At first, before I saw the light, I didn’t believe that God actually told Pat Robertson that George W. Bush would sweep the November election. Why, for heaven’s sake, would a divine power described in Scripture as supremely wise and just employ a self-indulgent, partisan hack with a history of bigotry and greed as his spinmeister?
We all know that Robertson is a longtime supporter of Bush and that the president has adhered to the reverend’s right-wing agenda, but would Robertson dare use the Lord’s name in vain for partisan politics? Would he rip off God’s clout just to boost his candidate’s chances?
No, I don’t believe Robertson, fearing eternity in hell, would be so bold, so I take him at his word: “I think George Bush is going to win in a walk. I really believe I’m hearing from the Lord that it’s going to be a blowout election in 2004,” he told his television flock, citing several days of prayer at the end of 2003. “The Lord has just blessed him. I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it. It doesn’t make any difference what he does, good or bad; God picks him up because he’s a man of prayer, and God’s blessing him.”
The Lord, it is said, works in mysterious ways, so Robertson’s report that God has picked a presidential winner before the first primary may not be altogether crazy. After all, one of the tenets of the Protestant revolution, which has devolved in some quarters into Robertson’s brand of cynical televangelism, was that we all were capable of hearing voices of the divine.
Divine or not, Robertson heard some voices. And the explanation for why God might have chosen to speak up in favor of a president who has made such a hash of our economy and foreign policy came to me in a dream. The Almighty, a booming voice told me, was using Robertson to warn the electorate, while there is still time, that a disaster was in the offing. Yes, he was saying the election could be a blowout, but he wasn’t saying that was a good thing.
Robertson missed the point, the voice said.
I couldn’t get it all, being half asleep, but what I heard was something about the Roman Empire and the sacrifice of his only son.
That’s it, I said, bolting awake. Of course, the Lord is aghast at the imperial ambitions of the neoconservatives. After all, hadn’t he sent Christ to warn about the greed, elitism, jingoism, commercial decadence and other indulgences that were endemic in a world distorted by the arrogance of the Roman Empire? A world in which the money-changers were worshiped and the poor were exploited, a world in which the military was lavished with resources while the peacemakers were scorned?
The Romans were arguably the most economically and militarily advanced force the world had ever known. But in their hubris as the world’s sole superpower, they came to believe that might made right in their fight to conquer the “barbarians” who surrounded them. Those who criticized the Romans’ ultimate reliance on brute force and false argument were dismissed, with references to the exalted goals of the empire -- to advance Roman civilization and impose a lasting peace -- goals that now have an eerie echo.
That must be the essence of the warning that the Lord sent down through the admittedly imperfect vessel of Robertson. Perfect, however, for the purpose of alarming us to Robertson’s fawning enthusiasm for Bush, for no one has better exemplified betrayal of the Christian commitment to peace and free will.
It was Robertson, after all, who sought to turn the war against terrorism into a religious war against those he defined as infidels. Had he lived in Christ’s time, he probably would have been the Roman emperor’s groupie: “I see a blowout in the year 37 for Tiberius.” He certainly would have been thrown out of the temple for cozying up to dictators, such as his dealings with former Liberian President Charles Taylor in his quest for riches in a gold-mining venture in that nation.
Fortunately, the citizens of our republic have not surrendered all of their rights to the needs of our burgeoning empire. But rest assured that a “blowout” victory for an administration that has stripped away so much of our liberty and saddled us with ever-expanding burdens of empire would only feed the monster of imperial ambition that has even God so worried.