The Common Good

Pat Robertson: An Embarrassment to the Church

Sojomail - August 25, 2005

Quote of the Week : Who would Jesus assassinate?
Hearts & Minds : Pat Robertson: An embarrassment to the church
In Memoriam : The healing life of Taizé's Brother Roger
Soul Works : 'Refusing to look back'
Good News : Gross national happiness
For Mercy's Sake : The fiber of community
Under the Wire : News articles you may have missed
Boomerang : Readers write
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Who would Jesus assassinate?

"I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger, and this is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, and we have other doctrines that we have announced, and without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another 200-billion-dollar war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

- Pat Robertson, advocating the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Source: CBN


Pat Robertson: An embarrassment to the church
by Jim Wallis

Pat Robertson is an embarrassment to the church and a danger to American politics.

Robertson is known for his completely irresponsible statements - that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were due to American feminists and liberals, that true Christians could vote only for George W. Bush, that the federal judiciary is a greater threat to America than those who flew the planes into the World Trade Center Towers, and the list goes on. Robertson even took credit once for diverting a hurricane. But his latest outburst may take the cake.

On Monday, Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Robertson is worried about Chavez's critiques of American power and behavior in the world, especially because Venezuela is sitting on all that oil. We simply can't have an anti-American political leader who could raise the price of gas. So let's just kill him, the famous television preacher seriously suggested. After all, having some of our "covert operatives" take out the troublesome Venezuelan leader would be cheaper than another $200 billion war, he said.

It's clear Robertson must not have first asked himself "What would Jesus do?" But the teachings of Jesus have never been very popular with Robertson. He gets his religion elsewhere, from the twisted ideologies of an American brand of right-wing fundamentalism that has always been more nationalist than Christian. Apparently, Robertson didn't even remember what the Ten Commandments say, though he has championed their display on the walls of every American courthouse. That irritating one about "Thou shalt not kill" seems to rule out the killing of foreign leaders. But this week, simply putting biblical ethics aside, Robertson virtually issued an American religious fatwah for the murder of a foreign leader - on national television no less. That may be a first.

Yesterday Robertson "apologized." First he denied saying what he had said, but it was on the videotape (it's tough when they record you breaking the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus). Then he said that "taking out" Chavez might not require killing him, and perhaps kidnapping a duly elected leader would do. But Robertson does now say that using the word "assassination" was wrong and that he had been frustrated by Chavez - the old "my frustration made me say that somebody should be killed" argument. But the worst thing about Robertson's apology was that he compared himself to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German church leader and martyr who ultimately joined in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler.

Robertson's political and theological reasoning is simply unbelievable. Chavez, a democratically elected leader in no less than three internationally certified votes, has been an irritant to the Bush administration, but has yet to commit any holocausts. Nor does his human rights record even approach that of the Latin American dictators who have been responsible for massive violations of human rights and the deaths of tens of thousands of people (think of the military regimes of Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, and Guatemala). Robertson never criticized them, perhaps because many of them were supported by U.S. military aid and training.

This incident reveals that Robertson does not believe in democracy; he believes in theocracy. And he would like governments, including our own, to implement his theological agenda, perhaps legislate Leviticus, and "take out" those who disagree.

Robertson's American fundamentalist ideology gives a lot of good people a bad name. World evangelical leaders have already responded with alarm and disbelief. Robertson's words will taint and smear other evangelical Christians and put some in actual jeopardy, such as Venezuelan evangelicals. Most conservative evangelical Christians are appalled by Robertson's hateful and literally murderous words, and it's time for them to say so. To their credit, the World Evangelical Alliance and the National Association of Evangelicals have already denounced Robertson's words. When will we hear from some of the groups from the "Religious Right," such as the Family Research Council, Southern Baptists, and other leaders like James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Chuck Colson?

Robertson's words fuel both anti-Christian and anti-American sentiments around the world. It's difficult for an American government that has historically plotted against leaders in Cuba, Chile, the Congo, South Vietnam, and elsewhere to be easily believed when it disavows Robertson's call to assassinate Chavez. But George Bush must do so anyway, in the strongest terms possible.

