It seems as if the Reverend Pat Robetson always has some memorable words about current events. And media attention always follows. Or, is it really the other way around?
His latest expoloits are consistent with those of the past. Coming under the heading of kicking them when the’re down is the good Reverend’s latest shocker statement. Reverend Robertson suggests that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s current medical difficulties are retribution from god for messing with the holy land.
He also said, however, that in the Bible, the prophet Joel “makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who ‘divide my land.“‘ …
Sharon “was dividing God’s land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU (European Union), the United Nations, or the United States of America,” Robertson said
(Of course, it’s all god’s land, isn’t it? One wonders what would god think about having drilling in his/her pristine ANWR?)
Of course, Reverend Robertson has made more than a few outrageous statements, so this was not totally unexpected. Let us not forget his suggestion, in August of 2005, that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should be executed by American agents. Reverend Robertson subsequently apologized. CBS News Link
And then in November there was his warning to residents of Dover, Pennsylvania regarding the issue of “intelligent” design. CBS News Link
And in November, he warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town that disaster may strike there because they voted to oust school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.
“If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God,” he told residents of Dover, Pa. “You just rejected him from your city.”
An interesting concept, a school board election as a referendum on god. But I digress.
These incidents (as well as many others) prompt one to question for whom exactly does the good Reverend speak? And why is he still getting prominent media attention. While he apparently still speaks for his fans and regular viewers of the 700 Club, others are not necessarily in accord.
The above link to a CBS PublicEye piece makes some very interesting points about journalism vis-a-vis Robertson. Although he may not speak for the majority of evangelicals, television news producers will still look to Robertson (and others) because he gives a memorable quote and is still a familiar face. (In all fairness, Reverend Robertson still draws about 1 million viewers to the 700 Club daily.)
Gal Beckerman, who wrote a piece asking why journalists don’t “get” religion for Columbia Journalism Review, says figures like Robertson and Jerry Falwell are overcovered. “They have the most bombastic thing to say. It’s like anything else – you go to the guys who give you the best quotations,” he says. “They make for good TV. …
Beckerman says that the media’s reporting on Robertson’s extreme comments “does evangelicals a disservice.” Other, more representative evangelical leaders, he says, are more likely to “give nuanced answers – and from a media perspective that makes them less interesting.“
CBS newsanchor Bob Schieffer offers further insight. It’s the old point/counterpoint model that apparently still holds sway.
This isn’t, ultimately, just a religious issue, says Schieffer. It’s rooted in larger questions about the way the media functions. “One of the problems we have in TV is that we too often go to the first person who has something to say – and that’s often the person we should be paying the least
attention to,” he says. “We go out and find the people who are on the most extreme sides and let them scream at each other.”
From where I sit, if Pat Robertson is the face that the traditional media cares to put on evangelicals, it’s fine with me. Having the more extreme elements as the most visible ones is no bad thing.