Well, Pat Robertson’s at it again, apparently. With regard to the killer tornadoes that ravaged the midwest this last week, Pat said on his show;
“If enough people were praying [God] would’ve intervened, you could pray, Jesus stilled the storm, you can still storms.”
- How does he know the mind of God?
- How does he know God would have intervened?
- How does he know that instead, maybe enough people did pray to, oh, I don’t know, cut the severity of the storms in half, or also prevent a plague of festering boils at the same time? Phew, if so! Thanks for the prayer, warriors! I’m pretty sure I would not like festering boils!
- What does it say for the morality of God (as we mere humans understand the word) when the lives of entire communities are dependent on a critical mass of people supplicating and pleading to a divine being for mercy that would not be otherwise forthcoming?
- How is such a statement ever falsified? In other words, does the fact that we didn’t have killer tornadoes today suggest that today enough people were praying? How is anything like this ever open to question, to testing, to verification, to falsification?
- Consider these calamities and others for which Robertson and just a few months ago, Barbara Bachman (and apparently “only” 40% of Americans, but up to 59% of Evangelicals) blame the behavior of mere mortals. Why do they so often target the midwest and south where the highest percentages of church-goers and religiosity are found in our country instead of those awful bastions of liberal godless sinfulness like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York City?
- How is this substantively different from thinking we need to sacrifice a virgin to mollify the angry volcano god?
- Besides a handful of since-debunked and fraudulent studies, what evidence is there that prayer works at all anyway, especially when Yes, No, Later and Maybe are all seen as answers to prayer? And rather, why doesn’t it work in the ways the Bible says it does and will, and with as much effectiveness as the Bible says it does and will, and as certainly as the Bible says it does and will? (see Mark 11:24, Matthew 7:7, 17:20, 18:19, 21:21, John 14:12-14, for starters). And what can we do but consider any or all the excuses nothing but theological tap-dancing for why these verses either don’t mean what they say or are taken out of context and for why none of this works as the Bible says it does and will?
I understand that people will simply brush these questions aside or rationalize them in one way or another. This all has to be a matter of faith, perhaps. Let me concede that point but only to ask this; If any of what he is saying is possibly less than 100% true, then where is the slightest trace of intellectual humility, of tentativeness at all, in the content and delivery of Robertson’s assertion to understand God’s specific thinking, motives and intentions on these disasters?
Pat Robertson is an easy target and easy targets like him allow the faithful to claim that he does not represent true Christians or Christianity. I have to disagree. It’s one thing to claim Rush Limbaugh does not represent Republicans or Bill Maher Democrats because there are official organizations that really do. There is no such group for “Christianity” and so his claim to speak for God is no more or less legitimate than anyone else’s. There is no universal or even commonly accepted standard against which to judge what he says (or what the Bible says, for those who will suggest it as the standard). His claims and the size of his audience are rightly considered one of the fruits of his belief system. Second, Pat Robertson is only nominally the point. The easy target allows his detractors to avoid the bigger issue, on these questions on prayer and the mind of God, of which he is only one wild branch from the same bush. So forget Robertson for a moment. If anyone believes that the mind and plans of God can be divined, that his mind can be changed, that anything that happens in the known universe can be averted or manifest because of prayer and supplication to a divine being (rather than a result of the meditative benefits on their own), then these questions stand.
A Related Aside: Pat Robertson is getting advanced in years and his eye grows dim. One wonders where and to whom the mantle of his oracle, of his mind-of-God knowing awesomeness will fall. More and more I believe we have found the answer in a man who perhaps thought he might inherit the mantle of someone else altogether.