it made him look bad in both cases. Robertson was called out for using his planes from his tax-exempt charity Operation Blessing to carry cargo for his mining interests in Zaire in an effort to cut costs. In 1996, when rebels were ousting the dictator, Robertson tried to lobby the State Department to reinstate the visa of his friend Mobutu so he could come to the United States. They said no, the rebels took over Zaire, and Mobutu died in exile.
In 2003, President Bush, still in the initial stages of the Iraq War which was supported by Robertson in the name of removing a despot who perpetrated crimes against humanity, also began to make calls for then-Liberian President Charles Taylor to step down in order to halt the Liberian civil war. Robertson, who had an $8 million investment in a Liberian gold mine called "Freedom Gold" (he pulled some bullshit story out of his ass that the mine was intended to help pay for humanitarian and evangelical efforts), did not like that and publicly excoriated Bush for failing to support the leader of a sovereign Christian nation, even if he had perpetrated crimes against humanity on a massive scale. He also accused the U.S. State Department of giving President Bush bad advice, and of trying "as hard as they can to destabilize Liberia". For good measure, he made Muslims the bogeymen.
"We're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country," he said. "And how dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down.'"
Yeah, how dare he. That is what many progressives have been saying for decades. As was the case with China and Karla Faye Tucker, Robertson again pulled the convenient exception routine. He decided to play dumb on the issue when confronted about it.
"I have never met Taylor in my life," he said. I don't know what he has done or hasn't done. I do know he was elected by the people, and he has maintained a relatively stable government in Liberia; and they observe the rule of law; they have a working legislature; they have courts. And though he may have certain dictatorial powers, so do most leaders in Africa."
Happily Taylor left on his own, ignoring The 700 Club and instead listening to the people of his country that were just outside his door ready to string him up (he is now incarcerated facing charges of war crimes). Meanwhile, other religious leaders were distancing themselves from Robertson. Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy.
"I would say that Pat Robertson is way out on his own, in a leaking life raft, on this one," he said.
Robertson has been on that leaking life raft for a good long while, however. His business dealings are sound, but politically speaking he is a nobody. There were two major times in his political career that he gained the most juice. The first was his aforementioned presidential campaign in 1988. On the face it was a big time bust, but in the end it might have helped him more than it hurt. In September 1986, Pat announced that he would be willing to seek the Republican party's nomination for President if three million people would sign up as volunteers on his campaign over the next year. Sure enough, the flock " and their money " came through.
One year later he officially announced his candidacy, and promised to eliminate drugs, pornography, the Departments of Education and Energy, Amtrak, Conrail and The Legal Services Corporation. The Bible would have been reintroduced to classrooms, and he would have severed diplomatic relations with the elected government of Nicaragua and recognize the Contra rebels as the nation's "government in exile." (Hello! Remember his little rant against Bush for trying to depose the elected leader of Liberia")
Unfortunately for Pat, the sex scandals of televangelists Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, not to mention the Oral Roberts assertion that God was going to call him home if he didn't get a few million in the bank from his supporters, were playing themselves out at the time. If you were a televangelist back then, you were looked upon as the embodiment of evil. Robertson took a hit because of this, despite trying as hard as he could to distance himself from the scandals. The "Combat Marine" thing was what finished him, and in August 1988 at the Republican National Convention, he gave up his bid and endorsed the first George Bush's nomination. A few years later, Robertson was hit with fines for using his organization's tax exempt status to fund his campaign.
Robertson needed to recover, and that recovery came in the form of the Christian Coalition. Since it was pointless for him to run, it was probably a good idea to boost the campaigns of fellow member of the Christian Reich. The Christian Coalition was a flat out political machine and Robertson made no bones about comparing this organization with Tammany Hall, which he did at a Christian Coalition meeting in September of 1997. They were a huge force by that point, credited with the huge Republican victory of 1994 which swept the GOP into majorities in both the House and the Senate. As we have seen however, wherever there is money and Pat Robertson, there are bad ethics. The Christian Coalition was busted for improperly using funds to promote specific candidates, and the Federal Election Commission slapped them with fines. The membership dwindled, and Pat abandoned the organization in December 2001.
Robertson has spent the last few years calling for the oppression of not only Muslims but Hindus as well, whom he considers demonic and the next threat to America. "If anybody understood what Hindus really believe, there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies in a country that favors freedom and equality," he wrote in his book The New World Order.
"Can you imagine having the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as defense minister, or Mahatma Gandhi as minister of health, education, and welfare (Okay, when is the last time you heard a disparaging remark against GANDHI?--OPP)? The Hindu and Buddhist idea of karma and the Muslim idea of kismet, or fate condemn the poor and the disabled to their suffering.... It's the will of Allah. These beliefs are nothing but abject fatalism, and they would devastate the social gains this nation has made if they were ever put into practice."
This is not to say that if you are Christian you get a total pass. Consider yourself fucked if you are anything other than Pentecostal or (maybe) Baptist.
"You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing," he once said. "Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don't have to be nice to them."
He also recently decided to do the annual conservative thing of attacking Kwanzaa, calling it "an absolute fraud" during the news segment of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club Dec. 6, 2004.
"You know, there was no festival in Africa called 'Kwanzaa,"" he said. "I mean, it's made up by a bunch of hippie-types on the West Coast. I mean, it's not something that goes back to Africa. No way."
For the record, Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of the black studies department at California State University, Long Beach. He founded the holiday as "an African American and Pan-African holiday" based on ancient African history and culture, and neither he or anyone who celebrated the holiday has ever said it was an old African festival. Only idiots like Robertson are saying that.
Robertson's own website notes that in 1992, he was selected by Newsweek magazine as one of America's 100 Cultural Elite. The fact that he would boast of this himself is curious. In 1992, the term "cultural elite" was used by conservatives (including Robertson) to denigrate liberals during then-Gov. Clinton's first run for President as forcing values on America that did not reflect what America was about. No wonder they stopped using it.
As Robertson seems ready to admit, they are the true face of the cultural elite. What Robertson and his ilk had better understand is that a free people will not - and do not - tolerate this. That is quite evident from how other religious leaders close to him view him these days.
"Every time he opens his mouth he's an embarrassment to Christianity," said the Rev. Joseph C. Hough Jr., president of New York City's Union Theological Seminary, the same place Robertson received his master of divinity over forty years ago.
More people of faith need to think like that if they want their flock to return, otherwise Robertson and others like him will become their own personal Satan chasing that flock away every time.