Over the weekend Kenyans on Twitter went to town with their sarcastic prowess after a Pat Robertson video clip went viral. Responding to a viewer’s question on his popular program, The 700 Club, Robertson intimated that one could catch AIDS from towels in Kenya. The anonymous viewer was worried about the Ebola epidemic and wanted to know if a trip to Kenya would be taking an unnecessary risk.
Robertson’s response sounded reasonable enough, except for a few generalizations and flippant statements. On Ebola, he said, “not in Kenya” and every Kenyan who was watching gave him a resounding “amen”. Then he added that even though one should not worry about Ebola in Kenya, other diseases, such as AIDS, malaria, and stomach bugs were real concerns.
He advised against eating fresh vegetables and drinking unsanitized water. Though the 84-year-old Christian conservative may have exaggerated the sanitation situation in Kenya, there’s one statement that really rubbed Kenyans the wrong way: “… you might get AIDS, the people have AIDS in Kenya, you gotta be careful, I mean, the towels could have AIDS…”
And in their usual #SomeoneTell hashtag activism, many Kenyans on Twitter had a field day giving Pat Robertson a piece of their mostly sarcastic minds.
I empathize with my countrymen. I really do. It hurts to have someone who has never even set foot on Kenyan soil—I think—grossly misrepresent my country . It is only reasonable to be particularly sensitive about what Robertson said concerning Kenya.
But one thing that many Kenyans seem to have missed is that Pat Robertson has been making ridiculous statements on global television for decades . We are only more aware of him now because he was talking about Kenya. I bet most Kenyans who probably regularly watch the 700 Club did not flinch when Pat said the following:
- To a caller who said that he is often insulted by his wife, Robertson jokingly advised the man to move to a country like Saudi Arabia, where “wife-beating is legal”.
- To the question of husbands who cheat on their wives, Robertson casually told a viewer that “males have a tendency to wander a little bit. What you want to do is make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander.”
But the statement that got him the most heat was what he said in reaction to the 2010 Haitian earthquake:
“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti…They were under the heel of the French…And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French. True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out…ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.”
In other words, Robertson believed the Haitians had it coming.
So it is now Kenya’s turn, and that’s why we are lining up to take our jab at Mr Robertson. Yet, in light of the man’s record and reputation for being flippant, bigoted, and all other words that describe a serious lack of wisdom or discretion, should we really be wasting our breath and time reacting to his latest episode of verbal diarrhea?
Robertson’s age is confusing. At 84, one would naturally expect more mellow, nuanced, and generally wise advise coming from the man who has been dishing it out for decades. But he only seems to be getting worse.
Robertson’s context is also more confusing. He is speaking as a Christian leader and his show, The 700 Club, targets a largely Christian audience—considering it is distributed by Christian Broadcasting Network, which Robertson founded. Many of us who lay claim to the same faith find ourselves in a precarious situation when it comes to this man. We are embarrassed by him, and we are naturally quick to disassociate ourselves from him.
I don’t intend to dwell much on this issue, but I felt I should point out one lesson that stood out with this incident: Pat Robertson is what happens when we rely on the wisdom of man rather than God. Robertson seems to have earned the trust of millions of people who regularly watch his show. He gets thousands of letters seeking advise on various topics about the Christian life and ministry. But the one thing that stands out in more than 90% of Robertson’s responses is that they are just that: Robertson’s responses.
He seems to be his own authority. His answers are based on his own judgment, experience, and personal opinions. Very rarely does he quote the Bible or even attempt to wrestle with what God says about an issue. It is simply assumed that he has earned the authority to give answers without even doing a little research on the issues involved. “I don’t know” is seldom an option. His conspiracy theories go without question.
So what do I think of Pat Robertson in light of all this? Well, the only word that comes to mind is “warning”. Yes, Pat Robertson should be a warning to all of us on the folly of relying on ourselves and our theories and philosophies instead of God’s Word.
We should consider ourselves warned.
“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” (Proverbs 28:26)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7)
Question: How should we respond to the Pat Robertson’s of the world who give opinions rather than biblically sound answers to questions about Christian faith and practice?