Eduard Hiebert

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Pat Robertson Acts Like Christianity's Ayatollah Khomeini & words on Gun Control

The following comes from Jim Taylor's weekly email column "Sharpedges".

Sunday January 15, 2006


Pat Robertson has every right to express an opinion about current political situations. Pat Robertson has every right to base that opinion on his interpretation of someone else's opinion, written some 2500 years earlier, about a different political situation.

But Pat Robertson has no right to claim that this is God's will.

Pat Robertson -- as you may or may not have heard -- announced last weekend that the massive stroke suffered by Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon was divine punishment for Sharon's plan to "divide the land" between Israelis and Palestinians. 

The 1995 assassination of previous prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was also divine intervention, according to Robertson.

There are three serious flaws in Robertson's fulminations.

The first is that he is personally inconsistent. If God intervenes in human affairs to punish those who offend God, surely it cannot have escaped Robertson's notice that God's wrath has been vented this last year mainly on the southern U.S. states from the Carolinas to Texas, the states that provide the strongest support for Robertson and his brand of Christianity?

Hurricanes did not batter Minneapolis. Floods did not flatten Vermont. Tornadoes did not level Seattle. If Robertson were truly consistent, he would have to conclude that God prefers the policies of the Democratic Party, and wants to punish Republicans.


The second problem is that Robertson doesn't know how to read the Bible. He knows the words, but he fails to recognize that words never exist independently. Words are always addressed to a particular context. 

Indeed, words only take on meaning in context. In my editing workshops, I point out that words like "bow," "bark," and "fast" have multiple meanings. The specific meaning does not come clear until that word is fixed in the context of a sentence.

Robertson reads words attributed to a man named Joel, who lived approximately 500 years before the birth of Jesus. Biblical scholars call Joel a "minor prophet" -- that is, he was considered even by his own Hebrew people as less important than the major prophets like Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.

A biblical prophet was not a seer who peered into a crystal ball and forecast events in the distant future. A prophet, in biblical terms, is a person who looks at an existing situation with clear eyes, and says, in effect, "Here's what will happen if you keep doing what you're doing." 

David Suzuki does the same thing today for climate change; Jared Diamond does it for societal survival.


Further, Robertson takes one phrase out of Joel, and elevates it to  universal significance.

The verse in question (Joel 3:2) says that God will "gather all nations" and "enter into judgement with them.on account of my people and my heritage.because they have scattered them among the nations. They have divided my land..."

Those last three words form the basis for Robertson's assertion that God deliberately punished Ariel Sharon for daring to grant limited autonomy to a separate Palestinian state. 

Joel, said Robertson on his TV program The 700 Club, "makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land'."

Robertson chooses to ignore the broader context of Joel's "prophecy" -- the exile of the Hebrew people to Babylon.

He ignores the rest of Joel's accusations -- that the aggressors have "cast lots for my people, and traded boys for prostitutes, and sold girls for wine."

And he ignores the literary tradition of biblical prophets to speak in metaphors. Joel's primary metaphor is a plague of locusts. Later verses make clear that the "locusts" refer to foreign armies that have invaded Israel and laid it waste.

Joel, in other words, is speaking about outside influences. He has little to say for or against Israel's internal policies.

Robertson, however, assumes that Joel intended his words as a direct criticism of Ariel Sharon's peace plan. That's about as ridiculous as assuming that Robertson himself is not referring to current events at all, but is treating Sharon's illness as a metaphor for some political event 2500 years in the future, perhaps in a colony of humans on Pluto.


Underlying all of these points lies an even more dangerous assumption -- that God is not a God of all peoples, all nations, and all creatures, but is the private property of a particular people who, for whatever reason, have God by the short hairs.

This God is supposed to intervene on behalf of those individuals and nations, to alter the course of history, to upset the laws of nature. Even to deflect a flying football out of the hands of an intended receiver.

In case you've missed my point, Pat Robertson makes me sick. He's the Ayatollah Khomeini of the Christian church.

If Robertson represents the Christian faith today, I want to disassociate myself from him, and from the faith he pretends to profess.

I was pleased to see that the White House immediately rejected Robertson's charges. "These comments are wholly inappropriate and offensive and really don't have a place in this or any other debate," said presidential spokesperson Trent Duffy in Washington.

But I can't forget that Robertson represents the conservative theology espoused by the president himself. He represents the ideology of right-wing Republicans who put the president in power and who keep him there. He represents the biblical literalism of school boards in places like Kansas that require Genesis to be taught as science, equal with evolution.

Robertson is, in short, a symbol of the "plague of locusts" that afflicts U.S. policy in general.

Until the White House declares that the whole basis for Robertson's comments is "inappropriate and offensive" and "has no place in this or any other debate," I must regard anything coming out of the White House with suspicion. 

And unless God decides to smite Pat Robertson with some appalling affliction, I cannot believe in a God who meddles selectively in human affairs.

Copyright 2006 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups permitted; all other rights reserved.


I should never leap to conclusions. I expected last week's column, recommending the banning of handguns, to generate a fairly strong response. 

But I also expected most of the flack to come from south of the border, down U.S.A. way, where carrying a handgun is almost an act of patriotism. I was wrong. The flack came from Canadians.

