On the January 2, 2004 broadcast of his television program “The 700 Club,” TV preacher Pat Robertson shared what he claimed was a message from God about the 2004 presidential election. Robertson said God preordained George W. Bush to win big.
Robertson told viewers: “I think George Bush is going to win in a walk. I really believe that I’m hearing from the Lord it’s going to be like a blowout election of 2004. It’s shaping up that way. The Lord has just blessed him. . . . It doesn’t make any difference what he does, good or bad. God picks him up because he’s a man of prayer and God’s blessing him.”
Of course, Bush didn’t win in a walk or a blowout. He eked out a very narrow victory that some knowledgeable persons, particularly in Ohio, have good reason to dispute.
And if Bush has been blessed by the Lord while handling matters such as Iraq, the national debt, Hurricane Katrina, the outsourcing of millions of American jobs to other countries, the increase in poverty, the ballooning trade deficit, the torture and denial of due-process rights to prisoners, the standing of the U.S. in the eyes of the world, and the worst financial and economic crises since the 1930s, the Lord’s curses must be terrible indeed. As Bush might say, “You’re doin’ a heck of a job, Lordy.”
Bush’s supporters would have received little comfort from Robertson’s pronouncement about the election if they had considered some of the previous messages he claimed to receive from God. Were Robertson to lie down on a psychiatrist’s couch and talk about these messages that only he hears, he would have much to say.
Robertson’s dialogues with God go back at least to the early days of his ministry during the 1960s.
According to his book Shout It from the Housetops, he was considering whether to buy a particular television station for the ministry. God told him: “Go and possess the station. It is yours.”
To get a radio station up and running, Robertson considered buying the cheapest transmitter available. But God had other ideas and divulged, “Pat, I want you to have an RCA transmitter.”
RCA somehow missed out on using that endorsement for a very powerful ad campaign.
At a prayer meeting on January 1, 1980, Robertson told his staff at the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) that the voices had continued throughout the 1970s.
He explained: “At least for the last decade, I have said to the Lord, ‘What kind of a year is it going to be?’ And each year the Lord has said to me, ‘It’s going to be a good year for the world.’ I’d come back the next year and think, ‘It’s going to be terrible,’ and the Lord said, ‘It’s going to be a good year for the world. . . .’ Year after year, that’s what He said.”
Robertson then conveyed to the staff an ominous message for 1980. The Lord had proclaimed: “It will be a year of sorrow and bloodshed that will have no end soon, for the world is being torn apart, and my kingdom shall rise from the ruins of it.”
Robertson expected 1980 to feature a worldwide economic depression and a major war in the Middle East. During that year, though, the world did not experience more than its usual abundance of sorrow, injustice, and bloodshed.
The claim about the 1970s being halcyon years also did not make much sense. Robertson and God are apparently the only ones who view the “Me Decade” that way – with its wars, political corruption, high crime rates, inflation, recessions, energy crises, hostage situations, and leisure suits.
Nevertheless, Robertson remained confident about his supposed ability to communicate with the divinity and predict the future.
In the mid-1980s, he claimed to have received these words from God: “I have something else for you to do. I want you to run for president of the United States.”
Robertson interpreted the message to mean he would win. On the campaign trail in February 1988, he told supporters: “This is where God wanted me to be. . . . Here I am in New Hampshire, before a major primary. I assure you that I am going to be the next president of the United States.”
But in learning firsthand about being on the losing end of a blowout election, he again was proved wrong.
Still, he couldn’t resist uttering one more false prophecy as he left the race. He vowed to run again in 1992 and explained: “That is His plan for me and for this nation.”
The February 2004 issue of Church & State magazine reveals other prognostications Robertson has botched.
It reports he “predicted that Russia would invade Israel in 1982 and that there would be a worldwide economic collapse in 1985.” And it says he “predicted that U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller would be elected president in 1996.”
In view of Robertson’s record of failed predictions, he might want to reconsider a message he received from Satan in the early years of his evangelical career. Robertson maintains that while at a retreat in Canada, he was lying on a cot and heard Satan say, “Jesus is just playing you for a sucker, Robertson.”
Although Robertson opposed the devil at the time, a strong case can made that Satan’s message turned out to be more accurate than those from the Lord.
