In an open letter to Liberty University the other day, televangelist James Robison, “founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, host of LIFE Today, a syndicated television program, author and political activist, addressed the angry reaction of students to allowing Mitt Romney, a Mormon, speak at an Evangelical university’s graduation ceremony. Robison was in the big-time back in the 80s when he earned the epithet “God’s Angry Young Man” and then, for a time fell out of the picture. Robison is no longer young but he is back and his hate-cred is intact, as is about to be demonstrated.
To lay the groundwork for what follows, examine this selection of recent headlines relating to James Robison found at Right Wing Watch:
- Robison: Wealthy Capitalists are the Victims of a Dangerous ‘Type of Racism’
- Robison will not Allow the Sinful & Immoral to Force their “Rotten Lifestyle” on America
- Robison Declares War Against ‘Secular Theocracy’
- Robison: Time for America to ‘Get out of the Pig Pen of Rotten Decisions’ and Turn Back to God
- James Robison Uses ‘The Hunger Games’ to Argue Against Same-Sex Marriage, Warns Marriage Equality Leads to ‘Bondage’
- James Robison Unleashed: Riots, Chaos and Destruction Coming to America
With that unsavory task out of the way, we can look now at a few of the things Robison tells the Falwell family and Liberty University’s faculty and student body in what is surely a masterpiece of hypocrisy.
He begins with the seemingly obligatory opening lie of course: this is de rigueur for fundamentalist discourse: “I do not endorse candidates” he announces by way of introduction. But he does endorse candidates: by denouncing the other option as a violation of God’s will he is endorsing by default. Nor is that all.
Back in 2010 EthicsDaily.com reported that Robison met with forty conservative Christian leaders in order to lay the “groundwork for a religious-political movement” like the one organized to defeat Jimmy Carter.” You remember that: Carter the Baptist turned out to be the wrong-kind of Christian, a sin he shares with Barack Obama.
The meeting was “Convened by evangelist James Robison – a key figure in the religious effort 30 years ago to promote Reagan’s candidacy – the list of attendees included many of the most prominent Christian evangelists and ministers, including several Southern Baptist leaders.” Tony Perkins, unsurprisingly, was also present.
None of this is a surprise of course but what he says in his letter to Liberty University is significant by way of comparison: “We don’t eliminate candidates because of their party, ethnicity or religious affiliation.” Isn’t that exactly what he has done to Barack Obama? This is a rule, apparently not to be applied to Barack Obama, but to be applied only to Mormons who happen to be Republicans and campaigning on a culture war platform.
He can split hairs and claim it is not Obama’s religious affiliation that he objects to but it is just a wee bit disingenuous for Robison to claim that he does not endorse candidates, let alone to pretend that he is endorsing embracing views not conducive to his own worldview. His pretended attitude is one of “sure, we all have theological differences but we must never refuse people because they are different.” His actual attitude is far different.
Now look at those headlines above from Right Wing Watch. Those are Robison’s words – his condemnations of people because they are different. Look at the language he uses: sinful and immoral, rotten, chaos, destruction, bondage.
We don’t eliminate candidates because of their party, ethnicity or religious affiliation. We examine their worldview, the principles they hold to and the policies they are likely to support. Respect for marriage, family, the preciousness of life from conception until death, and protecting our citizens, our freedom and the Constitution is critically important. Leadership is always a test of character and requires great strengths to effectively lead and deal with present failures in a principled fashion consistent with those of our founders.
He takes issue with those who “compromise the Lord’s commandments to love our neighbor, to love one another, and to love those who are considered enemies. Love can remove the barriers that so often divide.”
As you can see from those headlines above, he is not exactly living his words. He is hating, not loving, and doing his level best to divide: them versus us, the guys in the white hats versus the guys in the black: Robison will not Allow the Sinful & Immoral to Force their “Rotten Lifestyle” on America. Feel the love, my fellow Americans. If fundamentalist hate was a power source our energy needs would be met for the next century and fear of global warming a soon-to-be distant memory.
Robison, the man who will not allow, next hilariously cautions: “It is virtually impossible to effectively communicate with people who are convinced we dislike them.”
Do ya think??? Look at those headlines again, and ask yourselves why we are convinced they dislike us – sinful and immoral, rotten, chaos, destruction, bondage. This is the same sort of vitriol that they have turned against Mormonism: just as surely as Germans love David Hasselhoff, fundamentalist Christians hate Mormons.
Robison see’s his plot to unseat Obama threatened by a deeply embedded Christian dislike for Mormons; it seems the fundie masses have learned their hate too well, taken it too much to heart: it is for the formerly despised Mormons Robison wants now to share the love. He can overlook their belief that they can become gods themselves after they die but he can’t overlook Obama’s efforts to treat women and the LGBT community like equals (though even the hated Obama continues to hedge on same-sex marriage, hedging ain’t condemning).
As he says in his letter: “If we are serious about these issues, we’re going to have to work with some people and groups we have been taught not only to dislike but to despise.” It’s the old, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” routine rediscovered by a desperate old hater.
It is striking that Robison can speak of love and understanding while doubling down on one of the most vociferous and outspoken haters around, Glenn Beck, whom he somehow manages to call “one of the most powerful secular media voices for conservative values and freedom” (emphasis added).
People who disagree on theology, he says, “can work together to uphold common moral and family values.” They cannot, of course, work with people who disagree on theology if they don’t share those narrow attitudes of his toward “common moral and family values.” Thus the loving Beck can warn during a recent appearance with Robison “that America is like a ‘child being choked to death’ because the ‘scary left’ has been ‘uncorked’ and given ‘free rein.’”
“President Obama is the wrong sort of Christian,” Robison seems to be saying to Liberty University’s students; “Romney we can work with.”
“This can happen,” he insists, “if we will give love a chance and even learn to speak and discuss the truth in love that can only come from God above.” Certainly not from James Robison, as he has repeatedly demonstrated over the years of the religious right’s long war on American values.
And of course, self-martyrdom is never far from the surface with the man who claims that “the most discriminated against people on the planet are Christians today”: “There will always be some who will criticize you because they do not understand or agree. Remember, Jesus was harshly criticized and He was perfect.”
He is certainly correct in saying that “America will never have a perfect candidate for any office.” He is certainly correct in saying that “Our freedoms are at stake.” He thunders: “We must not be cowed into submission while the most godless among us impose their liberal, secular, progressive views on the American people.”
The mental acrobatics of fundamentalists and Evangelicals as they try to come to grips with the reality of Mitt Romney as their candidate is certainly amusing, but we must not lose sight of the fact that Robison himself is one of those threatening those freedoms as is Mitt Romney by his embrace of the fundamentalist culture war platform.
Robison says that “We are to become a shining city set on a hill that cannot, will not, and must not be hidden.” But his shining city on a hill is a dark and forbidding place, echoing with the faint footsteps of a departed freedom, a new Kabul rather than a new Jerusalem where we will all be slaves living in fear of people like Robison who wield their god’s anger like a sledgehammer.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.