Yesterday morning, when tropical storm Isaac was gathering speed and looked ready to hit this year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, conservative Christian talk show host Pat Robertson was, oddly, silent. The coincidence of a second hurricane in four years to wreak havoc with a Republican convention- in 2008, Hurricane Gustav delayed the opening of the convention in St. Paul, Minnesota- at first elicited no new words of wisdom from the host of the Virginia-based television show, “The 700 Club.”
Today I learn that this was because Robertson and other concerned Christians were busy praying to avert the disaster.
When it had become clear that the full wrath of Isaac would spare Tampa for New Orleans, almost exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina, Rev. Jesten Peters appeared on Robertson’s show to say this: “We have had lots and lots of people praying around the clock that [Isaac] would move,” Rev. Jesten Peters explained. “And if you watch from the very beginning where they were saying it was coming up and now where they’re saying it’s going, then it’s really moved a lot for us, and we appreciate God doing that and moving it for us.”
By this rationale, Hurricane Katrina was merely the consequence of too few Christians directing the path of the storm with their prayers. By this rationale, any time a hurricane blows through we should be mobilizing churches- ideally only the “pro-life” ones, by Robertson’s standards- to pray away the hurricane, or at least to ask God to redirect the storm to the places that “deserve” God’s wrath. By this rationale, we believers have an insiders’ line not only to God’s ear but to God’s will- never mind that whole line in Scripture about “how anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Dubious? I think so. But more disturbing is the fact that “The 700 Club,” as one of the longest-running television shows in broadcast history, enjoys an average daily attendance of nearly 1 million viewers.
Apparently, there are a whole lot of people who subscribe to this rationale.