Late yesterday afternoon, I received a call from Godbeat veteran Alan Cooperman of the Washington Post, who was working on an update about the status of the National Religious Broadcasters and the Rev. Pat Robertson. I don't think it would hurt to say that he wanted to know if I would talk about some of the things that have been said about the czar of The 700 Club on this website, which I assume means this post, this one and especially this one. It also seems that it's hard to find powerful evangelicals, other than the quotable Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who are willing to say much about Robertson today. People are not rushing to defend him and they are not eager, perhaps thinking about that cable-TV niche audience, to go on the record criticizing him, either. I told Cooperman that, in this case, theology will eventually trump politics. Many traditional Christians are very upset about the warped theology of what Robertson has been saying about prayer, God, Israel and other related topics (even theodicy).
Anyway, a story by Cooperman did end up in the paper today. Here it is (please scroll down):
If evidence is needed that the Rev. Pat Robertson's shoot-from-the-hip approach to world affairs has embarrassed some of his fellow evangelicals, it comes from the recently concluded convention of the National Religious Broadcasters.
Robertson, 75, a longtime member of the NRB's board of directors, failed to win reelection despite good odds: He was one of about 36 candidates running for 33 seats, NRB President Frank Wright said.
Wright said the elections usually hinge on the relative strength of radio, television and Internet broadcasters, so Robertson might have lost simply because he is a TV guy. But Wright acknowledged that there also was dissatisfaction with Robertson's recent call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his assertion that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was God's punishment for the ceding of land to the Palestinians.
"I would say that there was broad dismay with some of Pat's comments and a feeling they were not helpful to Christian broadcasters in general, but by no means was there any broad effort in our association to dissociate ourselves with him," Wright said.
Robertson did not reply to calls for comment.
I say, 33 seats and only 36 candidates?
Here is my question: This strikes me as a rather important story if (a) Robertson is a very power mainstream evangelical and this shows cracks in his power or (b) he has, in fact, lost most of his mainstream political and cultural power and this is proof of that. What is the scenario that turns this into a brief, without a headline? Robertson fatigue?
By the way, the top brief in this WashingtonPost.com news item is also interesting. Personally, I think the most important questions concern Pope Benedict XVI's "brand of Roman Catholicism." I refer to the lead on that brief:
Still reeling from the attacks on Sen. John F. Kerry's brand of Roman Catholicism during the 2004 presidential race, 55 House Democrats issued a joint statement yesterday on the central role that the Catholic faith plays in their public lives. The signers said they were fed up with being labeled "good Catholics" or "bad Catholics" based on one issue -- abortion.