A response to Pat Robertson

I am beginning to wonder if I will ever again think that the value of theology lies in elucidating moral arguments. As Pat Robertson makes headlines again with the following statements, I feel as though theology, nay, Christianity is losing touch with the world.

Conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them on Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said. (Reuters)

It is too easy to condemn remarks and thus implicitly condemn the man as well. If I am truly going to live what I say, then I have to believe that there is beauty in what Pat Robertson claims, as well as, in him as a child of God. The difficult part for one as fallible as myself is finding said beauty.

When I see art that disturbs my sensibilities I don’t run from it, nor do I tell myself and others that it is not art because it displays the horrors of the world from that artist’s point of view. Instead, I try to stay with what is disturbing, attempting to make the connections between body, heart, mind, and soul that are being pulled in the encounter. I can’t say that I always succeed, but I believe I am better for the effort.

Theological statements such as the ones that Pat Robertson likes to make are not art per say, but they do reveal something of his beliefs about who God is and how God is active in this world. However, I wish to treat his statement as though it were a picture, a window that looks in on God. If we were to do that, what would we see from this particular instance?

The first thing we might notice is that God is vindictive, especially over small injustices. Robertson’s statement implies that God turns away from God’s own creations because of the choices we make. Moreover, implied in the statement is that God sends disasters to areas in order to inflict punishment. I realize that Robertson is a little ambiguous on that particular point, but notice that he uses the term “when” instead of “if” while referring to disasters. Finally, there is the assumption that human beings have the power to remove God from their presence. Ultimately, Robertson’s God is a God of definite morality, a God whose ultimate concern is of right and wrong.

The second and possibly more powerful statement that Robertson makes is an anthropological one. Namely, that humanity can control God’s actions through the choices we make.

The question we must ask is where is the beauty in that statement concerning God and God’s relationship with humanity?
I believe that beauty is found in the desire to elucidate God’s interactivity with humankind. However, I can’t buy into Robertson’s criteria of who God is. Coming out of a basic premise that God sits in judgment of all the things we do, we cannot help but draw similar conclusions that Robertson draws. God can’t help but be vindictive if we tie God’s hands and limit God’s power to judgment alone.

I, like, Robertson also believe in God’s active power and presence in the world. However, my criteria, my base belief is that God is love. Love being defined as supportive, hopeful, joyful, realistic, forgiving, and so on. For me, a God whose power is focused on wreaking havoc and causing disasters over the smallest slights is a God that I do not know. Moreover, I believe that God does not play a role in “sending” natural disasters to punish people for their actions. Furthermore, I am not sure that we can remove God from our presence. Certainly we can make choices that counter God’s love and desire for us and for humanity, but does that mean that God gives up and leaves? Therefore, while Robertson and I agree that God is concerned with humanity, fundamentally, he and I disagree on the basis of that interaction.

As to Robertson’s second statement concerning anthropology. He and I would probably have a harder time connecting around this point. I cannot faithfully say that anything I do causes God’s will to bend or change.

There is beauty to what Robertson proposes, namely that God is an active part in our daily lives. However, without considering love and faithfulness as the foundations of God’s interactions with humanity I feel as though his views become skewed. As a part of the theological milieu, I have to wonder if his statements are helpful to the people of God as they continue to seek to bring about God’s kingdom on earth.

For me, it continues to drive home the point that a theology solely concerned with morals is inadequate in describing God’s work in this world. Rather, it may be that a theology of aesthetics, a theology concerned with the beauty of the relationship between God and humanity might help to balance and reveal a different character of the one we call God.



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