Unconditional love distorted by fear

The longer he talks, the easier it becomes to discount almost anything Rev. Pat Robertson says. Last Tuesday’s broadcast of his long-running 700 Club television program provides a perfect case in point. On that particular episode, Robertson decried what he takes as one more example of “big government” overreach as he railed against public surveillance cameras — like the ones that helped identify the Boston bombing suspects.

He pulled out all of the rhetorical stops, starting with the predictable Orwellian, 1984 parallel. He parlayed that imagery into Revelation 13:16, which foretells a time when no commerce will be possible without having accepted the Mark of the Beast.

As he told viewers. “But this is what the Bible talks about when you can’t buy or sell without the Mark of the Beast. You have to be part of that world system and a few, and very, very few can escape, because right now they can go down into the bush in the darkest Africa and hunt you down.”

Robertson sure seems to spend a lot of time worried about commerce.

People like Robertson don’t promote love. They don’t promote tolerance. They don’t promote forgiveness. They promote fear. They promote fear because they know the bunk they spout is only palatable to people who are in a constant state of fear. Unless he has you constantly dangling over the edge, he knows he has no way to control you … or your wallet.

He also knows the only way that will work is to gin up a boogeyman. Persistent caution about Satan isn’t enough. People need something earthly, something tangible, something fresh to fear. Often the codespeak-cloaked invocation of a black president is sufficient, but sometimes that won’t quite do it, either.

Enter the proxy: Big Government. As Robertson conjectures, “I think the American people are more afraid of the overreach of big government than they are some occasional bomber, even if the bomber kills a few people.”

News flash: We are the government. Government isn’t something that’s done to us. It is an institution that we ourselves have crafted. We made it. We need it.

Of course, if everyone actually “did unto others …” we wouldn’t need government, big or small. They don’t. People hurt each other, steal, cheat, lie and do all sorts of things that necessitate external supervision. That’s the real paradox, though.

Robertson and his minion decry sin. Yet they want government to act as though it doesn’t happen — especially if you run a company that produces fossil fuels, sells guns, makes pharmaceuticals, manages hospitals or financial instruments. Moreover, they want government generally — and law enforcement in particular — to be hobbled in their pursuit of evil-doers. At least those that are really good at turning a profit —- if you’re just a street level hoodlum with few resources for any sort of meaningful defense, all bets are off. Welcome to prison.

The packaging is clever. They frame unregulated industry as job protection/creation. They frame xenophobia and racism as protecting national borders. They frame subordination of women as protecting family values. They tell you that you have to follow in lock-step or you don’t love God.

For all Robertson’s self-proclaimed knowledge of God’s will, he seems largely ignorant of God’s word. Three verses in particular come to mind.

The first of these regards giving the government the tools (which is to say, giving ourselves the tools) to do what government was designed to do —protect us from us. Mark 12:17: Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

Robertson doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference. He also seems confused as to who God is.

The second and third go to the heart of all those that code their schemes in blasphemy —- John 2:16: And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things away; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise; and Matthew 21:13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

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Matthew Pate, a Pine Bluff native who holds a doctoral degree in criminal justice, is a senior research fellow with the Violence Research Group at the University at Albany. He may be contacted via pate.matthew@gmail.com.