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Dr. Pat Robertson, a once influential evangelical Christian leader, recently added another bizarre comment to a growing list of eccentric views. Following Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke, Robertson wondered on his television program, “The 700 Club,” whether God might be punishing Sharon for “dividing the land” of Israel by giving acreage to Palestinians.

Robertson's comment about God's purported actions was quickly followed by predictable reactions among liberals, outrage from Israel, carefully worded distancing from the White House, and frustration and some condemnation among fellow evangelicals.  Christian leaders' responses are perhaps the most interesting. Dr. Richard Land, president of The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said, "I am as shocked by Pat Robertson's arrogance as I am by his insensitivity."

Another once influential fundamentalist Christian leader, Dr. Jerry Falwell, attracted similar negative reactions from the Christian community when shortly after 9-11 he wondered if the nation’s worst terrorist attack was God’s judgment for America’s acceptance of feminists and gays. Os Guinness, a well-known and well-regarded Christian scholar and writer, said, " I know hundreds of people who are just terminally frustrated with the idiotic public statements of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and the idea that these people represent us. They don't."

An unsuccessful 1988 Republican Party presidential candidate, Pat Robertson has made a career of provocative, foot-in-mouth comments. Robertson joined Falwell in making similar post-9-11 comments about God’s judgment upon America. In 2005, Robertson suggested the United States should assassinate leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. After Hurricane Katrina slammed the city of New Orleans Robertson wondered aloud whether this judgment might have resulted from America’s high abortion rate. Following the fall 2005 election ouster of the Dover, Pennsylvania school board members who had mandated Intelligent Design for the local curriculum, Robertson concluded the people of Dover had better hope they never experienced a natural disaster, because they had rejected God and he was not going to hear their prayers in their time of need.

Is Pat Robertson courageous, crazy, or just a harmless preacher past his prime—one with a “pulpit” reaching about 850,000 people each broadcast? Is Robertson a prophet or a poster boy for evangelical quacks? Are Robertson’s views representative of evangelicals—as media still seem to think and as liberals fervently hope—or is he becoming an isolated, “Far Right” voice crying in a wilderness where fewer and fewer people are listening?

Pat Robertson is a fellow believer in Jesus Christ. He’s a Christian who will be with me in heaven some day. So I honor his faith. I also respect his leadership over many years, including his legacy as founder of Regent University, founder of the Christian Coalition, and successful business entrepreneur of many different for-profit and non-profit television broadcasting channels and programming. I admire his courage in speaking his mind, and I admire what I consider his and Jerry Falwell’s positive contribution in awakening and energizing a generation of conservative American Christians to their social and political responsibilities, opportunities, and influence. I also appreciate Robertson’s work ethic, committed to his worldview and his sense of calling or mission in life.

I believe many of Robertson’s critics would be my critics or the critics of any conservative, Bible-believing Christian, simply because the critics do not accept, indeed find intolerable, the moral values of our Christian faith. They gleefully attack Robertson-the-man or Robertson-the-personality in order to discredit conservative Christian views of human life and other biomedical ethics issues, human sexuality, public prayer and other church and state debates, and more. In other words, Robertson attracts lightning not only for the content of his commentary but simply because he’s chosen to act as a lightning rod. This is a needed perspective, for it should remind other Christians that we share core values and concerns with Robertson even if he may not always represent them in a way we find comfortable.

All this stated, I must agree with a number of Christian leaders who have questioned Robertson’s recent pattern of imprudent, I think biblically unjustifiable, largely judgmental and uncompassionate, and oft-times self-righteous commentary. If Robertson made one gaffe, one statement that did not wring true, I’d simply count him among the rest us. Virtually everyone in public life and on public record—conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican, Independent, religious or non-religious—has made some kind of ill-advised comment along the way, something for which many of these people later apologized. But Robertson is on a roll.

Robertson’s penchant for controversial pronouncements comes from his theology and his methodology. He truly believes God speaks extra-biblically and directly to him, then he tends to apply this doctrine to specific individuals and events. While I sometimes find myself in agreement with Robertson’s assessment of a contemporary social or political concern, I generally do not agree with his proposed solutions. After 9-11, I wrote my own response to that horrific event and one of my key points was that as we view world events we should take great care in saying, "Lo, God is doing this," or "Lo, God is doing that."  Only God knows his plan (Romans 11:33-34).