Robertson’s incorrect prophecies cause him to flunk his own Bible’s test for determining whether someone is receiving messages from God. The book teaches: “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:22)
Just two verses earlier, the Bible gives instructions for dealing with those who falsely claim to convey the Lord’s words: “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, . . . even that prophet shall die.”
Robertson is fortunate to live in a secular nation that, unlike the theocracy of ancient Israel, does not execute false prophets.
Those who take Robertson seriously, however, might not be lucky enough to escape severe injury or death. Some of his alleged messages from God can be extremely destructive.
For example, Robertson says God told him in May 1986: “I have chosen you to usher in the coming of My Son.” God expounded: “I’m going to let you usher him in. Now, where do you usher in the Coming? You usher in the Coming where He’s going to come.”
Robertson construed the revelation as meaning God wanted CBN to provide worldwide television coverage of Christ’s second coming. So he announced plans for the network to broadcast the event live from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
No date was specified for this media extravaganza. But by indicating to his followers that the second coming would occur within his lifetime, Robertson in effect discouraged them from planning for the long term.
If those persons believe that the world will end soon, there is little incentive to strive to improve their lot in this life, and even less reason to help their children and grandchildren attain a better life. Because the return of Jesus is imminent, such earthly concerns are moot. The only important thing is being ready for the world’s culmination and getting into heaven.
People having that attitude can also lose interest in many other significant aspects of life, such as protecting the environment. They become indifferent to whether society preserves natural resources, develops alternative sources of energy, abates pollution of the air and water, stops global warming, maintains the ecosystem’s balance, implements recycling programs, slows population growth, and protects the earth in other ways for the benefit of future generations.
Their worldview can be particularly dangerous if adopted by government officials. For instance, James Watt had the duty of enforcing environmental laws as U.S. Secretary of the Interior in the 1980s. But he believed that Jesus was coming soon and the world would be destroyed.
As a result, Watt didn’t worry about protecting natural resources. He said, “God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.”
There’s no limit to the number of issues people can become apathetic about by adopting the end-times views of Robertson and Watt.
In fact, beliefs about an impending return of Christ might be a reason why Robertson and many other Bush supporters have so little concern about the federal government eliminating environmental protections, compiling huge deficits, and alienating other nations. The policies are irrational to anyone taking a long-range view.
Robertson’s dysfunctional hotline to heaven can be disastrous in another way. On “The 700 Club,” he sometimes holds faith-healing sessions in which he hears from God that his prayers are being answered and people in various places are experiencing miraculous healings.
A problem with these messages, as Al Franken discusses in his book Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them), is that they do not precisely identify who is being healed.
Franken points out that the lack of specificity can be deadly if Robertson says something like: “There’s a woman in Ohio who’s just been cured of her diverticulitis. Praise God!”
A danger exists that a woman in (say) Dayton might think it’s her when the message actually refers to someone in Cincinnati. The miscue could lead the Dayton woman to eat a bowl of nuts and die.
Franken protests that “if God can tell Pat Robertson that it’s a woman, in Ohio, and it’s diverticulitis, and it’s been cured – why can’t he tell Pat Robertson the woman’s name. And her address. It makes no sense whatsoever.”
Robertson should be intelligent enough to realize that many of his alleged messages from God are nonsensical, have been proved wrong, and can cause great harm. After all, he has touted the fact that he graduated from Yale Law School (although he was unable to pass the bar exam).
Yet he still claims to be receiving communications from God and expects people to believe him.
Whatever the reason for his ongoing bizarre and harmful behavior, Robertson should consider what Lily Tomlin said about those who say they are hearing from God: “When we talk to God, we’re praying. When God talks to us, we’re schizophrenic.”
An alternative explanation is that such persons aren’t really hearing from God but only say they are in order to gain power and wealth.
Or possibly they are just extremely reckless and irresponsible by jumping to conclusions about what they are seeing and hearing. There have always been people throughout the world who claimed to communicate with whatever deity they believed in.
In any event, the antics of Robertson and his supporters can cause their opponents to feel similar to how Voltaire felt when he said: “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.”
[Much of the information in this article is from the book The Most Dangerous Man in America? Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition, by Robert Boston. Other sources include Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment? by Tim Callahan, and Setting the Captives Free, by Austin Miles.]