While the fundementalists on the American religous right get all the press, fortunately there’s a huge movement of US Christians from across the theological spectrum that are rejecting the jihad rhetoric of the Bush camp, and attempting to rethink their response to the world and their country’s place within it from a theological perspective, rather than rejigging their theology to put the US at the top as the new Jerusalem, God’s agent on earth.
Probably the biggest organization giving voice to these thinking christians in the US is Sojourners, founded by Jim Wallis, author of the best-selling book, God’s Politics – Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.
Here’s Jim’s response to Pat Robertson lunatic pronouncements, taken from The Sojourners Website – their weekly email, Sojomail is really worth subscribing to.
Pat Robertson: An embarrassment to the church
by Jim Wallis
Pat Robertson is an embarrassment to the church and a danger to American politics.
Robertson is known for his completely irresponsible statements – that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were due to American feminists and liberals, that true Christians could vote only for George W. Bush, that the federal judiciary is a greater threat to America than those who flew the planes into the World Trade Center Towers, and the list goes on. Robertson even took credit once for diverting a hurricane. But his latest outburst may take the cake.
On Monday, Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Robertson is worried about Chavez’s critiques of American power and behavior in the world, especially because Venezuela is sitting on all that oil. We simply can’t have an anti-American political leader who could raise the price of gas. So let’s just kill him, the famous television preacher seriously suggested. After all, having some of our “covert operatives” take out the troublesome Venezuelan leader would be cheaper than another $200 billion war, he said.
It’s clear Robertson must not have first asked himself “What would Jesus do?” But the teachings of Jesus have never been very popular with Robertson. He gets his religion elsewhere, from the twisted ideologies of an American brand of right-wing fundamentalism that has always been more nationalist than Christian. Apparently, Robertson didn’t even remember what the Ten Commandments say, though he has championed their display on the walls of every American courthouse. That irritating one about “Thou shalt not kill” seems to rule out the killing of foreign leaders. But this week, simply putting biblical ethics aside, Robertson virtually issued an American religious fatwah for the murder of a foreign leader – on national television no less. That may be a first.
Yesterday Robertson “apologized.” First he denied saying what he had said, but it was on the videotape (it’s tough when they record you breaking the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus). Then he said that “taking out” Chavez might not require killing him, and perhaps kidnapping a duly elected leader would do. But Robertson does now say that using the word “assassination” was wrong and that he had been frustrated by Chavez – the old “my frustration made me say that somebody should be killed” argument. But the worst thing about Robertson’s apology was that he compared himself to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German church leader and martyr who ultimately joined in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler.
Robertson’s political and theological reasoning is simply unbelievable. Chavez, a democratically elected leader in no less than three internationally certified votes, has been an irritant to the Bush administration, but has yet to commit any holocausts. Nor does his human rights record even approach that of the Latin American dictators who have been responsible for massive violations of human rights and the deaths of tens of thousands of people (think of the military regimes of Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, and Guatemala). Robertson never criticized them, perhaps because many of them were supported by U.S. military aid and training.
This incident reveals that Robertson does not believe in democracy; he believes in theocracy. And he would like governments, including our own, to implement his theological agenda, perhaps legislate Leviticus, and “take out” those who disagree.
Robertson’s American fundamentalist ideology gives a lot of good people a bad name. World evangelical leaders have already responded with alarm and disbelief. Robertson’s words will taint and smear other evangelical Christians and put some in actual jeopardy, such as Venezuelan evangelicals. Most conservative evangelical Christians are appalled by Robertson’s hateful and literally murderous words, and it’s time for them to say so. To their credit, the World Evangelical Alliance and the National Association of Evangelicals have already denounced Robertson’s words. When will we hear from some of the groups from the “Religious Right,” such as the Family Research Council, Southern Baptists, and other leaders like James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Chuck Colson?
Robertson’s words fuel both anti-Christian and anti-American sentiments around the world. It’s difficult for an American government that has historically plotted against leaders in Cuba, Chile, the Congo, South Vietnam, and elsewhere to be easily believed when it disavows Robertson’s call to assassinate Chavez. But George Bush must do so anyway, in the strongest terms possible.
It’s time to name Robertson for what he is: an American fundamentalist whose theocratic views are not much different from the “Muslim extremists” he continually assails. It’s time for conservative evangelical Christians in America, who are not like Islamic fundamentalists or Robertson, to distance themselves from his embarrassing and dangerous religion.
And it’s time for Christian leaders of all stripes to call on Robertson not just to apologize, but to retire.by