February 2004 Church & State | People & Events

Anyone hoping for a replay of 2000's nail-biter presidential election is bound to be disappointed by the latest news from TV preacher Pat Robertson: God has assured the Virginia Beach televangelist that President George W. Bush will be reelected in a "blowout."

Robertson informed his "700 Club" audience on Jan. 2 that God has "blessed" Bush and that God said the president would have no trouble winning a second term in November.

"I think George Bush is going to win in a walk," Robertson said. "I really believe that I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout election of 2004. It's shaping up that way. The Lord has just blessed him.... It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad. God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him."

But not everyone is persuaded that Robertson's pipeline to God is functioning properly. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, told the Associated Press that Robertson's claim was typical for the televangelist, who has spent many years promoting Republican politicians.

"I have a prediction of my own," Lynn said. "I predict that Pat Robertson in 2004 will continue to use his multi-million-dollar broadcasting empire to promote George Bush and other Republican candidates. Maybe Pat got a message from Bush strategist Karl Rove and thought it was from God.

"I don't think God is partisan, but Robertson sure is," Lynn continued. "The Christian Coalition, the political group that Robertson founded, has shamelessly used its so-called nonpartisan voter guides to steer religious voters toward the GOP."

Robertson sought the Republican nomination for president in 1988 and later founded the Christian Coalition, which has worked tirelessly to elect Republicans to public offices nationwide.

During the 1988 race, Robertson assured voters that God had told him he was going to win. He dropped out after placing third in the South Carolina primary with 19 percent of the vote. Not long after that, he said God had told him to run again in 1992, saying, "That is His plan for me and for this nation," but Robertson did not seek the presidency again.

Other Robertson predictions have also fallen flat. In January of 1980, he predicted that the year would be marked by a worldwide economic depression followed by a major war in the Middle East, rioting, unrest in major Western nations and widespread starvation. On another occasion, he predicted that Russia would invade Israel in 1982 and that there would be a worldwide economic collapse in 1985. In his 1991 book, The New World Order, Robertson predicted that U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller would be elected president in 1996.

Reaction to Robertson's prediction of a Bush landslide was swift and not too favorable. On CBS's "Face the Nation" Jan. 4, host Bob Schieffer remarked, "I think my heavenly sources are just as good as Pat Robertson's and my source says there was nothing to this story. He says Robertson must have misunderstood. The way my source explained it, God does know who's going to win all right He knows everything but, he said, God would never tell that kind of thing. It would ruin all of it. He wouldn't tell that any more than he would tell the winning Powerball numbers, he said. And he said, 'You have no idea the kinds of deals people try to make with God to get those numbers.' I thought that's how it was, but it's sure good to get it from a source at the highest level."

On CNN's "The Capital Gang" Jan. 3, host Al Hunt of The Wall Street Journal declared the Robertson remarks as his "outrage of the week" and let loose with this barb: "Now, previously Robertson said God confided to him about stopping a hurricane from hitting the preacher's headquarters and threatening the hurricane to punish supporters of gay rights. Maybe the Rev. could get the Almighty to give us an inside look at where the Dow is headed or who's going to win the Oklahoma-LSU game tomorrow night."

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, a conservative evangelical, observed, "The idea that God would reach down and prophesy an election outcome to one man, who then says President Bush could even do wrong and God would keep him in office, offers joke material to Leno and Letterman and brings the Christian Gospel into further disrepute before unbelievers. It could also put a lot of pundits out of work."

One resident of Robertson's home state decided to challenge the TV preacher on theological grounds. Albert Pollard, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, sent a letter to Robertson asserting that his prophecy violates core Christian concepts.

"While I was not called to preach," wrote Pollard, "I will go so far as to say that it is theologically ludicrous to believe that God pre-ordains elections. If this is so, what was God trying to say when President Bush lost the popular vote in 2000? What was God trying to say when Bill Clinton was elected? If God pre-ordains elections, what was God trying to say when your father, a longtime U.S. Senator, lost the 1966 Democratic primary?"