January 19, 2006
Holy Moly! Robertson Apologizes
The Rev. Pat Robertson has long preached as though God is on his side -- including when he recently cast the stroke suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as God's punishment for "dividing" the Holy Land by pulling Israel out of Gaza.
But last week, Robertson apparently decided that he'd better have the government of Israel on his side, too, especially if he wants to build a sprawling evangelical center on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
In a letter to Sharon's sons, Robertson asked forgiveness for his comments.
"My zeal, my love of Israel, and my concern for the future safety of your nation led me to make remarks which I can now view in retrospect as inappropriate and insensitive in light of a national grief experienced because of your father's illness," Robertson wrote.
He also mentioned his concern over the danger to Israel posed by two terrorist groups -- Hamas and Hezbollah -- as well as by Iran and international anti-Semitism.
In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said he believed that Robertson had taken to heart the outrage over his comments.
"I felt he was very sincere. He is a great friend of Israel," Ayalon said.
Ayalon added that he expected that Robertson will again be allowed to participate in the evangelical project. Plans for the site include an auditorium, a broadcast center and a chapel, as well as paths to connect holy sites, according to the Associated Press.
Robertson's contrition did not arrive in time to head off a rebuke by David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.
"Robertson's comment," he said, "reflects the height of insensitivity and is also a perfect example of what happens when theological fanaticism clouds good judgment."
And there was this from fellow evangelical Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission: "I am both stunned and appalled that Pat Robertson would claim to know the mind of God concerning whether particular tragic events, such as former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995 or Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke, were the judgments of God."
On the other hand, the episode does suggest a name for Robertson's proposed theme park: Holier-Than-Thou Land.