Many christian commentators have distanced their religious belief from that of Pat Robertson with a very strange assertion: Pat Robertson, although definitely a christian, isn’t quite a real christian. His malicious and vindictive comments about the poor people of Haiti deserving their latest calamity don’t sit well with many of his believing brethren. And they shouldn’t. There is something rotten at the core of a religious belief system that allows for a Pat Robertson to be one of its more popular spokespersons. But rather than treat his vile commentary as a clarion call to re-examine the disturbing belief set that champions such a despicable viewpoint as an equally legitimate interpretation of scripture as their own, many of the faithful wave a hand and too easily and without cause dismiss Robertson’s views only as his own.
This is dishonest.
Most christians assume that Robertson’s views are not god’s, that they don’t reflect real christian values. But on what basis? How are we to know the difference between this assumed real christianity that so many commentators assure us is the prevalent one, and the self-serving belief set like Robertson’s that promotes intolerance and takes such uncritical delight in the god-sanctioned suffering of others?
From where I sit, Robertson IS a real christian. It seems to me that this evangelical mouthpiece of the christian god speaks knowledgeably about scripture and his views successfully combine the vicious Old Testament god with the New Testament teachings of Jesus. His theocracy is as consistent as I think anyone can make of the incoherence we find in the complete bible and his interpretations as valid as anyone’s.
And that’s a problem christians everywhere need to address: what justifies the argument that one theological interpretation is not as valid as another, that a Robertson interpretation is any more or less valid than a Pope Benedict XVI or a Rowan Williams or a public commentator anywhere?
The unfortunate answer is: we can’t. Christian theology based on scripture alone allows us no means to differentiate.
And here we get into a christian burr patch: if morality is what we use to judge the validity of the interpretation, and we accept that it is from scripture where we get our morality, then we have closed the circle of our thinking and have to accept Robertson’s callous interpretation as moral and valid based solely on scripture. If we are repelled by that conclusion (as we should be), then it becomes evident and obvious that some other source of morality must be at play here, a morality that is not derived from scripture but applied to it.
We know the meaning of Robertson’s words to be spiteful and mean and morally wrong. But he is also a real christian, let us not forget, and uses scripture like a sword to defend and promote his faith of a petty and jealous god while claiming to do so with god’s moral sanction based on his understanding of the bible. It is duplicitous and dishonest for other christians, therefore, to categorize Robertson’s cynical pronouncements as nonrepresentational of real christians while allowing the claim that we get our morality from scripture to stand unchallenged.
Christian believers cannot have it both ways: either Robertson is a real christian who quite properly derives his morality from the bible or he is a man who holds vile and vindictive viewpoints and uses christianity to promote them, meaning that our interpretations of biblical scripture is not the source but the expression of our morality.