It's time to name Robertson for what he is: an American fundamentalist whose theocratic views are not much different from the "Muslim extremists" he continually assails. It's time for conservative evangelical Christians in America, who are not like Islamic fundamentalists or Robertson, to distance themselves from his embarrassing and dangerous religion.

And it's time for Christian leaders of all stripes to call on Robertson not just to apologize, but to retire.

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The healing life of Taizé's Brother Roger
by Jim Forest

The death of Taizé founder Brother Roger happened as he might have wished, while he was at prayer in the midst of his community. It's not surprising to die when one is 90 years old, but it was a death neither from illness nor accident. He was stabbed in the throat by a 36-year-old Romanian woman who had seemed to be just one more of the thousands of visitors to Taizé each month. Had he survived the attack, it's likely he would have been more concerned about his assailant than he was for himself.

Few people in the past century have done so much to inspire a thirst for unity among Christians. Sixty-five years ago, when Roger Schutz founded the Taizé community, divisions among Christians were as formidable as the Iron Curtain. Catholics took pride in not being Protestant while Protestants rejoiced in not being Catholic. As for Orthodox Christians, they weren't even on most people's radar screens. Brother Roger, a young Swiss Protestant pastor, dared to imagine Christianity's healing. The ecumenical monastic community he founded became a center for intimate encounter between Christians from every confession and continent.

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Refusing to look back,

and joyful with infinite gratitude,

never fear to rise to meet the dawn



and singing:

Christ your Lord.

- The life profession of the Taize Community


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Gross national happiness
by Richard Ingham

In 1972, the king of Bhutan declared that his Himalayan country (which is the size of Switzerland) would henceforth measure progress with gross national happiness instead of gross national product. It is still the only country in the world to do so.

This is an entirely appropriate decision for a country that treats happiness, not economic gain, as the goal of development. In inventing their government, Bhutan's leaders asked themselves how to maintain balance between materialism and spiritualism while seeking the clear benefits of science and technology; the possible loss of tranquility and happiness with the advance of uncontrolled modernism was an abiding concern....

In 1998, the government's master plan was developed, named the four pillars of happiness. Then-Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley said these pillars - sustainable economic development, conservation of the environment, promotion of national culture, and good governance - create conditions "in which every individual will be able to pursue happiness with reasonable success."

The plan is working, and Bhutan's success with the environmental pillar alone is remarkable. A few years ago, the residents of a village famous for its migratory cranes proudly installed electricity in their village. It was soon discovered, however, that some cranes were flying into the power lines. The villagers tore them down and switched to solar power.

+ Read the full article


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The fiber of community

Heart and Soul Community Free Methodist Church of Rochester, New York, includes nine refugee family groups from the Uduk tribe of Southern Sudan. They are among the very few who have been allowed to enter the U.S. while most of their fellow tribal members remain in refugee camps in Ethiopia. These families carry an incredible story of Christian faith in the midst of persecution in their home country - as well as a testimony of struggle in the U.S. as newcomers who live in an under-resourced inner-city neighborhood. Yet one hopeful effort has been their formation of a small business venture, in which they use traditional skills to create yarn and other fiber products for sale. Mondek Fiber Works takes its name from a Uduk word meaning "holding hands around a circle in a spirit of agreement."

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Carrie Newcomer - regulars and refugees
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"To my mind - a writer's mind - Carrie Newcomer is much more than a musician. She's a poet, storyteller, snake-charmer, good neighbor, friend and lover, minister of the wide-eyed gospel of hope and grace." - Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees.


News articles you may have missed

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Israel confirms plan to seize West Bank land for barrier
Israeli officials confirmed that the government had issued orders to seize West Bank land needed to extend the separation barrier around the largest Jewish settlement, Maale Adumim, and link it to Jerusalem. Israel also plans to build an additional 3,500 houses and apartments in the settlement.

