Monday, April 07, 2008

Pat Robertson's career

Check out this biographical sketch by Bill Sizemore, a reporter who has a track record with Brother Pat Robertson, The Christian with Four Aces Virginia Quarterly Review Spring 2008:

Since Jerry Falwell’s death, Robertson is the most visible evangelical leader in America. A recent public opinion survey conducted by Christian pollsters the Barna Group found that Robertson was the only religious figure besides Billy Graham—who has retired from preaching—known to at least half the population. Perhaps of most import for the nation and the world, he has pioneered a unique marriage between theology and politics. This is a man who ran for president because, he said, God told him to, but that brief campaign twenty years ago would be merely a footnote in American political history were it not for the potent legacy it spawned. ...

Out of the ashes of the Robertson presidential campaign came an army of Bible-believing religious fundamentalists which has won a degree of political power unprecedented in modern times.
Sizemore's long article also includes an update on Jim Bakker, Tammy Faye's husband, who's still around and doing business in the name of the Lord.

Jim Bakker, it turns out, was with Robertson from his early days in Christian [sic] broadcasting. They even discovered the prosperity gospel together, it seems:...

To keep calls coming, Robertson repeatedly emphasized the "prosperity gospel" - the belief, common among televangelists, that Christians are entitled to claim financial rewards as evidence of God’s favor. Robertson likes to call it the Law of Reciprocity, telling viewers that if they are true-believing Christians, financial rewards are theirs for the asking. ("We are to command the money to come to us," he once wrote.) As a result, Robertson never had to feign guilt over indulging in the just financial rewards of his spiritual successes. Today, he lives in a $3 million, 6,600-square-foot house with six and a half bathrooms, and he is partial to Corvettes. "You can be just as holy when you are financially comfortable as you can be when you are poor," Robertson has written. "Poverty is a curse, not a blessing."

One of the best ways to strengthen both piety and pocketbook, Robertson liked to remind his audience, was by donating to his ministry. To this day, The 700 Club features frequent stories about viewers who claim to have enjoyed dramatic financial gains after becoming regular donors. It’s no surprise, then, that the prosperity gospel which originally had drawn Robertson to evangelical Christianity became cemented in the financially shaky early days of his TV ministry, when he and Bakker would sometimes stay on the air until 4 a.m., hoping the phone would ring one more time with another donation.
And here is something that I didn't realize, that God offers His very own personalized real estate services!

One night, Bakker failed to show up for work, and Robertson was tempted to fire him. But as he was on his way out the studio doors, Robertson wrote later, he heard the voice of God say, “Don’t fire Jim Bakker,” so he relented. But eventually Bakker decided to leave on his own—or, as he told me in his Branson office, God told him to resign. “He said, ‘I want you to move, and I want you to resign.’ I said, ‘But God, I don’t have another job.’ He said, ‘I told you to resign.’ I said, ‘God, you sell the house, and then I’ll resign ...’ I put the sign out, and within three days ... God sold the house. Just sold it, just like that.”
Robertson branched out his media operations to the Middle East sometime after the Six-Day War of 1967:

In order to prepare for the imminent Second Coming—which Robertson believes will occur on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem according to biblical prophecy—he acquired METV (Middle East Television), a station then based in southern Lebanon that could broadcast into Israel. Straub was given marching orders to be ready to televise Christ’s return. CBN executives drew up a detailed plan to broadcast the event to every nation and in all languages. Straub wrote: “We even discussed how Jesus’ radiance might be too bright for the cameras and how we would have to make adjustments for that problem. Can you imagine telling Jesus, ‘Hey, Lord, please tone down your luminosity; we’re having a problem with contrast. You’re causing the picture to flare.’”
I wonder how divine luminosity would play on YouTube. Do you think we would be able to save to a hard drive with Real Player?

Sizemore describes Operation Blessing, a project for which Robertson raised funds to help victims of the savage civil war in Rwanda:

What Robertson didn’t tell viewers was what I learned from two pilots who flew the planes: The airstrip was actually built so the planes could bring in equipment to dredge diamonds from a remote jungle riverbed for the African Development Company, a for-profit owned by Robertson and registered in Bermuda, where there is no corporate income tax and business regulations are lax. The three planes, two of which were registered to Operation Blessing, were used almost exclusively for a mine deep in the jungle, the pilots told me. Only one or two of more than forty flights were charitable. Chief pilot Robert Hinkle, a former Peace Corps volunteer, said he became so embarrassed by what he considered the duplicity of the operation that he had Operation Blessing’s name removed from the planes’ tail fins. His account was backed up by notes he kept during most of the flights. On one day that Robertson was a passenger, the notes read, “Prayed for diamonds.” (my emphasis)
Now this is a brand of Christian piety than even Dick Cheney could relate to!

Sizemore also discribes the way many graduates from Roberton's Regent University wound up being hired in the Bush Justice Department, where they became a key part of the astonished corruption and politicization of justice that is one of the worst features of the worst Presidential administration in American history. It was one of them, the now-notorious Monica Goodling, who was in charge of "the expenditure of $8,000 on drapes to conceal the partially nude Art Deco statues of Justice in the department’s Great Hall."

But, of course, she and her fellow Regent graduates had more substantial achievements:

Under Ashcroft’s instructions, the department pushed out numerous career lawyers. Goodling, who ultimately resigned in the scandal over the politicization of US attorney appointments, appears to have been among a handful of people who oversaw the politically tinged firings. Granted limited immunity from prosecution, she admitted to the House Judiciary Committee in May 2007 that she “may have gone too far” in applying a partisan litmus test not only to political appointees but also to career Justice Department employees - a possible violation of the Hatch Act. These more seasoned lawyers were replaced by attorneys who had announced memberships in conservative or Christian groups, many of whom were placed in the Civil Rights Division. Since the housecleaning began in 2001, the Division, created to protect African Americans from voter and workplace discrimination, has brought no voting cases and only one employment case on behalf of an African American. The new focus, instead, has been on cases of discrimination against Christians. As late as February 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales authorized a new initiative called the First Freedom Project (so named because religion is the first freedom addressed in the Bill of Rights) and a Religious Freedom Task Force to commit the department to "even greater enforcement of religious rights for all Americans."
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