Christian Coalition: Missing in Action?

The Christian Coalition is missing in political action. Is it Pat Robertson's fault?

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., Nov. 3 (RNS)-- He may be the prime suspect in the death ofthe religious right, but Pat Robertson isn't about to let all theaccusations -- much less a guilty conscience -- keep him up at night.

"The Bible says, `If a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even hisenemies to be at peace with him,"' the televangelist says, quotingProverbs and flashing a smile that somehow manages to project "awshucks" and ambition at the same time.

Robertson is sitting in a wingback chair in his office, a tastefullyappointed room that is the command center of an empire consisting ofequal parts gospel, big business and Republican politics.

On the walls are photos of Robertson with pols and potentates, plusframed tabloid headlines from Robertson's 1988 run for the GOPnomination.

That campaign flamed out, but from its ashes Robertson raised up theChristian Coalition, a grass-roots lobby that for nearly a decadeharnessed the rage and frustration of the Christian right and madeRobertson one of the most feared -- and loathed -- figures in Americanpolitics.

"I try my best to please other people," the preacher insists. "But,"he adds, "that is secondary."


At this point, that is probably a smart strategy for Robertson. Withthe presidential election coming down to the wire, the ChristianCoalition is missing in political action, and it couldn't come at aworse time.

In the past, the coalition was able to mobilize thousands of votersto provide critical margins in key swing states. Indeed, until two yearsago, the Christian Coalition had been the main organizing force behindthe religious right, the most important conservative political movementof the last generation.

Its failure at this juncture is a bitter pill for Christianconservatives who have waited eight long years to put an end to the eraof the despised Bill Clinton and his proxy, Al Gore, and the target oftheir outrage is clear.

"Pat, in my eyes, is the Jim Bakker of the religious politicalscene," says Paul Nagy, a former Robertson aide and moral conservativewho recently worked as a political consultant for Steve Forbes. "He'sabout power and ego. I think there is a lot of guilt in Pat Robertsonbecause he's not the man he thinks he is.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say he's not a Christian, but he's notmy kind of Christian. And that really bothers me."

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David Gibson
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