I don’t think people appreciate just want an amazing man Pat Robertson is. Because he is cloistered away at the Christian Broadcasting Network, he has been allowed to simultaneously become a national figure while having the same old crazy beliefs of a regional phenom. There is his Bible approved weight-loss shake. And his claim to be able to leg press 2,000 pounds. And his claim that all good Christians should be in favor of assassinating Hugo Chavez. He’s a colorful guy!
But the big thing with him is faith healing. I find the fiction of faith healing really interesting. It is the most bizarre form of magical thinking. It is useless for broken bones. Just ask the Christian Scientists! And there’s that whole thing about God never re-growing limbs. It seems if the ailment is obvious, God is absent. But when it comes to things like cancer which come and go, God is right on it!
Well, yesterday, Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch noted, Robertson: Mother Who Can’t Heal Son’s Deafness Must Be Doing Something Wrong. A mother named Debbie wrote to him, “My son is hearing impaired and cannot hear at all. I have prayed for his healing; it seems as if God is hearing-impaired. What am I doing wrong?” The title of the article makes it sound like Robertson shames the mother, but that clearly isn’t his intent. But it is a shaming thing to say.
As cultures advance, they tend to move from belief in magic to belief in prayer. There is a clear reason for this. If you have a shaman who can do miracles, he is either successful or he isn’t. If he dances for rain and it doesn’t rain, everyone see him for the useless pretender that he is. But praying to God provides the ultimate out. If you pray for God to heal your son and he isn’t healed, it isn’t God’s fault. God’s there; he hears you; it is just that you aren’t worthy.
But Pat Robertson had some ideas. First he said that she should “rebuke” the “spirit of deafness.” But if that didn’t work, “Try something else.” He and his co-host then laughed. To me that said, “If you try enough things, eventually something will work and you can credit God with it.” And if nothing works, maybe you aren’t worthy, or your son isn’t, but regardless, God works in mysterious ways.
What’s most interesting about this is that Robertson is going back to a very primitive approach to this kind of stuff. It seems very much like a shamanic thing. It’s very much the kind of thing that would have gotten him killed by the church a thousand years ago. Because this is not prayer. This is spell casting. And I think it is very telling of modern American evangelical Christianity. The movement is very confused theologically. And thus nothing is true and everything is permitted. As long as you claim that the power comes from Jesus.
To go along with the article, here is the Jim Carroll Band doing “Nothing Is True”:
H/T: Crooks & Liars