Thursday, August 25, 2005


In a manner that can only be described as reluctant, US right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson has been forced to apologise for comments that he made on Monday calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. This isn't the first time that Robertson has advocated the use of political violence while exercising his ministry as a Christian preacher, either. And two days after the 9/11 attacks in New York, he concurred with Jerry Falwell that the American Civil Liberties Union, abortionists, feminists, gays, pagans and the liberal pressure group People For the American Way should "share blame" for the terrorist outrage, because they had "caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812." This too elicited what turned out to be a partial retraction.

Though the religious right is brimming with denunciations of "evil" and "violent" Muslims at the moment (making few if any distinctions between different strains of Islam), it seems that its chief spokespeople have a permanent beam in their own eye concerning what can only be called "redemptive murder". What is really shocking about this is how casual, ill-thought-out and immune to criticism it is. Tragically, some who use the name of Christ do so primarily as a cipher for their own nationalistic prejudices, co-opting misconstruals of Christian doctrine into a Manichean worldview that legitimates all kinds of abuse in the name of faith.

It is surely the duty of Christian leaders to speak and teach against the demonising theology and the religious roots of violence, every bit as much as it is the responsibility of those in Muslim communities to confront the legitimation of violent extremism among those who make dangerous use of Islam. The whole question of Christian Zionism is among the specific concerns involved in this.

A good source of general information on the US situation is TheocracyWatch, a project of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy (CRESP) at Cornell University.

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