What has been somewhat more surprising are the negative reactions coming from some in the Christian community. While some lunatics have actually agreed with Robertson, other Christians have provided more reasonable condemnations. With one important exception, I find this an encouraging development.
The exception involves those who are condemning Robertson by claiming that he is not a "real Christian." Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) really hit it out of the park when he wrote:
I keep hearing that “he doesn’t represent the Christian faith,” but he does. So does Rick Warren with his bigoted stance against gay rights. So does James Dobson with his views on women needing to be subservient to men. So do Rob Bell and Brian McLaren and Shane Claiborne and other, more progressive Christians you’ve probably never heard of. They all have their own opinions and people who don’t like them all say they don’t represent Christianity.Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition. He is a Christian, a conservative evangelical Christian. He is widely recognized as a spokesperson for this evangelical fundamentalist form of Christianity and admired by those who watch his 700 Club on TV.
Even though they all do.
Representatives of Robertson's 700 Club are now in damage control mode, insisting, "Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God's wrath." But Robertson's history of making this claim complicates their efforts. He blamed Ariel Sharon's stroke, Hurricane Katrina, and 9/11 on his god. If he really did not mean to suggest that the Haitian earthquake was also due to the wrath of his god, this would be the first time he had not made such a claim.
PZ Myers (Pharyngula) is right that our priority should be on helping the people of Haiti (you can find links to some worthwhile organizations here). However, I think that it is important to make sure that the growing outrage against Robertson produce meaningful results as well. This is a "teachable moment" on the subject of Christian extremism. Here is what we need to remember:
- Pat Robertson is not only a Christian but a highly influential leader among conservative evangelical Christians.
- Pat Robertson has a long history of making this sort of claim, most of which have only contributed to his influence and resulted in little blowback from mainstream Christians.
- Atheists have consistently taken the lead in calling Robertson and other Christian extremists out for their hateful statements.
- I understand that many Christians are reluctant to admit that Pat Robertson and others like him speak for them, but this does not change the fact that he does indeed speak for them.