On yesterday’s episode of The 700 Club, 91-year-old Pat Robertson announced that he’s finally retiring — 60 years after starting the Christian Broadcasting Network and 54 years after becoming the host of the network’s flagship show.
He’ll still appear for monthly question-and-answer sessions, but his son Gordon (who typically hosts the show one day a week) will take over the position full-time.
Starting in October, he will appear on a monthly, interactive episode of The 700 Club, to answer viewer emails. He will also remain available for occasional broadcast appearances as a senior consultant on international affairs.
Robertson looks forward to devoting his energy and experience full-time to helping train and equip members of the 11,000-strong student body of Regent University as they are preparing to become “Christian Leaders to Change the World”.
Maybe the most surprising thing about him stepping down is that it didn’t happen until now. There were plenty of opportunities to do it earlier and it would’ve prevented all kinds of controversies. I’m hesitant to say more because this isn’t an obituary.
But here’s a fact that many Christian outlets won’t tell you: Atheists may have just lost one of their greatest “recruiting” tools. For decades, Robertson has been one of the most prominent evangelicals in the country… as well as one of the most embarrassing. Pointing to the insane shit he said over the years was a simple way to show people the irrationality of his faith.
Robertson, after all, is someone who said feminism led women to “leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” He called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He said towels carry AIDS, that mass shootings could be blamed on godlessness and liberals, and that he’s being dominated by homosexuals.
I’m going to stop there only because there’s no way to get through the litany of ridiculous claims he’s made over the years. And I haven’t even mentioned his insistence that he once leg-pressed 2,000 pounds… which no one in their right mind believes.
If we’ve learned anything from Robertson, it’s that if you give right-wing Christians a platform for long enough, they’ll very quickly and very often say things that will come back to haunt them — and hurt their own cause. When CBN first came on the air in 1960, the nation was roughly 67% Protestant. That percentage today is 37%. In that same time span, the “Nones” have gone from 2% of the country to 20%.
Robertson didn’t do that alone. But he sure as hell helped. And when his show became available online, to a wider audience than just on CBN, far more people were able to see how devout faith could lead to utterly absurd conclusions.
Gordon Robertson may share the same political and social views, but he’s more or less avoided putting his foot in his mouth. The 700 Club won’t be the same. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of other well-known Christians with large platforms and small brains eager to carry the baton.