Pat Robertson, a prominent figure in the religious right movement and a well-known televangelist, has passed away at the age of 93. Robertson was recognized by conservative Christians as he guided them through various aspects of domestic and international affairs on his talk show, The 700 Club. However, he was also known for his controversial anti-gay remarks and played a significant role in shaping the religious right movement.
Robertson’s journey began as the son of a powerful U.S. senator, growing up in a political environment. Despite this, his primary roots were in the white evangelical Christian church, where he became an ordained pastor. In 1960, he established the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which gained widespread success through telethons and expanded its reach globally. In the late 1970s, Robertson founded Regent University, formerly known as a Christian college. A decade later, he made a bid for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, advocating for social and fiscal conservatism. Although his campaign was unsuccessful, it elevated his standing among politically active white evangelicals. Subsequently, Robertson founded the Christian Coalition in 1989 to mobilize these voters and exert political influence.
Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, commended Robertson’s ability to build the political strength of the Christian right and unite voters around the issues he cared about. Reed acknowledged that Robertson’s influence had transformed the Republican Party and American politics as a whole. At the same time, another politically conservative group, the Moral Majority, led by Jerry Falwell, was dissolving. Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of Jerry Falwell, recognized Robertson’s significant role in consolidating the political power of the Christian right, bringing Christians together as a political force.
Critics of Robertson, such as Terry Heaton, a former TV producer for The 700 Club, highlighted his remarkable following and influence. Heaton believed that Robertson was a brilliant figure who wrote the playbook for many other conservative media personalities who followed in his footsteps. He emphasized how Robertson’s role was not solely that of a televangelist but also that of a politician. Throughout his career, Robertson had the opportunity to interview presidents, including Ronald Reagan, and later became a supporter of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.
Rev. Rob Schenck, who worked closely with Robertson and other evangelical leaders before distancing himself from them, recognized Robertson as a mentor. Schenck acknowledged the charitable work that Robertson conducted through Operation Blessing, an organization providing aid during emergencies and natural disasters. However, Schenck also held Robertson accountable for contributing to the politicization of evangelical Christianity and believed that his impact on the culture was largely detrimental. He specifically criticized Robertson’s support for Donald Trump, seeing it as contrary to Christian values.
In his later years, Robertson continued to host The 700 Club and faced controversy due to comments that were often regarded as anti-gay and racially insensitive. His son, Gordon Robertson, defended him against political criticism and argued that his father’s contributions were unfairly overshadowed by negative public perception.
Overall, Pat Robertson played a significant role in the religious right movement, utilizing his platform as a televangelist to shape the political landscape and mobilize conservative Christians. While his influence was widely recognized, he also faced criticism for his controversial statements and alignment with certain political figures.