Television evangelist Pat Robertson’s endorsement of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential bid is disturbing on many levels.
Most troubling was the fact that it was largely covered as a straight news story, as in: "a coup for Giuliani, anxious to buttress his credentials with social conservatives." Such tripe can only be attributed to either sloppy reporting, or a peculiar form of amnesia which appears to plague too many U.S. journalists. It is simply inexcusable to ignore Robertson’s thirty year record of fanaticism and bigotry and to, therefore, regard his blessing "as a political boon."
A bit of background is in order:
Robertson is one of the leading propagators of an aberrant and strange form of Christianity known as "pre-millenarian dispensationalism." Rejected by most major Christian denominations, this theology teaches that Old Testament prophecies are destined to be played out in the modern world, leading to the Final Battle of Armageddon, the Day of Judgment, and the Apocalypse.
According to this view, the in-gathering of the Jews into Israel in 1948 (a replay of Moses’ return to the "Promised Land") was part of God’s plan to bring on the Final Battle, in which the forces of Good (defined as the U.S., Israel and their allies) would confront the forces of Evil (defined as Arabs, Muslims and their allies Russia and China). This battle would lead to the destruction of the Earth which, for pre-millenarian dispensationalists is necessary for Jesus to return, save "the select, the believers," and rule over the reconstruction of the Earth for 1,000 years of peace and prosperity.
While central to Robertson’s thinking is that Israel must be supported at all costs, his support for Israel is not truly support for Jews. The in-gathering of the Jewish people in the land of Israel is necessary to fulfill prophecy. In the end, the Jewish people must convert to Christianity. Those who do not convert in the Final Days will be damned.
After Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke in 2006, Robertson noted that, while he liked Sharon personally and had even prayed with him, the stroke had been caused "by God’s enmity" for "dividing God’s land" when Sharon pulled out of Gaza. The message Israelis should be getting, according to Robertson, was God saying, "This land belongs to Me. You’d better leave it alone."
Everything Robertson has done in his more than thirty year television career has been focused on advancing the Final Days. I remember, too well, in 1982, when Israel invaded and devastated large parts of Lebanon, an excited Robertson using pointers and maps on his daily television program, predicting the coming of the Final Battle. "These nations (pointing to Arab states) are the Forces of Evil," while Israel the U.S. and Europe he identified as the nations fighting for Good. He would, in the midst of his discussion, turn to the viewers and say with an eerie grin, "The End is at hand. I can feel it. It’s coming."
It didn’t come, but that didn’t deter Robertson from doing exactly the same in 1991 during the first Gulf War. And despite his disappointment that the "End of Days" didn’t occur then, made the same pronouncement at the opening of the Iraq war.
Robertson’s views of Arabs and Muslims cross the line into outright bigotry. In his 1991 book The New World Order, Robertson wrote: "When I said during my presidential bid that I would only bring Christians and Jews into the government, I hit a firestorm . . . the media challenged me. . . . ‘How dare you maintain that those who believe in Judeo-Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?’ My simple answer is, "Yes, they are.’" Talking about Jerusalem in 1994, Robertson claimed, "The third most holy site is a bit of a stretch of history. But there’s a great deal of stretching history in the Muslim psyche."
To make himself even clearer, he declared on his television program in 1997, "To see Americans become followers of, quote, Islam, is nothing short of insanity. . . . The Islamic people, the Arabs, were the ones who captured Africans, put them in slavery, and sent them to America as slaves. Why would people in America want to embrace the religion of the slavers. . . . You say, ‘what’s going on in America, when we welcome into our society and give rights to people who are persecuting Christians around the world?’ It’s time we stood up against this and said ‘no more!’"
After 9/11, in 2002, he referred to Islam as "Not a peaceful religion that wants to coexist. They want to coexist until they can control, dominate and then, if need be, destroy." He went on to say in a later interview his belief that, "if you get right down to it, Osama bin Laden is probably truer to Muhammad than some of the others."
A few observations are in order:
How could all of this have been ignored in the press coverage of the Robertson endorsement?
It appears to me that an examination of Robertson’s views ought to be as important, if not more so, than his endorsement. Just imagine, for a moment, if an Imam somewhere in the Middle East, holding views as bigoted and extreme as Robertson’s, were a confidante of a head of state. What would the U.S. official posture be in that situation? Or, even here at home, I remember in 1984 the incessant pressure put on Jesse Jackson to denounce Louis Farrakhan.
It’s not too late for reporters to ask some legitimate questions of Rudy Giuliani. "Do you endorse Robertson’s views of Islam? Do you subscribe to Robertson’s view of the necessity to hasten the ‘End of Days’"?
First, Giuliani announces the author of World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism as a senior foreign policy advisor, and now Robertson. Voters deserve to know whether a candidate shares the bigoted and extreme views of his supporters.