Four days ago, Pat Robertson opened his mouth on national TV and something ridiculous came out.
Robertson has a history of saying ridiculous things, so I doubt it really surprised many people on Thursday when he declared that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent debilitating stroke was the righteous judgment of God. In an effort to make peace, Sharon gave Gaza to the Palestinians, you see. God, Robertson says, has judged Sharon for dividing the Promised Land and he has found him wanting.
There's so much wrong with a statement like that, I don't know where to begin.
Robertson's remarks prompted the usual litany of criticism from the usual people. The president of People for the American Way Foundation, Ralph G. Neas, declared himself speechless by Robertson's insensitivity. The Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State reprimanded him for trying to score political points while Sharon was fighting for his life.
Robertson, everyone agrees, is a dork.
I like to think of Pat Robertson as the Uncle Buck of American Christianity. A lot of times, we wish he'd just go away and stop embarrassing us with this crap and let us pretend he isn't related to us. We'd all be happier without his moralizing, especially when it comes coupled to business deals with world-class thugs like Charles Taylor, the former dictator of Liberia who had ties to al Qaeda, or when Robertson defends things like China's one-child policy.
I'd like to forget that he told the people of Dover, Pa., that they were courting God's wrath by removing from office the school board members who approved teaching Intelligent Design in the district's high school biology classes.
I'd like to forget his fatwa against Venezuelan President Victor Chavez, and his subsequent attempts to claim he was misrepresented, that when he said we should assassinate Chavez, he really meant we should take him out to dinner at a nice sushi bar.
I'd like to forget that he suggested detonating a nuclear warhead at Foggy Bottom to destroy the U.S. State Department.
I'd like to forget that he and Jerry Falwell blamed 9-11 on abortionists, on feminists, on gays and lesbians, and on the American Civil Liberties Union.
I'd like to forget Robertson, but I'm afraid if I do, that I'll forget myself next. Every time Robertson says something embarrassing, he gives me a new burst of clarity. My sins are laid bare, and in that light I see how alike we are.
I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong. Don't say "You're not like him." That's one of the most dangerous things you can say. I have to remember that I'm just like Pat Robertson, or I'm lost.
It's not that I call for assassinating heads of state whose policies I don't like, nor even that I'm in the habit of claiming people's misfortunes are God way of chastising them for their faults.
The chief flaw that I share with Pat Robertson is that I forget my place so often. It's too easy for me to forget that I'm a flawed, sinful man hanging onto the Cross for the hope of salvation. It's too easy for me to start thinking that there's something special about me, that I "get it" more than other people do, and that my attitudes and priorities are the same as God's.
Once I get the idea that God agrees with everything I say, I become a spiritual menace to people around me. I fail to represent the God I serve, I set the wrong example for people who see me as a role model, and I sow division in the Kingdom of God. I've seen it happen.
I need Pat Robertson. Without the speck in his eye, I might never find the log in my own.
Copyright © 2006 by David Learn. Used with permission.