Thursday, March 07, 2002


I was TV slumming the other day on CBN (Christian Broadcast Network), watching Pat Robertson. Now, Robertson at the best of times comes across as an exceptionally slimy used-car salesman. His oily, oozing, obviously phony pseudo-sincerity makes my skin crawl when I try to watch him for more than a couple of minutes at a time.

However, the other day, he was railing about the "diversity" education that some California schools are supposedly teaching. I had seen a fairly extensive online discussion of this, and it seemed that Robertson and company were going ballistic over it. From the discussions, it seemed that he was complaining that they didn't teach that Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc really worship Satan. (Side note -- it seemed to me that the California programs go too far in a couple of directions -- study is fine, but when you start doing play-acting of certain religious activities of somebody else's religion, you are being extremely disrespectful.)

Then Robertson put his foot in it. He put pictures of pages from the textbook on the screen to show how awful they were, with the "bad parts" highlighted. For example, the book said "Muslims believe that Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God." I've seen the exact same phrase on several Muslim Websites.

However, the phrase on the screen looked like this:

Muslims believe that Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God.

Robertson ranted at length about how the book was teaching that "Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God".

Sorry, Patsy. That's not what it says. It's the worst sort of selective quoting.

In Kansas, where I grew up, we call that "lying".

I find it amazing that he could even think that he could get away with it at all. After all, the "real" text was right there on the screen for everybody to see. This wasn't the only example -- there was at least one other that I saw before my stomach turned over and I found some other trash to watch. Used the exact same selective highlighting -- ignoring the "Muslims believe that ..." prefix.

The implications aren't pretty. Either we have:

  • Robertson assumes that his viewers can't read
  • Robertson assumes that his viewers can't tell the difference between quoting something and advocating something.
  • Robertson can say anything he wants. His viewers aren't listening.

In either case, Robertson assumes that he can get away with a blatant, out and out lie. I'm sure he knows his audience. They're probably writing nasty letters to school boards right now. Such is the "religious right" that currently owns the Republican Party.

Theological note to Robertson, and other pseudo-fundamentalists -- Christianity is monotheistic. One God. One. "Satan" is not a God. Satan is not even an independent entity. One God, remember?

Also note, in the phrase that Robertson found so repugnant, that all three religions are monotheistic. All say that there is only one God. Therefore, if they are to allow each other the minimum of respect, it has to be the same God. After all, there's only one. Of course, this assumes that one respects the other religions. Robertson has made it obvious that he doesn't.

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