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August 25, 2005

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.

Posted by Jim at August 25, 2005 07:54 AM

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» Pat Robertson and Hugo Chavez from T. Longren
The fact that blogs and the news are covering this freaks me out a little bit. I’m sorta disappointed in the blogosphere for continuing to cover this…I’ll just add to the pile. I remember having to watch Pat Robertson on The 700 Clu... [Read More]

Tracked on August 25, 2005 09:58 AM


Thanks for your note: it's good to hear about evangelical dismay over Robertson; the media should cover more of this. But that's why I read blogs.

I'm going to link to your comment if that's okay with you. And more on the Robertson-Bonhoeffer comparison at

Posted by: Andy Lang at August 25, 2005 04:44 PM

Violence at two removes is cheap violence,to be compared with Bonhoeffer's cheap grace. It would have been more responsible, & courageous, for that would-be-President bloviator to have recommended the assasination of his own country's leader (as Bonhoeffer in effect did secretly). Robertson's comment was at the moral level of the gradeschool-playground taunt, "Let you & him fight." The fact that he's a religious leader increases the shame.

Posted by: Willis Elliott at August 29, 2005 05:29 PM

Thanks for taking the right stand on Robertson. He really should resign (or be extradited and go to jail if Chavez has his way, and I hope he does...).

As one of those Christians whose faith does call for pacifism, I thank you for taking a responsible stand here. I've seen others in the blogosphere rallying 'round Robertson and that is chilling.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at August 31, 2005 08:53 AM