Why Do We Care What Pat Robertson Says?

One of the most devastating and tragic earthquakes of my lifetime hit the already downtrodden nation of Haiti on Tuesday. It hurts my heart to think about the horror of such a calamity, which destroyed the capital city and killed tens of thousands of people.

But in the wake of this tragedy of unimaginable scope, everyone seems to be talking about something else… Pat Robertson.

Quips about Robertson and his ridiculous comments have been lighting up Twitter and Facebook. He’s been a top trending topic for the last 2 days. And everyone seems to be getting quite a kick out of joining in the Robertson slam-fest. Of the many tweets I’ve seen, here’s just a sampling:

  • “Pat Robertson is kinda like that senile old uncle at your family reunion. He said what? Oh, that's just crazy Uncle Pat. Pay no attention.”
  • “Why do so many people in Haiti have to die while Pat Robertson lives?”
  • “Pat Robertson, bringing shame to the name of Christ for 50 years.”
  • “I wonder what Pat Robertson blames for the NBC late night debacle.”
  • “Pat talks about the Devil like he's had business meetings with him... or the two play racket ball...”
  • “Just in case you needed more proof that Pat Robertson doesn't speak for Christians, here you go…”
  • “Behold Pat Robertson, the unintended consequence of the first amendment.”

Everyone is buzzing about Pat Robertson this and that, but how many of us have actually given money to a relief organization or said a prayer for Haiti? Why do we care so much about what this old dude is saying about pacts with the devil? More importantly, why are we still talking about it?

Christians especially seem to have rushed swiftly to the “denounce Pat!” party. He doesn’t speak for us! Not all Christians are like that! He’s giving our faith a black eye! Can’t he just retire and disappear from the public eye?

I didn’t really want to read any more about Pat Robertson today, but so many people were sending this link around to Donald Miller’s blog post, I decided to click on it. Donald Miller’s post eloquently repurposes Robertson’s gaffe and turns it into a discussion about how being “overtly religious” is dangerous, and that faith in Christ should be intimate, quiet, and personal rather than public and loud. It should be about love and compassion rather than judgment and proclamations. How nice.

Miller’s post was retweeted more than 1100 times and garnered hundreds of comments, most of which expressed a sort of collective sigh of relief from Christians desperate for a moment of better PR. Many commented something to the effect of “Thank you for defending the true nature of our loving God and Savior!”

What saddens me about all of this is that Christians felt so desperate for a “defense” of their faith. Are we really that feeble in our religion (or, excuse me, our “Christ following”) that we need to even comment on dear old Pat? Is it that much of a threat? I don’t think so.

We need to stop worrying so much about having a favorable image. The success of God’s work in the world is not dependent on how people in 2010 perceive Christians, or how people like Pat Robertson contort the Gospel in disturbing and wrongheaded ways. If we believe God is sovereign we need to have confidence that he can overcome all the loudmouth bigots who go around saying idiotic things in the name of Christ (not that we shouldn’t chastise and discipline those loudmouth bigots among us).

We need to quit worrying about how the worst among us are ruining our reputation and instead focus on living Christ-like lives in accordance to scripture and God’s will. We need to worry about our own transformation first and foremost. Are we new creations?

We should love others and ease the suffering in the world—DONATE TO HELP HAITI—not because it will be better for our PR, but because the Bible tells us to and because the Spirit inside us spurs us to outward action. We should exude charity and patience and peace in our dealings with others not because it will win us admirers but because it is the Christian thing to do.

We need to be humble, yes, but not tepid. We should have confidence in the God we serve, the gospel we believe, and the church that we are. Christianity isn’t going to die, and no amount of public relations nightmares will break the body of Christ that has and will continue to move in the world. As the church of the resurrected Christ, our destiny is eternal and our hope never-ending.

Let’s stop talking about Pat Robertson and start living strongly in the light of our calling—which is to spread the message of hope, resurrection and renewal that is the Gospel of Christ.