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A Robertson outrage...

On January 13, TV evangelist Pat Robertson pontificated on the earthquake in Haiti. Noting how many recent tragedies had befallen the Haitian people, he told his audience that, "something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it... they were under the heel of the French and got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you and you'll get us free from the French. And so the devil said, OK, it's a deal. But ever since they've been cursed. But it may be a blessing in disguise."

As outrageous as these comments might be, they were shrugged off by many as more nonsense ranting from an old religious fanatic. Robertson uses his bizarre theology to explain world events. It was, he said, debauchery that brought the terror of 9/11 to New York or the devastation of Katrina to New Orleans. And it was the decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza (dividing God's gift to the Jewish people) that caused then Israeli premier Ariel Sharon to be struck down by a stroke.

As a student of religion I have long followed Robertson's ranting. His brand of theology - "pre-dispensational millenarianism" (PDM) - once seen as heretical by most Christians, has in the past two decades developed a following becoming a political force, especially in the Republican Party. PDMers believe the current era is a replay of the Old Testament, and the events that led up to the birth and death of Jesus and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem are being mirrored in events today that will lead to the return of Jesus and the final battle that will lead to the destruction of the world.

In fact, over the years, every war in the Middle East was accompanied by a Robertson TV show in which he gleefully prophesied that the "end was at hand".

Again, given his theology, Robertson is a fanatic supporter of Israel (except that his support is based on their role in his theology, requiring them to convert to Christianity and be destroyed in the final battle) and a virulent foe of Arabs and Muslims. This has led him to make additional outrageous comments.

For example: If we don't stop covering up what Islam is ... Islam is a violent - I was going to say religion, but it's not a religion, it's a political system, it's a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination, Robertson said. You're not dealing with a religion you're dealing with a political system, and I think we should treat it as such, and treat its adherents as such as we would members of the communist party, members of some fascist group.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have to recognise that Islam is not a religion. It is a worldwide political movement meant on domination of the world. And it is meant to subjugate all people under Islamic law.

What is troubling me is not only how Robertson masks hateful remarks passing them off as "absolute" religious truth but also the powerful political reach his television programme and movement have given him. It is the double standards applied to this man's outrages. If an imam in the Middle East had made comments of the sort made by Robertson, political leaders would demand a crackdown requiring the Imam's government to take definitive measures to end incitement.

If that imam were an American citizen and had made contributions to political campaigns, recipients would be pressed to denounce him and return the money. But for years this approach has not been used with Robertson. He has been revered by some and dismissed as a "quack" by others. This really should end.

Research shows in the last decade Robertson has given more than $550,000 to the Republican Party and candidates in Virginia and $50,000 to national GOP candidates. Shouldn't they be pressed to denounce his remarks and return the amounts (or maybe asked to send as much to Haitian relief)?

Robertson's influence and power should be challenged and those who accept his support held accountable.

jzogby@aaiusa.org



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