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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pat Robertson and the Mediocrity of Evangelical Extremism

From time to time, Dignan gives his posse required readings. This week's readings included the latest from the always-good-for-a-cultural-counter-strike, Pat Robertson. Though not usually inclined to contend with Mr. Robertson, I did have a couple thoughts on this latest statement about the satanic nature of Islam.

The first is, why does Robertson identify "radical Islam" as satanic? The second, related to the first, is what does he mean by "satanic"? Biblically, any power or authority that rebels against the lordship and sovereignty of God is satanic. Culturally, I think we usually use the term literally when the rebellion is self-consciously identified with the person of Satan and figuratively when we want to denounce something as extremely evil from some standard or another.

Biblically, satanic rebellion is so commonplace it hardly warrants use of the term, unless it can be done with adequate emotive force. Which brings me back to the first question. Why is Robertson singling out "radical" Islam? Biblically, everything from Wahhabism to secular Islam is satanic. I know of no sect of Islam that self-consciously identifies with the person of Satan. So, Robertson must be using it in the cultural, figurative sense of "extremely evil", with that delightful aura of Christian-ghetto surrounding it.


Unfortunately, Robertson's rhetoric is insufficiently radical. All he's communicating is: "The Islamists that use terror tactics are really, really evil in light of my Christian moral standards." If he wanted to say something radical, he should have said "Those who, without repenting, follow any form of Islam, radical or secular, are children of Satan and will be condemned to eternal hell fire, to suffer grievous torments in soul and body without ceasing on the Day of Judgment". At least, then, his statement would have been biblical.

Personally, in identifying the spiritual motivation behind Islam, I prefer this response.

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