Friday, January 06, 2006

Why I Can't Stand Pat

Pat Robertson’s recent statement that Ariel Sharon’s stroke reflects the judgment of God for Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza has supplied yet more fodder for the enemies of the faith to mock the gospel.

This is a pity. Robertson has done a lot of good in the course of his career. He’s a man of great entrepreneurial and administrative abilities, having founded such diverse and useful organizations as the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the Christian Coalition, the Flying Hospital, International Family Entertainment, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, and Regent University.

He is a Marine with a Yale law degree and an MDiv. Clearly a man of considerable talent and accomplishment.

Unfortunately he has a habit of putting a match to his own achievements by his incendiary rhetoric.

There are several underlying causes of this condition. To begin with, Robertson has never been able to make up his mind what he wants to be.

For example, if you want to be a political power-broker, then you have to avoid impolitic statements. You can’t afford to say everything that comes to mind. Even if what you say is true, it may be divisive, and if your objective is to forge a political alliance, you can’t get away with say everything you think. You can be a pundit, or you can be player, but you can’t be both.

Second, as an independently wealthy business mogul with his own news network, Robertson is answerable to no one—and it shows.

Third, his lack of accountability is reinforced by his charismatic theology, which leads his to assume an oracular tone when making his public pronouncements. He doesn’t merely speak for himself; no, he speaks for God: God is whispering in his ear.

Fourth, he has, from what I can tell, a pretty eclectic belief-system, consisting in snips and snails and puppy dog tails stitched together from Pentecostalism, dispensationalism, and dominion theology.

His most recent statement reflects the dispensational side of his theology. And in this respect it’s no different than the outlook of the Left Behind series. As such, it can’t be dismissed as a mere idiosyncrasy.

The presupposition of Robertson’s remarks is that the modern state of Israel represents the fulfillment of the prophetic land-promises. Hence, Sharon is guilty of flouting God’s law by returning Gaza to the Arabs.

BTW, there’s no such thing as a “Palestinian.” We’re talking about garden-variety Arabs.

For the record, I’m a default amil with a soft spot for postmillennialism.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s stipulate to Robertson’s eschatology. Even so, one of the problems with Robertson’s statement is that if fails to distinguish between principle and process.

To my knowledge, Sharon is not trying to give land away in order to appease the Arabs. He is not doing this as a good-faith gesture to jump-start the “roadmap to peace” (is this a euphemism or an oxymoron?).

Rather, he doesn’t think that it’s possible, at this point, to make peace with the Arabs, and so he is unilaterally drawing the borders of Israel in a way favorable to Israel. Gen. Sharon is attempting to draw defensible borders.

This is not a concession to the enemy, but a purely pragmatic and hardnosed policy driven by Israel’s national security interests.

So this is not a point of principle. He is not guilty of a moral compromise. Rather, this is a prudential question. What is the most effective way to secure the survival of Israel?

In addition, there’s the demographic time bomb shaping the policy. To the extent that Israel clings to largely Arab occupied territory, she dilutes her Jewish identity and autonomy.

I would add, to greatly oversimplify, that the political landscape of Israel is riven between two opposing ideologies: Marxism and Zionism. Marxism is a Jewish ideology, and it retains a magnetic attraction to many of the Jewish intelligentsia.

Marxism has a utopian view of human nature. It believes that it’s possible to talk through our problems. Befriend our enemies. The Arabs are warlike because they are poor and disenfranchised.

At the other end of the spectrum is Zionism, represented by the Ultra-orthodox. In a sense, they are utopian too. But they see things in religious terms and dualistic terms.

In between you have a spectrum of opportunistic hawks and doves. That, combined with a parliamentary system of gov’t, makes it very difficult for Israel to take decisive action.

A further complication is that Israel is not economically self-sufficient. She has limited natural resources. Hence, the state of Israel is dependent on international trade and commerce. Yet most of the world is hostile to Israel.

So that, again, acts as a restraint on what Israel can do for fear of economic sanctions. As such, Israel must often resort to half-measures when dealing with her Arab (and Iranian) neighbors and enemies.

We need to make allowance for these prudential and practical exigencies when we comment on Israel’s foreign policy.

On a final note: there are several astute fundamentalists who frequent Triablogue. I would like to hear from them on these issues. Some of them know more about Israeli politics than do I. They also know more about the current state of dispensationalism than do I.

Do they agree with Robertson? If so, why? If not, why? Send me your comments. Or comment on your own blog and leave a hyperlink at mine.


  1. What about the fact that Ariel Sharon is almost 80 years old? Is this some shocking condition for an 80 year old? What happens when Pat dies or gets sick? Is it because God is judging CBN for failing to "continue" God's work?

    It’s just ludicrous. Anytime someone you disagree with dies, even if he's 98 years old, it is because he's being judged by God? Of course, in a sense death is a judgment by God, but I think even Pat is already under that one. :-)

  2. If Pat suffers a stroke, this is God's judgment on his love of horse-racing! :-)

  3. Tom said...
    > "with a parliamentary system of gov’t, makes it very difficult for Israel to take decisive action."

    This is not unique to Parliamentary systems (assuming arguendo that we can still class Israel as one, now that the Prime Minister is separately and directly elected). Two words: Jimmy Carter.

    4:38 PM

  4. I used to watch his network years ago. Robertson is a smart guy, so I never understood why he put the likes of Robert Tilton and Jimmy Swaggert on.

    Robertson could have 2 viewers and the media would give him lots of attention. I'm tempted to say that if a Pat Robertson didn't exist, the media would create one.

  5. Your statement,

    "Fourth, he has, from what I can tell, a pretty eclectic belief-system, consisting in snips and snails and puppy dog tails stitched together from Pentecostalism, dispensationalism, and dominion theology..."

    ... is the one which I think most hits the proverbial nail on the head re poor Pat. WHAT is he, anyway?