Oops, he’s done it again. With Ariel Sharon still recovering from a stroke which nearly killed him, pea-brained American televangelist Pat Robertson suggested that Sharon’s near death experience was divine retribution for dividing God’s land in the Gaza strip. Robertson later apologised, but the damage was done- Israel has responded by cutting ties with the preacher, noting that the planned Christian Heritage Center organised by the Robertson with the country’s tourist board (codename: Jesusland) will go ahead, but probably without Robertson.
This isn’t the first time that an American evangelist has put his foot in it. Robertson himself called for the assassination of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez last year, saying the US should “take him out” because “it’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war”. And days after 9/11, he and fellow evangelist Jerry Falwell agreed that God had lifted the curtain “to allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve” suggesting that liberals, secularists and abortionists helped the attacks happen. Both later issued half-hearted apologies.
Jerry Falwell is also famous as the man who sued porn baron Larry Flynt and lost. Flynt’s infamous Hustler magazine featured a spoof Falwell interview in a parody Campari ad describing the preacher’s first sexual experience (in an outhouse).
H: “Wasn’t it a little cramped?”
F: “Not after I kicked the goat out.”
H: “But your mom? Isn’t it a bit odd?”
F: “I don’t think so. Looks don’t mean that much too me in a woman.”
Since Flynt won the case in 1988, he and Falwell have patched up their differences. The cleric apparently speaks fondly of Flynt and asks his followers to pray for the pornographer’s salvation.
There are worse evangelists than Falwell. In 1987, Oral Roberts warned his television audience that if they did not raise $8 million then God would ‘take him home’. Adoring fans promptly raised $9.1 million and Roberts promptly spent most of this on clothes, jewellery and a private jet.
A year later another, Jim Bakker, was convicted of fraud and sentenced to forty-five years in prison. He appealed and the sentence was reduced, before Bakker was released on parole after just five years in jail. Five years later he published a book entitled “I was wrong”.
Though they have their many rabid and generous followers, America’s preachers and televangelists, also known as Jesus-freaks, have brought shame and infamy to the Church, their actions converting more people to atheism than Christianity.
I’m not an avid churchgoer, but I’m not an atheist either. I believe, though, that Christianity is all about love and tolerance. Christ befriended prostitutes, healed lepers at a time when people shunned them and was hung on a cross amongst thieves. So many of the people who claim to represent Christ on earth today, not just in the US but in this country, show none of the compassion and brotherly love that are the themes that run through the New Testament.
When I was much younger I used to go to Sunday school., where we played table tennis and sang songs (why are the tone deaf kids always the loudest?). Then one day, one theologian told us all that, unless you were a good Christian, the gates of heaven were locked and off limits, no matter how good a Muslim or Jew you were, how well you followed the teachings of Buddha or performed good deeds in the name of the great spirit. If you weren’t a Christian you were doomed. When we asked this man why, his answer was that we wouldn’t understand if he told us.
Maybe. Maybe my feeble human mind cannot fathom the inner truth. Maybe it takes years of learning to understand it, just as it takes years of study to become a doctor or a certified accountant. Maybe it’s better to be a bad Christian than a good Buddhist. I don’t know.
I don’t often quote scripture but I believe Jesus said “Judge not, that ye not be judge”. Many preachers and fundamentalists looking to cast the first stone should take a long hard look at the man in the mirror before doing so.
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