I am very uncomfortable with the ease with which Robertson moves from the pages of Scripture to the Republican Party political platform. To listen to Robertson you’d think God was a Republican. He comes off more as a partisan hack than as a prophet. I think this often uncritical partisanship undermines both his faith and his credibility and, consequently, his influence.

Robertson is not the best nor even any longer a leading representative of evangelical Christians. His comments certainly do not reflect my views. He represents only himself—and maybe not even that, for he has apologized, virtually apologized, or “clarified” his views after each of the episodes we’ve noted.

So, I recommend that Pat Robertson focus his time and considerable skills upon faith and family, evangelism, the value of a Christian higher education, or perhaps the role of Christian faith in media rather than politics. He’s run out of fuel for that race.

If he cannot restrain himself politically, and frankly I doubt that he can—because his practice is so rooted in his theology and because it’s too late to change—than he should retire. At age 75, while still a hero of many, he’s no longer the most effective fundraiser for CBN or Regent University, and he’s no longer their future. He could retire as an elder statesman of his work and movement, assisting his son and others as they carry on their own work and calling.

Such recommendations may seem presumptuous. But Robertson has never been bashful about sharing his recommendations, so we’ll consider turnabout fair play.

 

Another version of this blog may be found at: “Robertson Doesn’t Represent Evangelicals,” The Detroit News, (February 4, 2006), p. 6F.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. No one will ever duplicate the morally compelling content nor the energy and amazing vocal cadence of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963.

More eloquently than anyone before or since, King said,

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

I was eleven years old at that time, and I remember that speech being broadcast on black and white television. Later, in college and university, what he said began to sink in for me personally. While I have never really been mistreated or discriminated against because of my race or national heritage, I have witnessed it. I have been embarrassed and ashamed at Christians who tell racial jokes, make racist remarks, or act in arguably racist ways. My wife and I taught our children differently.

No Christian, and no conservative for that matter, and certainly no conservative Christian should ever once be guilty of racist actions. The fact that God created and loves each and every human being—that each individual is made in the image of God—are among the most fundamental of biblical doctrines. Those simple but profound lyrics from the children’s song say it all: “Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

So, whatever reservations people may have had about Dr. King’s lifestyle choices or whatever questions people may have yet ask about the rest of what he may have done during his lifetime or the philosophies that motivated him, his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement are unassailable. No important American historical figure lived a perfect life, and personal foibles or weak character should not preclude our rightful honoring of their public accomplishments. It’s a matter of recognizing the good and the right and applauding them wherever they are found. God will take care of the rest.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a true American original, and his legacy for liberty is something conservative Christians should be the first to celebrate—no matter what their race, gender, national origin, or ethnicity. We live in a nation today that is better for Dr. King’s accomplishments.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Christianity helped conceive the idea of the university, which developed from schools attached to great cathedrals in places like Paris and Bologna.[i] The pattern continued in America. Beginning with Harvard University in 1636, for the next two centuries most institutions of higher learning east of the Mississippi River were founded by a religious or specifically Christian group. Yet today, the only thing left of biblical Christianity in most of these institutions is the Scripture reference inscribed on the gatepost.

“To anyone who investigates the current academic standing of reason, truth, knowledge, human individuality, and even the meaning of meaning itself, the thought is hard to avoid: if this is not a crisis, it is certainly not an intellectual position on which to sustain a great civilization or even a satisfactory university.”[ii]

“The modern academy has lost any consensus on that which is true, good, or beautiful. That’s another way of saying that the ontological and epistemological foundation for the pursuit of truth has pretty much crumbled, leaving a worldview vacuum of yawning proportions.”[iii] Postmodern thought’s greatest cultural foothold is in the academy.[iv]

In the postmodern university, the clearly dominant viewpoint teaches students that truth does not exist and that there is no meaning or morality (and thus, no hope). Yet people continue to send their children there.

No one suggests that students cannot receive a “higher education” at a contemporary public university. Of course they can and do. But students cannot receive a Christian “higher education” in a public institution of higher learning. This is one reason Cornerstone University exists.

