Prominent Christian evangelist Pat Robertson died in his home in Virginia on June 8 at the age of 93. Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and tried a run for president.
Robertson used cable television to push a conservative and fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. “He shattered the stain glass window,” TD Jakes, a Dallas pastor said in CBN’s statement. “People of faith were taken seriously beyond the church house and into the White House.”
For decades, the televangelist hosted a CBN talk show, “The 700 Club” that offered prayers and political commentary. The show became a staple in most American living rooms.
“His greatest treasure in life was knowing Jesus Christ and having the privilege of proclaiming Him and His powers to others,” CBN said in a statement.
Robertson also founded the Christian Coalition of America in 1989 to promote Christian values in the country. It then became a major political force that influenced Republican politics. The coalition provided endorsements and much needed financial and organizational support to candidates who share the same views on critical issues such as abortion and “traditional” values.
John C. Green, an emeritus political science professor at the University of Akron, called Robertson’s impact on the religious and political arenas in the U.S. as “enormous.” The late evangelist was a master tactician that he started the strategy—now commonly used, of courting Iowa’s network of evangelical Christian churches to further one’s political ambition.
Robertson campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988 with a petition, huge contributions, and an army of 3 million followers across America. “He asked people to pledge that they’d work for him, pray for him and give him money,” said Robertson biographer Jeffrey K. Hadden. “Political historians may view it as one of the most ingenious things a candidate ever did.”
He failed to take over the Republican party, but his campaign showed that evangelical Christians were a force to reckon with in Republican politics.
Controversy surrounded Robertson when he infused religion to politics. He was criticized for his on-air pronouncements in The 700 Club and other contentious statements such as natural disasters are caused by people’s sins. He believed that God caused the terrorist attacks on 9/11 which claimed thousands of American lives. He said God was angered by the federal courts, pornography, abortion rights and church-state separation.
In 2005, he called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, and explained Israel’s former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke in 2006 as God’s punishment for giving land back to Palestinians. He later apologized and claimed to have been misquoted.
Robertson also was the founder and chairman of International Family Entertainment Inc., parent of The Family Channel basic cable TV network. He wrote 15 books, including “The Turning Tide” and “The New World Order.”