8/24/2005

Pat Robertson: The Syncretism of Right-Wing Politics with Christianity

The Judeo-Christian Scriptures are constantly warning us against syncretism, when aspects of one religion are assimilated into another thus changing the purity of the original faith. The Old Testament warned the Jews of not allowing the neighboring religions to blend with their following of Yahweh. A hallmark of Greek Hellenism was syncretism, and the Jews before and during Jesus’ time were constantly battling the urge to blend the political aspirations of Hellenism with Judaism. Jesus and his followers warned that syncretism is just another form of idolatry. Paul wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

One of the biggest problems in American Christianity is syncretism. We evangelical Christians have allowed the “American Dream” to blend into our Christian faith—so that now Jesus is a means to the end of prosperity and our consumerist “pursuit of happiness.” All one needs to do is look at the titles of many of the best-selling Christian books to see what we believe the Christian faith is all about (Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen is a run-away best-seller).

Another major form of syncretism in American Christianity is in our allowing the politics of the Right to blend into our Christian faith. Most Christians I know cannot differentiate between the politics of Rush Limbaugh and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is fueled by the very conservative political agenda of leading evangelicals like James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and Tim and Beverly LaHaye. And it shows itself the ugliest when those on the more radical side of this syncretism that’s called the “Religious Right” (i.e., the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of the world) say outrageous things that show how this syncretistic religion warps Christianity so that it no longer reflects the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The most recent incident: Pat Robertson (on The 700 Club), while commenting on what the United States should do with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, said, “You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it…It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop.” (see BBC news story here)

With statements like this, I can understand why many non-Christians are suspicious of evangelicals that we are the American version of the Taliban. But know this: It is not the pure religion of Jesus Christ speaking here—it is a syncretism of Christianity with American capitalism (because of the oil interests in Venezuela) and extreme right-wing politics (because of Chavez’ leftist agenda). This syncretism has taken Robertson “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition” so much that he is no longer following Jesus Christ—it is no longer Christianity.

What’s sad is that he does not even know it. What’s sadder is that many of his viewers don’t know it either.

12 comments:

DLW said...

All Christian theology is, as I understand it, ideally bridge building between our received world-views and the biblical worldview of Jesus Christ. As such, syncretism has occured in Christianity from the very beginning in some forms. I think the problem with fundamentalism is that they conflate their traditions with the Bible and then pronounce them inerrant and end up burning the bridges with the biblical worldview of Jesus.

I replied to your comment over at the Anti-Manicheist.

dlw

Liz Tai said...

Oh, is that why a commentor in my blog said that the US is a "agent of wrath" and that we have the right to kill leaders for the good of many?

I often suspected it is because of this syncretism of nationalism and faith too. Thanks for the post, it's a good one.

Anonymous said...

First off I think it is a little extreme, "Most Christians I know cannot differentiate between the politics of Rush Limbaugh and the Lordship of Jesus Christ" - I don't know a single Christian like that, perhaps you do. I don't even know who these people are: James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and Tim and Beverly LaHaye, and I follow some politics. I assume they are radicals. Pat Robertson is not a radical although he has made a few radical statements in his day. The article quoted and paraphrased what Robertson said, I think the prevailing message he was actually trying to make was to take this guy out ( kidnapping, having countrymen do something, or some other means). I really don't know a whole lot about this Chavez guy but if he has some Hussein in him this statement probably wouldn't sound so bad to many people. Robertson walks a fine line every single day in representing Christians. Politics are a part of our life if we follow country and world issues and we need someone to represent us. My brother who sent this article to me had also suggested awhile back that I take a look at the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice- the organization that battles the ACLU in court to keep our real freedoms in the USA)and become a member, Pat Robertson founded that organization. Robertson has helped turn thousands onto Christ and he still assists convicts, homeless, satan worshippers and whomever else to this day in finding life in Christ. With that being said I think his recent statement was very inappropriate and I disagree with it but I also disagree with this article and it centering around Robertson's "syncretism" and insulting the viewers of the 700 Club.

