Friday, January 15, 2010

Thoughts on Pat Robertson

First of all, wow right? But this, along with a text conversation I had with my dad earlier today got me thinking. The Pat Robertson's of the world often turn the rest of us off to organized religion altogether. The things they say, even if retracted later, often reveal such a hateful and uncompassionate underlying attitude. And I have some big issues with my parents' version of organized religion as well. But in times like this, some important distinctions become clear.

In my parents' church, when word comes of a catastrophe like this, the very first thing these people do, instinctively, is pray for the survivors. No finger pointing, no smug proclamations about how the victims must have had it coming in some way, no speculation about how this will change the country, no dismissive quips about how they already made their contribution by paying their income taxes - just empathetic thoughts and prayers.

Secondly, all year round, on a daily basis, people in my parents' church are gathering donated medical supplies, eyeglasses, clothing, school supplies, etc. to send to places like Haiti. In fact, people from the church often pay their own way to go over for a month and work in the orphanage and neighborhood clinic that the church sponsors, and when they go they take suitcases full of these supplies. A couple of months ago, my parents contributed to a shipment of antibiotics that went to the clinic there, and last month they sent several cases of neosporin and tylenol with a woman from the church who was headed there. As it turns out, she and all the staff and children of the orphanage are safe, and they only had minor structural damage there, and are now able to help some of the survivors from the areas that were harder hit. So even as my parents make a monetary donation to Red Cross that will be useful in the coming weeks, they're comforted by the thought that maybe the contributions they already made are having an impact. In Haiti right now, the most basic generic antibiotic could save the life of a person with a badly broken bone, and those boxes and boxes of tylenol and neosporin from costco have got to be indispensable in the midst of so many scratches and bruises.

So in a time like this, this is how Christianity works for people like my parents - they pray for the survivors and hope that the things they already sent are in the right place at the right time to be comforting and helping someone. And this seems like a totally different thing to me than the smug, judgmental, ignorant, self-satisfied drivel that never seems to stop from people like Robertson. And if I believed that Jesus was the son of god, this is what I would expect him to be doing if he were here right now. Not spewing some hateful nonsense on TV, but going around investigating the best way to help - the most effective way to get people the things they really need - and then quietly and unobtrusively doing it. Yeah, Mr. Robertson, that's what Jesus would do.

P.S. But I'm still not down with the residual patriarchal gender bullshit and the heteronormativity and the purity pledges, etc. etc. etc. Just for the record.


  1. Flanagan1/15/2010

    It seems like we should no longer be shocked by anything Pat Robertson says, but it still kinda sets you back on your heels for a minute.

  2. My boyfriend, a conservative from a religious Christian family, was LIVID when he heard Robertson's remarks. He's convinced that people like Robertson are the reason that Christians are so heavily stigmatized as insane, irrational zealots by the more secular portions of the population.

  3. Anonymous1/17/2010

    I think this is a really good distinction, but I still have a hard time sometimes telling the difference - or maybe people just aren't consistent enough to be able to tell. In my experience, the same people who are so giving and empathetic can also turn around and be really judgmental and mean to each other.

  4. Anonymous1/17/2010

    As I said in my own blog post on the subject, Pat Robertson is a racist hiding behind a collar.

  5. You rock, Rachel. This is so dead on. And speaking of orphanages, you coming out to the benefit next Saturday? Your favorite banjo player will be here, and I've heard he owes you a drink.

  6. And what's even more infuriating to me is the way people like this gloss over the colonial history in a place like Haiti, which has crippled them and impeded progress at every turn, and instead spew this racist bullshit. Even when it's not as obvious as Robertson's bullshit, it makes me so angry.

  7. Well, y'know, if "pact with the devil" just means "ridiculous economic arrangements with wealthy western nations and crippling debt" then, yeah, they did make a pact with the devil. They made a pact with us.

    I think this may be the first time I've ever agreed with Pat Robertson. I'm going to go eat a pint of ice cream now, and ponder this sad state of affairs.