Sunday, January 15, 2006

Combining Truth AND Love in the Robertson Flap: More than a Robert Smiegel SNL Cartoon

"Saturday Night Live" began their 1/14/06 show with a tasteless Robert Smiegel animated attack on Pat Robertson and his latest lapse into foot-in-mouth disease. Unfortunately, thanks to Robertson's egregious breech of comity and Christian decency, it opened the door for a much wider target of evangelicals generally. The piece went well beyond the issue of Robertson, even slandering Jesus Christ in the process. Thoughtful evangelicals have already weighed in on this topic, both critiquing Pat and distancing themselves from his viewpoint. One insightful commentator, Joel Belz of "World Magazine," offered some of the best advice yet. Part of what he said can be found below:

The folks at NRB didn't ask for my advice on the matter. But because the issue comes up so often in a variety of contexts, I want to agree here with both parties in the debate.

On the one hand, there's no doubt this is a public issue—and that Matthew 18 has only limited application. Mr. Robertson's offensive comments were as public as they could have been. NRB is a public organization, serving millions of people. The whole matter is literally an issue of public relations. So the solution to the problem must, by its very character, be a public solution.

On the other hand, private face-to-face meetings are typically a very sound preface to going public. Go public without such a meeting, and all you have to report is that you have an embarrassing difference. Have the private meeting first, and you may be able to announce that you've found a way to resolve the embarrassing difference—or even that retractions and apologies have been offered.

Biblical principles are almost never offered as formulas to be applied in a sterile and clinical manner. And more often than we like, biblical principles don't force us into an "either-or" mode so much as they do a "both-and" style of thinking. In this case—as in so many that we find ourselves in along the way—Pat Robertson needs a dose of truth and a dose of love. The secular public knows too little of such a combination.

Copyright © 2006 WORLD MagazineJanuary 21, 2006, Vol. 21, No. 3

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