Of even greater importance are the needs of people in current culture. God said to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). So Cornerstone University cannot proceed, “business as usual,” blithely ignoring the spiritual destitution of our neighbors. Men and women, their culture, and the created order stand in need of redemption and reconciliation found only in the One who said, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).

This fact compels us. This must become Cornerstone University’s passion. Cornerstone University must, therefore, offer distinctive academic programs that prepare Christian students for a life calling of serving God and enjoying his creation by evangelizing people and transforming culture for Jesus Christ.


[i] Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Pub., Inc., 1999), p. 302.

[ii] Os Guinness, American Hour, op. cit., p. 69.

[iii] S.D. Gaede, “The Christian University in a Divided Society,” in David S. Dockery and David P. Gushee, eds., The Future of Christian Higher Education, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Pub., 1999), pp. 91-92.

[iv] Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds:  Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What To Do About It, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), p. 107.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

A January 7-8, 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal, called “A Test of Faith,” tells the story of Wheaton College’s (IL) decision not to continue the employment of a non-tenured faculty member who converted to Catholicism. Wheaton College is an academically outstanding Christian institution of higher learning that requires full-time faculty to sign annually a doctrinal statement affirming belief in “biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity.” The faculty member’s conversion put him in a position in which he no longer could, in the view of Wheaton leadership, affirm this key point in the college’s belief system.

It would appear that Wheaton College’s administrators acted properly, professionally, and compassionately, doing what is right for Wheaton and its mission and stopping short of condemning the departing faculty member as a man, as a professor, or as a fellow believer.

Cornerstone University operates with a similar mission and doctrinal commitment. All university personnel and members of the Board of Trustees annually sign their affirmation of the university’s doctrinal statement, “The Cornerstone Confession.” In addition, personnel are expected to be “faithfully involved” in a “conservative and biblical church.”

This form of annual, mutual commitment to a list of biblical doctrines helps define what we mean when we say “Cornerstone University is a conservative Christian university.”

Cornerstone is a higher educational institution organized as a “university.” It is an avowedly “Christian” university in that we work to build all programs upon an understanding of a biblical worldview. “Conservative” is a theological term. In this sentence and on campus “conservative” means that we believe the Bible is what it claims that it is—the Word of God, and that Word is our guide for faith and practice. Our conservative theology also makes us conservative in our morality—in terms of our attitudes toward definitions of life (“pro-life”) and human sexuality. As a conservative Christian university we work to be, as our “Cornerstone” name implies, “Christ-centered.”

So Cornerstone University is different. It is not like public universities, and it is not like many private colleges and universities, including those that are church-related or even some that are Christian.

Attracting and enabling a faculty and staff who are themselves conservative Christians is not a sacrifice, not limiting, and not an isolating act. Rather, this approach provides a coherent and cohesive philosophy of education. It provides the “uni” in university, which liberates university professionals to explore and to teach “all truth as God’s truth.”

Much is made in the Journal article about whether such faith-based hiring practices somehow violates intellectual “diversity” or prevents “quality” or otherwise biases or limits the institution’s academic program. But I don’t think so. Sometimes, given our criteria, filling a faculty position is more challenging and may take more time. But it is a big world, and we serve a Big God. He counts many in his service who work in a vast array of professions. It’s simply our task to find them. And I can say from experience that we have done so.

If we are not faithful to our mission as understood in part by our confession of faith, we are not distinct. We are not focused. We are not even needed, for there are many colleges and universities that no longer work with any “test of faith” in their hiring practices.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

Sirius Satellite Radio is staking its future on the potty mouth of Howard Stern, paying him a budget-breaking $500 million over the next five years to attract subscription listeners at $12.95 per month. Run the numbers on this and you’ll see what a huge financial risk is involved for Sirius’ investors. I’m hoping at least Stern’s program goes belly-up.

Stern rose to fame on radio by outrageously pushing the envelope—periodically fighting with the FCC, claiming censorship, and attracting an audience who both wanted to hear sexually-charged conversations and who wondered just how far Howard would go. The question now becomes: Will an audience of sufficient size to make Sterns’ program financially profitable be attracted to a mouth that no longer is limited by anything?

