Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pat Robertson at Catch the Fire Conference

Catch the Fire, a global revival ministry, held its ten year anniversary conference on February 16-19 in Virginia Beach, VA. Among the conference speakers was Pat Robertson, conservative founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and host of The 700 Club. Right Wing Watch posted video and commentary on a mass faith healing he facilitated for the audience, the video for which is below. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

I listened to parts of the Catch the Fire conference at CBN, and I was taken aback not so much by Robertson's faith healing, but by his seeming embrace of prosperity theology. The prosperity gospel teaches that God bestows material wealth on those he favors, and has been promoted by evangelists such as Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, and Joel Olsteen.

At the 1:24:37 mark of his talk, Robertson described how God allegedly provided funds for a campus library project.

"So, month one, we needed a million dollars. The Lord sent in an extra million. Second month, we needed another million. God sent in another million . . . Seventh month, same thing. Eighth month, same thing. Ninth month, same thing. Tenth, eleventh, twelfth. Twelve months, God sent in an extra million dollars. Every month! Every month! And we built that library . . . debt free. God supplied the money. Being fully persuaded at what God had promised he was also able to perform."

"God is absolutely able. He's waiting for people to believe him. He looks for us to believe him, just like he's looking for us to believe him for healing of cancer, for healing of heart conditions, for healing of every other malady. The same God that heals your body can heal your finances. He can heal your marriage. He can do anything. He is a God of miracles."
Robertson's approach to divine beneficence troubled me on many levels. First, he attributes to God what should really be attributed to humans. His supporters furnished those millions of dollars in donations, but Robertson gives gratitude to God rather than those who made concrete financial sacrifices for his project.

Second, Robertson insists that God can ameliorate all manner of human crises, from financial difficulties to life-threatening illness. What message does this send to people in crushing poverty? To the terminally ill? To people who have lost loved ones to disease? What does it say about our responsibility to those who suffer? At worst, this kind of thinking can lead to the conclusion that those who are suffering have lost God's favor, or that their unfortunate circumstances are due to insufficient faith. Robertson's statement shows little reflection on the roots of suffering or the institutional structures that perpetuate poverty and poor health.

Any sound spirituality -- be it theistic, deistic, atheistic, or agnostic -- must grapple with the suffering and oppression that are all too common in our world. Rather than take refuge in a neat, clean worldview that promises easy solutions, we must confront the complex realities of physical and material suffering.

To hear Robertson's complete talk, visit event[dot]cbn[dot]com/ctfconference/?EventID=120589.

For more information on Catch the Fire, visit www[dot]catchthefire[dot]com/

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