As the new year turns, most Americans make pretty conventional resolutions: I will lose enough weight to fit back into my skinny jeans, I'm going to finally assemble the IKEA bookshelf that's been collecting dust in my basement, this season I'm going to play kickball — and I'm going to be good.
Our resolutions are frequently mundane and rarely more than fleeting moments of inspiration, immediately forgotten and tucked safely away along with those old rock -washed jeans from high school.
Some Americans, however, are more audacious than the majority of their peers; some take their resolutions so seriously that -- to them -- New Year's Day becomes a day of prophetic reckoning. For decades, TV preacher Pat Robertson has been one of our favorite self-proclaimed prophets.
In 1982, the Virginia Beach broadcaster predicted the beginning of "The Great Tribulation" followed by an invasion of Israel by Russia. In 1996, he foresaw Jay Rockefeller being sworn in as president of the United States. By 2007, Robertson had warned us of a domestic incident of "mass killing," affecting "possibly millions of people, [and] major cities."
As the years have passed, and his prophecies continuously fail to come to fruition, we've become less inclined to panic at his threats of impending doom. On Monday, Pat warned us about the "cloud" of "wrath upon this country." And while he admitted that he "didn't get a lot of specifics from the Lord," he continued to spew visions of darkness, economic collapse and a rise in self-identifying atheists. No one in our office seemed to panic over Robertson's most recent prophetic pronouncement.
What does have our staff a bit on edge, however, is Robert McDonnell's impending swearing-in as the 71st governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. McDonnell graduated from Regent University and was an acclaimed student under its President and Chancellor Dr. Pat Robertson.
McDonnell has invited Robertson to his Jan. 16 inauguration and the controversial TV preacher met with the successful candidate in Richmond on election night.
Pat, who donated heavily to McDonnell's campaign, kvelled to the reporters in the hotel lobby: "Our motto at Regent is 'Christian leadership to Change the World,' and this is the way we do it. The good thing about Bob is he stayed on message, never wavered and he didn't let him opponent take him off message."
McDonnell's message, at least through his education at Regent University, was clear: America has limitless possibilities for its white, male, Christian citizens. At age 34, McDonnell submitted a master's thesis to Regent describing "working women and feminists as 'detrimental' to the family." He argued for government policy favoring married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators." He even described a 1972 Supreme Court Case legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples as "illogical."
McDonnell said "leaders must correct the conventional folklore about the separation of church and state" and deplored the "purging of religious influence" from public schools.
Just a few years later, however, while on the campaign trail, McDonnell had the sense to plead with potential voters, asking them to understand that his "views on many issues have changed," as he'd gotten older. But his opponents have argued that his entire election strategy was merely a "rebranding campaign" to obscure his Robertson connection in order to entice voters to elect him to office.
If indeed McDonnell's public apologies for his thesis and his homophobic, patriarchal statements were part of a clever ruse to woo voters, it was successful.
So now, while Pat Robertson is prophesying a dark cloud over this country's banks and schools, I'll be watching the church-state weather over Virginia. I hope that Governor-elect McDonnell makes a more meaningful new year's resolution than I did; I hope he resolves to lead Virginia through strength, inclusiveness and a sincere respect for constitutional liberties.