On a February 2017 episode of televangelist Pat Robertson’s “The 700 club,” a viewer sent in the following question about dissent:
“Why do so many hate President Trump and say everything he does is bad? I voted for him and believed he would make ‘America Great Again,’ and he has already in many ways. So what is your answer as to why so many do not support him and want him out? What do you think is going to happen? I fear for him.”
Typically, it is common sense that politics and religion just do not mix well in public discussion. On this occasion, however, Pat Robertson could not resist using the power of the television screen to push his neoconservative agenda. In 2003, Robertson gave his full support to George W. Bush and the Iraq war and stated that the war was being fought on “solid ground” in terms of “biblical concepts, but also in terms of public relations.” He also argued that criticizing the commander in chief during war time amounted to treason. In an all too familiar fashion, by 2015, Robertson was claiming that he knew the Iraq war a mistake and that the American people were lied to.
Not surprisingly, Robertson had little to say about Iraq when it came to the United States’ increased use of surveillance on American citizens, torture of suspected terrorists, or drone attacks that killed civilians. Where was his Biblical outrage then? Perhaps Robertson realized, in the wake of no weapons of mass destruction having been discovered, that the cause for the war was no longer just? The problems surrounding Robertson’s power behind the electric pulpit certainly became clearer in recent years.
In response to the February 2017 viewer question about dissent towards Trump, Robertson said the following:
“There’s a desire on the part of some, I think it’s satanic. It really is spiritual, to destroy America. America is the great hope of the world. If America goes down, the lamp of freedom goes up. There’s no other champion of freedom anywhere in the world and we would be engulfed in chaos, and so, we were heading that way. Obama was bringing it on. Another four or eight years of Obama-style government, and we would have been consumed with the socialist mentality and the freedom that we’ve enjoyed would be blotted out. So God gave us a reprieve, and this thing really is spiritual.”
While there may indeed be some satanic types among the never-Trumpers, like the witches who cast a spell on him in 2017, dissent is not some inherently bad or satanic principle. In fact, dissent has historically been a major part of the Southern tradition.
Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote to James Madison from Paris on December 20, 1787 that Shays’ rebellion in Massachusetts had caused too much concern abroad. By Jefferson’s calculation, if one rebellion occurred in 13 states over the course of 11 years, that would be approximately one rebellion for each state in 150 years. According to Jefferson, “No country should be so long without one.” The Southern conceptions of limited government were built upon dissent, and the American people should never be encouraged to conform to anything, especially not for religious reasons.
In stark contrast to this Jeffersonian concept of dissent, Pat Robertson continued his religious defense of Trump by saying:
“I think, somehow, the Lord’s plan is being put in place for America and these people are not only revolting against Trump, they’re revolting against what God’s plan is for America. These other people have been trying to destroy America. These left-wingers and so-called progressives are trying to destroy the country that we love and take away the freedoms they love. They want collectivism. They want socialism. What we’re looking at is free markets and freedom from this terrible, overarching bureaucracy. They want to fight as much as they can but I think the good news is the Bible says, “He that sits in the heavens will laugh them to scorn,” and I think that Trump’s someone on His side that is a lot more powerful than the media.”
Robertson was spot on in his recognition of socialism as a danger to America. Self-professed socialists are now running and winning offices around the country, making wild promises and proposing shortcuts to progress. However, his assertions that dissent is unholy and that Trump is guided by Jesus Christ are divisive and dangerous. The American presidency was not based on any kind of divine right or mandate of heaven. It was designed in strict opposition to these concepts.