Chavez seeks influence with oil diplomacy The Christian Science Monitor
Chavez's antiglobalization and anti-U.S. discourse, which comes part and parcel with the petrodollars, "is resonating more and more with marginal sectors throughout the region, many of whom have been ignored by the U.S. and are now looking for alternatives to their stubbornly acute poverty."

Detainees without a country The Washington Post
In late 2003, the Pentagon quietly decided that 15 Chinese Muslims detained at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be released. More than 20 months later, the 15 still languish at Guantanamo Bay, imprisoned and sometimes shackled, with most of their families unaware whether they are even alive.

Scientists speak up on mix of God and science The New York Times
Disdain for religion is far from universal among scientists. And today, as religious groups challenge scientists in arenas as various as evolution in the classroom, AIDS prevention and stem cell research, scientists who embrace religion are beginning to speak out about their faith.

Gaza coverage offers many questions, few answers AlterNet
Conflict, drama, and the plight of "sympathetic" victims are the mainstays of television narratives. Initially the settlers played that role, in what was pictured as a tragic dilemma that forced good people to lose their homes and faith in their leaders.


Go With Peace
By Kelly Guinan

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Encourages compassion
Advances responsibility
Cultivates integrity
Empowers wholeness

A wonderful new book! 172 pages of hands-on lessons that teach peacemaking skills. Essential for anyone longing for peace, justice, hope, and a new way of being.

Proceeds support a peace education, nonprofit organization.


Readers write

Libby Smit writes from Belfast, Northern Ireland:

Adam Taylor rightly reminds us of our responsibility to address global poverty ["And the children shall lead them," SojoMail 8/18/2005]. It is tempting to be cynical and to think that the problems are too big, and that nothing we do will ever really make a difference. For those who are Christians, I believe that one of the key things that should define us is that we should be people of hope, having the faith to trust that God will use all that we give, no matter how humble (like the loaves and fishes). To despair means that we don't believe God is who he says he is.


George Delury writes from Carpinteria, California:

In his "Reflection on Gaza" [SojoMail 8/18/2005], Philip Rizk says, "The people of Gaza need their brothers and sisters around the world to come alongside them and build up their sense of dignity." Agreed, but let's put top responsibility on the immediate and wealthy family of Arab states that have done the most over the last 50-plus years to create the underlying conditions that make Gaza so miserable.


Leland Dolan writes from Houston, Texas:

Regarding Wal-Mart's health insurance, it is outrageous that taxpayers should have to pay coverage for their employees. However, what is even worse are reports of their "dead peasant" life insurance ["Wal-Mart Watch," SojoMail 8/18/2005]. At our seniors' center, we have been reading about the way Wal-Mart takes out life insurance policies on its lower-income employees. The company pays the premiums, and if the empoyee dies while working at Wal-Mart, the company is the beneficiary. I can't help being cynical about them using such employees for dangerous jobs (in which safety is not a consideration) so that if the employee falls to his/her death, Wal-Mart reaps their unethical bounty.


Roxanne Schlapkohl writes from Pauls Valley, Oklahoma:

I thank God for Sojourners in helping me to not feel alone, being very liberal in the Bible Belt and being very Christian among the progressive enclaves I have found within this red state. I was so disappointed then to see that Sojourners had jumped on the anti-Wal-Mart bandwagon. As a product of the working class whose husband is a 20-year employee of Wal-Mart, I cannot exaggerate the ingratitude it would show for me to let these attacks go unanswered.

My husband started at Wal-Mart at wages just above minimum in 1985, just as I had worked at J.C. Penney's for minimum wage while putting myself through community college years earlier. These were the wages of the retail industry. I will never forget what it was like to be the working poor - that's why I'm a member of the Democratic Party. But if we don't start giving as much attention to the benefits and opportunities provided by Wal-Mart - especially to the working class and the poor - then we're just going to turn this into another red state/blue state issue and come off as some kind of elitists once again.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.


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