In other words—if no one and no agency puts up a fence beyond which you cannot go, who cares how far you go? Where’s the sizzle? Given human nature, if by definition “forbidden fruit” is no longer “forbidden,” who will still want the fruit?

Stern is up against it. The very nature of Stern’s medium and his schtick demands that he keep pushing the boundaries. Otherwise, to his audience he becomes clichéd, boring, and worse from his point of view—no longer listened to.

The only way he’s going to succeed is if he identifies or invents new boundaries and then jumps over them. What might those boundaries be? If there are no legal impediments to his vocal adventures than the only impediments left are moral ones.

Sooner or later, Stern is going to attack the remaining moral conventions in an otherwise morally relativistic culture. What’s left? Sex talk? No, done that. Homosexuality? No, done that. Kinky sex? No, done that a long time ago. Naked people? No, done that, and besides, how does “naked” translate on radio?

So what’s left? Incest for one. Bestiality for two. Pedophilia for three. Maybe even necrophilia (an abnormal, frequently erotic attraction to corpses) for four, and probably some other perversions I have not identified. I don’t like this, but I have little doubt Stern will push these envelopes. Why? Because most normal people, no matter how liberal their sexual views, would still regard these activities as “out of bounds”—which is to say, Stern has found a boundary over which he can jump in order to attract and titillate listeners.

I’m not happy about any of this, and clearly I don’t recommend or support it. Stern is everything a good, decent, and moral person is not and should not be. I’m just predicting where he is going. I won’t be listening no matter what he does.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

United States Representative Mike Rogers (R,MI), recently called for comprehensive reform of Indian gaming laws, as well as a two-year moratorium on casino expansion. In addition, he plans to introduce legislation establishing a moratorium on creation of new Indian casinos, pending a full investigation of how the existing process was exploited in scandals reported in recent media coverage.

Given America’s current fascination with all things gambling Congressman Rogers’ efforts will probably attract more protest than praise. But his appeal for financial and moral sanity ought to be saluted by citizens everywhere. This is especially true in the wake of lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s reported unethical efforts on behalf of tribal casino interests resulting in the latest Washington, D.C.-scandal du jour.

Congressman Rogers is not against Native Americans enjoying all the economic opportunities, progress, and well-being available to any other American citizens—nor am I. He is talking about fairness, accountability, and considered public judgment of something that negatively affects more and more communities. I am talking about legalized commercial gambling, for while I do not oppose Native American interests, I do oppose more gambling.

Gambling operations are financial vampires that suck the money and the general welfare out of any community in which they are located. Gambling operations never produce anything. They only take and redistribute inequitably. Even compulsive gamblers know that the only ones who ultimately “win” are those who own the gambling operations.

Congressman Rogers joins an all-too-limited number of national political figures who have taken a stand or at least spoken out about the negative impact of gambling. Among these leaders are Senator Richard Lugar (R,IN), Senator John Kyl (R,AZ), Senator John McCain (R,MI), and Congressman Frank R. Wolf (R,VA). Lugar worried about gambling during his unsuccessful bid for the presidency a few years ago. Kyl continues to work toward regulating Internet gambling in the United States and his colleague McCain has made banning sports wagering one of his concerns. Wolf has been a longtime, outspoken opponent of more legalized commercial gambling. So Congressman Rogers is in good company.

Current processes rooted in the 1988 Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act make it too easy for Native American tribes to suddenly rediscover their long lost identity, gain Federal recognition, use loopholes in the law, and go “reservation shopping” to acquire land not contiguous to existing reservation lands on which they can now operate casinos. This process is as unfair as it is ludicrous, and it puts neighboring landowners in jeopardy without due process or any real ability to influence or stop the “reservation” assignment. Again—this is not about making negative comments, unwarranted ethnic slurs, or any other racist oriented commentary about Native American people. Such tactics are themselves reprehensible. This is about saying gambling operations should be properly and fairly initiated and regulated.

Some 223 Indian tribes currently operate about 411 casinos in 23 states, bringing in more than $18 billion. This is no longer a fly-by-night operation. It’s big business and it should rightly attract the attention of the United States Congress to assure that processes are not only legal but fair and accountable. So three cheers for Congressman Mike Rogers.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.