An Embarrassing Retraction by Robertson

“Do you realize,” syndicated radio host Neal Boortz said to evangelicals in his audience yesterday with some. Emphasis. “Do you realize how much damage Pat Robertson has done to evangelical influence in this country?”

He was speaking, of course, about Robertson’s call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Boortz also remarked that MSM headline interest in Robertson’s bluster was a purposeful attempt to diminish the influence of evangelical Christians.

I’ve made my views clear on Robertson unconscionable comments, and I called for him to apologize and then “go silent.” Yesterday, he sputtered in his attempt to extract himself from the morass, when he first said: “I was misinterpreted by the AP. But that happens all the time.” But then when clip of Robertson’s clear endorsement of assassination circulated, he issued a still-nuanced apology. Two reports: here and here.

Since I’m involved professionally in public relations work for Christian clients, including a fair amount of crisis communications, I cringed not only at his careless and, in my view, unChristian call for murder, but at his fumbling of the damage control. An immediate apology and clarification were the only appropriate and wise responses. What a mess.

I find it additionally distressing to read of Robertson’s attempt to wrap himself in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s cloak. Bonhoeffer’s Christian conscience resulted in his returning to the dangers of Germany, his decision to conspire in the [obviously unsuccessful] assassination of Adolf Hitler, and in his eventual execution in a German prison.

Unless your beliefs result in complete pacifism, it is clear the Christians often must support killing as a part of war. That is quite a bit different than calling for the assassination of a foreign leader who is ideologically at odds with America.

It’s lousy theological logic and amazingly stupid politics by the former presidential candidate.
But back to Boortz’s comments that Robertson has done terrible damage to evangelicals, and that the MSM love it.

He’s probably right about both, although more and more people are realizing that the blowhards of evangelicalism don’t represent the rank and file, and that evangelicalism is diverse and not represented by one or few leaders. Unfortunately, there are too many who do not make those distinctions; enough that comments such as Robertson’s can indeed diminish evangelical influence in the public square.

That’s why it is important for evangelicals to condemn of this sort of recklessly, something they did not do this week, as far as I can tell Ted Haggard of NAE is trying to arrange a meeting with Chavez, which seems like a tremendous move. Other evangelical leaders have remained mostly silent:

“evangelical leaders and conservative groups declined to comment on Robertson’s remarks, including Focus on the Family; evangelist Franklin Graham; the National Association of Religious Broadcasters; and the Family Research Council.” (source)

And again, it’s time for Robertson to hang up his spurs.

–James Jewell
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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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