Peter T wrote a remarkably mild letter. "There are some factual errors in your column.

"First, you CAN hunt with a handgun in Ontario if you have lost the use of one arm.

"Second, in Ontario wilderness workers can get a wilderness handgun carry permit for personal protection.

"Third, civilian sport target shooters do not use human shaped targets. I have over the last 35 years participated in both American style and international/ Olympic style sport pistol shooting up to the national level and have never seen a human shape used as a target. Even the radical International practical pistol shooting shooters use a plain brown rectangle. Only government employees training as police or military use human form targets.

"There are at least three broad classes of handguns available in Ontario. The international "Olympic" style target guns are large, fragile, with large sights, chambered in low powered ,low recoiling cartridges that are totally unsuitable for shooting people. The large revolvers for wilderness carry cartridges intended to stop large bears at close range. Their tremendous recoil requires long training to be used adequately. They are not readily concealable and are of little use to criminals. Thirdly are the "service" pistols intended for police or military use. They are chambered in mid sized cartridges at the upper limit of control in recoil. This is the class of handguns used by criminals.

"Sport target handgun shooting is as legitimate as any other Olympic sport. In conclusion your premise that there are no legitimate use for any handgun is in error."

Tom R  blasted the federal gun registry program as a huge waste of money that could have been much better spent on health care or education. He went on: "Large-bore handguns are used for self-defence against bears. Small-bore guns are used to gather food like grouse and rabbit. When you have a bunch of gear on your back, it's not practical or realistic to carry a rifle on your shoulder, too. If danger approaches, you can't guarantee time to unsling it and shoot a bear."

I'm not yet convinced that shooting should considered a sport, Olympic or otherwise. But I was clearly wrong in stating that handguns had no use in wilderness situations.

Jorgen H  argued that a ban on handguns was a futile gesture: "It is like banning marijuana or cocaine. You can ban lawful gun owners but you can not ban the punk in the street from having a hand gun. Drugs and illegal guns are closely related-- guns are the tool of the drug trade. The honest citizen, who belongs to a shooting range, follows the government rules . is not the person who does the drug deals or the gang wars or the drive-by shooting.

"In Toronto, the guns come across the USA border by the smugglers of drugs who also deal in the tools used for drug deals. These guns are not and will never be registered--ever. 

"If Paul Martin wants Canada to be a safe place from 'illegal' guns then we have to have very stiff sentences for carrying or using illegal guns. Calling for a ban on handguns is not going to remove the guns from the streets. If these street punks were to receive an automatic 10 year sentence--no parole -- of hard time for having an un registered weapon or using one in crime, maybe they will actually think about it first. Hard time for hard crime."

The theme of stiffer penalties and more rigorous enforcement ran through several Canadian replies. Dave de B  wrote: "The concept of granting bail to someone who has already threatened or even taken a life boggles my mind. There should be no alternative -- he or she has forfeited any right to freedom till the matter has been resolved in court.

"Carrying a weapon, whether a gun, knife or tire-iron, into a bar, nightclub or any other public place should automatically be considered a pre-meditated act. It certainly is not something one could do unknowingly, or accidentally. If then that weapon results in injury or death the crime must have been pre-meditated. Whether the actual victim was targeted is of no consequence. The concept of using the weapon had in fact been considered as a possibility before the crime occurred."

Howard M  let me have both barrels: "Cars kill more people by far than firearms, yet I don't hear you or anyone else getting on the band-wagon and advocating that the Government ban cars. Guns DO NOT kill people, people kill people period. Cars DO NOT kill people, drivers (people) do. The same as no car has ever started up, left its garage and went out on the street to kill people, guns of their own volition have never leaped out of their own gun safe or owner's home to go on a man killing hunt."

In subsequent correspondence (yes, I do respond to many who disagree with me!) Howard M  admitted, "I just see red when anybody says ban firearms of any sort." 

Howard M  and others defended target shooting as a peaceful use of handguns. When I suggested people could take up other hobbies, he asked, "I wonder what you would say if the government said they were going to ban writing, or that you couldn't have any books to read? And told you there were other hobbies available and told you that only police and military could read newspapers or books?"

By contrast with the above, Sandra M  wrote, "I totally agree with your stance on handguns. Deaths by handguns, including accidental shootings, are unfortunately maintained at a high rate here in San Antonio, Texas, USA. I wish more people would read your column, take it seriously and WAKE UP!"

Jim W, a military chaplain, I believe, wrote from San Diego: "When I served a congregation in Detroit, sometimes I would go across the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor and see a sign, "Handguns Forbidden". All these years I had thought that there were no handguns in Canada. False security or not, Windsor was a marked contrast to Detroit. Perhaps it is an underlying culture difference with the expectation that it is not only wrong but quite rude to shoot people. In the US it is still shoot first, ask questions later."

Jim S  wrote (from in Canada, I think): "It was most unfortunate that Paul Martin made a token call for a ban on handguns without adding in your six points. This is of a piece with his tokenism on the Kyoto accord. He signs on to the accord but does precious little to meet emission reduction targets and [then] castigates the Americans who have a better track record..."


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