Pat Robertson Embarrasses Christians

Yesterday another earthquake rattled Oklahoma in the Buckle of the Bible Belt. This has been a year of extremes in Oklahoma, including the coldest temperature recorded, the highest winds in history, and the biggest hailstone on record. When yesterday my sister reported that she experienced the latest earthquake during the middle of a tornado watch, my first thought was: where is Pat Robertson when you need him?

Pat Robertson is an influential leader of conservative Christians, the founder of the Christian Coalition and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Robertson frequently attributes earthquakes and natural disasters to the wrath of God. He believes the Haiti earthquake resulted from Haitians making a pact with Satan years ago. Other earthquakes are signs from God that the end is near. (His friend, the late Jerry Falwell, was no better; he went on Robertson's "The 700 Club" and said that the 9-11 terrorist attacks on America were the result of God lifting his veil of protection on America because of pagans, abortionists, feminists, and gays.

Many modern Christian find Robertson's comments embarrassing, but not for the reasons you may think. At first glance, it might seem that Christians are embarrassed because wacko, fringe elements are giving Christianity a bad name. As a former presidential candidate and a leader of 1.7 million Americans, you might wonder if Robertson is so on the fringe. But a closer look reveals that Robertson actually has read his Bible:

And so it goes, on and on through the Bible: God sending natural disasters to punish men (and women and children) for their evil ways. Yes, it's a theme in the Bible. Pat Robertson caught onto it.

The way I see it, Christians have but three choices: 1) Believe that God sends natural disasters to punish people, 2) Believe that natural disasters are natural and have nothing to do with people's religious beliefs, or 3) Believe that God used to punish people with natural disasters but doesn't do so anymore.

I'm firmly in the second camp. Back when these silly Bible stories were written, people didn't have a clue about outer space, plate tectonics, genetics, or physics. When terrible things happened, they attributed them to supernatural forces. I'm an atheist, and don't believe in supernatural forces, so of course I would think these stories are all hogwash. (As a Humanist, it turns my stomach that a bloodthirsty God would commit such war crimes, but there I go digressing again.)

But Christians don't have the benefit of being atheists. If they are good Christians, they will believe their reference manual, which clearly says God did these things. Pat Robertson in this light is a good Christian: he believes God punished people with natural disasters, and it is only "natural" that he would continue to do so. Pat is in the first, "I'll follow my beliefs through to the end" category.

Pat's position embarrasses most Christians because they don't have the same stick-to-it-ness with their Christian beliefs. Today's Christians are educated; they understand what causes earthquakes and tornadoes. Their modern idea of a lovey-dovey God doesn't fit with the idea of divine punishment on a city-wide or a state-wide scale. Moreover, the post-World-War-II ideas of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity have instilled in Generation X and Generation Y Christians a distinction between military and civilian targets; the idea of indiscriminantly blowing off little children and other innocents (throwing the babies out with the wrath-water, you might say) goes against their idea that God is luv, luv, luv.

So most Christians today choose the wishy-washy, third option. Yes, they must believe their Bible in that long, long ago, in another age, God used natural disasters and whales and such to punish people here on Earth. God's actions are beyond the understanding of humans, so there's no point in questioning whether these things were the right things to do back then. But today we are living in a different age, where God loves everyone and is putting off his judgment until the end of the world (when he will boil sinners in a lake of fire forever—but modern Christians don't focus much on that, anymore). Natural disasters nowadays are simply disasters that occur naturally.

And Pat Robertson? Well, Pat is the fly in the ointment, a holdover from another era. He believes that his Bible is literally true and he believes that the Bible applies to today just as much as it applies to yesterday. Modern Christians have managed to divide their beliefs into the "back then" and the "now". Such an unflagging belief as Pat's in the God of the Bible reminds Christians what they, too would believe if they were a little less wishy-washy—and this leaves them feeling, well, more than a little embarrassed. Shame on you, Pat!