The residents of Dover, Penn., lost their right to prayer Thursday, according to one man.
Pat Robertson, religious broadcaster and former presidential candidate, spoke to Dover residents on his national television show, 700 Club:
“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city.”
Robertson spoke these words after residents voted eight school board members out of office. This former school board had recently tried to introduce the theory of intelligent design-the idea proposing the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power-into the public school classrooms as an alternative to the theory of evolution.
For a Christian man to suggest that people not turn to God during difficult times seems out of character.
But Robertson has been in trouble like this before.
In August, he created a furor when he suggested the United States, if given the opportunity, should assassinate Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. Robertson apologized for the comment and said he made it in a moment of frustration. But he also appeared to try to justify his statement by saying it made many people finally look at a subject long ignored.
Robertson has been an outspoken voice in Christianity. People listen when he speaks-not just a single church congregation but millions of people watching his weekly 700 Club TV show on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Figures with such a following cannot afford too many moments of frustration.
Robertson should know the media will broadcast his comments to people who will interpret and sometimes misinterpret them. He does not have the luxury of carefully editing ad-libbed comments made during a live broadcast.
Words should be spoken carefully.
Many Christians put much stock in what Robertson has to say and see him as a leader in their faith. Nonbelievers see him in this capacity as well, but when Robertson revokes a city’s right to pray or calls for an assassination attempt, this only makes it easier for people to discredit everything he has to say.
Not everything Robertson has to say about politics or religion seems to contradict the faith he claims, but his recent comments only work to diminish the voice he has spent years developing in religion and politics.
In clarifying his remarks about the city of Dover, Robertson said he wanted to show “our spiritual actions have consequences.”
We would not disagree.
But Robertson needs to learn a lesson himself: our physical actions have consequences, too.
Robertson has faced these consequences week after week, standing by comments, apologizing for some and offering clarifications for others.
Instead of always facing the consequences and offering clarifications of his remarks, Robertson should choose his words more judiciously. And, by saying less, he can have a more powerful and meaningful voice for the Christians he represents.