Americans were horrified by the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. It’s still unclear what motivated Stephen Paddock to unleash such carnage, and that’s leading some people to engage in speculation.
Some ideas we can easily discount. TV preacher Pat Robertson, for example, has blamed the incident on a lack of respect for President Donald Trump, a thoughtless move that does little more than shift the blame away from the killer.
There is “violence in the streets,” Robertson groused on his “700 Club” show last week. This has come about, he said, because “we have disrespected authority. There is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation. They say terrible things about him. It’s in the news; it’s in other places.”
TV preacher Pat Robertson's comments in the wake of the recent tragedy in Las Vegas were offensive.
Careening like a pinball, Robertson then blasted the pro football players who have declined to stand when the national anthem is played.
“There is disrespect now for our national anthem, disrespect for our veterans, disrespect for the institutions of our government, disrespect for the court system,” Robertson ranted. “All the way up and down the line, disrespect.”
He failed to explain exactly how this alleged disrespect (some might call it another word: “dissent”) might have sparked the shooting. That’s not surprising. Connecting the dots – or even saying something coherent – has never been Robertson’s strong suit.
For good measure, Robertson fell back on a familiar standby: There’d be no problem if everyone would just embrace his version of Christianity.
“Until there is biblical authority, there has to be some controlling authority in our society, and there is none,” he said. “When there’s no vision of God, the people say, when there’s no vision of God, the people run amok. … And we have taken from the American people the vision of God, the whole idea of reward and punishment and ultimate judge of all our actions. We’ve taken that away. And when there is no vision of God, the people run amok. That’s my take on this.”
This is an old story. It’s a belief common among fundamentalist Christians of Robertson’s ilk that morality and decency can’t exist outside their particular narrow slice of the Christian faith. People who believe differently aren’t just, well, different, they are responsible for all manner of awful things.
Thankfully, a lot of Christians know better than that. Writing in The Washington Post, Michael Horton, a professor at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, bemoaned that in the wake of a tragedy such as the Las Vegas shootings, “the loudest and often most outrageous voices divide us like an elementary school playground. It leaves many Americans imagining that people such as Pat Robertson, Paula White and Jerry Falwell Jr. represent conservative Christians (often called evangelicals). But they don’t.”
Added Horton, “If we are going to have a real conversation about deeper issues, it will take sympathy and respect on all sides. We need to have that conversation now – before another raft of tweets, shootings and ill-considered comments reduce us to puppets.”
Robertson is worried about Americans running amok. He probably ought to worry about something else. It’s not that people are running amok, it’s that they’re increasingly running away from the narrow, hateful version of faith Robertson has been blasting from his Virginia Beach TV studio for the past 57 years.