Jeff A

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks, Jeff, for your point-of-view.

I ask that you respect my point-of-view as well. You obviously don't know the people I know (or the Christian leaders I cited), so our worlds are apparantly very different. I think we both agree that Pat Robertson's comments were wrong (and he did not say "take him out," he said "assassinate," no matter what spin he tried to put on it the next day on his TV program).

When a Christian leader seeks to "represent Christians," as you said, he had better first represent Christ.

And the Christ I know from the Scriptures would never advocated the assassination of anybody.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bob,

I agree he said assasinate but he had also in fact said "take him out"- but regardless. We obviously disagree on a some things (even how different our worlds are- we both are Americans, know Limbaugh and Robertson, follow Jesus Christ and probably have much more in common than vice-versa) and that's fine. But I do respect your POV and keep writing those articles so I can read them.

God Bless

Jeff Ayotte

Byron said...

Sure, Bob, you're right at least for the most part; the idiotic Pat Robertson thing is a softball lobbed in your direction, so hitting it out of the park is easy. Now, do what is more difficult for yourself, and scrutinize the Christian LEFT's syncretism just as carefully as you do the "Religious Right's". That'll be tougher, and you'll have to dig a little more, because the MSM won't help you nearly as much with that. But it is there, of course; chances are that the comments are just as inane/inexcusible; it's just that Pat Robertson is watched like a hawk (and has this awful habit of saying incredibly dumb things on his broadcast---while Christians on the left don't tend to have TV shows).

Bob Robinson said...

Of course you're right, Byron. There is a left syncretism as well. And it is not too hard to find--it's pointed out all the time by the MSCM (that's "main stream Christian media," which is overwhelmingly syncretistic with the Right).

So, I won't go there. It's talked about all the time by everyone in the MSCM, from Hugh Hewitt to Al Mohler to James Dobson to World Magazine to James Kennedy to Moody Radio to blogs like yours.

To quote a certain notorious radio personality,
"I don't have to give equal time;
I am equal time!"

Bob Robinson said...

Jeff,

Thanks for your graciousness. You're welcome any time, and please do not hesitate to comment!

Bob Robinson said...

Byron,
The point that I was trying to make above is that I think you are mistaken about how the "liberals" don't get scrutinized by the media. We have an overwhelming amount of media lambasting the left. Fox News (not just Hannity, but even the main anchors), Rush Limbaugh and all the other conservative radio talk shows (conservative talkshows are by-far in the majority on the radio), and then the MSCM (Mainstream Christian Media)--with the likes of Dobson and Mohler leading the way.

Why do you think the Association of Christian Broadcasters forced Wayne Pederson out as president? James Dobson used his clout to kick him out because Pederson had the audacity to say, "We're all entitled to our political views, and evangelicals tend to gravitate toward more conservative politics, but sometimes in taking our stands we've allowed ourselves to be typecast and the effectiveness spiritually has been diminished," and that Christian broadcasters "get associated with the far Christian right and marginalized" (see CT article here).

So, all you really need do to get slams against the left is listen to the MSCM. And most of the Christians I know listen to it (and think that all that Dobson says is "gospel"--drinking the "kool-aid" as you say). My views on this blog seek to serve as a corrective to that!

Byron said...

No, Bob, that's a cop-out, to say that the MSCM is busy dealing with the left, and so you'll deal with the right. I'm challenging you to exemplify (as I try to do, although you may not agree!) what is right, not to balance out those who are Kool-Aid drinkers on the right by being one for the LEFT (that's a little harsh; I don't think that you actually do that). But my point is that you should be as ready to point out the flaws of one side as you are the other. Exemplify fairness, rather than balancing out the right.

But hey, it's yer blog, dude!

Bob Robinson said...

Byron,
Maybe one day I'll be less frustrated with the Right and more frustrated with the Left (I certainly used to be!). But in our day, the Christian Right is just plain frustrating...and it gets more frustrating each day.

Byron said...

I dunno; maybe stop reading so much McLaren and Wallis, and read some Carson and WORLD.

You probably do; I'm just cheesin' you a little...