NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Comments by Pat Robertson regarding the medical condition of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were arrogant and insensitive, a Southern Baptist leader said Jan.6.
“I am both stunned and appalled that Pat Robertson would claim to know the mind of God concerning whether particular tragic events, such as former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995 or Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke, were the judgments of God,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Pat Robertson should know better,” Land added.
In remarks aired on his Jan. 5 television program, “The 700 Club,” Robertson seemed to suggest that Sharon’s stoke was the result of the prime minister’s decision to have Israel withdraw from the Gaza Strip last year. In the same program, Robertson referred to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who, like Sharon, had agreed that giving land to the Palestinians should be a part of the peace process.
“It was a terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless he was dead,” Robertson said of Rabin.
“God considers this land to be His. You read the Bible and He says, ‘This is my land,’ and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, ‘No, this is mine,’” Robertson is quoted as saying in press reports.
Sharon suffered a massive stroke Jan. 4 and remains in serious condition in a Jerusalem hospital. The Israeli leader suffered a mild stoke Dec. 18 and, prior to the second stroke, was to undergo surgery to repair a hole in his heart.
“A far greater expert on God’s will than Pat Robertson will ever be, the Apostle Paul, declared, ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?,’” Land said, quoting Romans 11:33-34.
Land said whether or not a particular event is God’s judgment is something that Paul said is “past finding out” because no one has “known the mind of the Lord.”
“Even if one agreed with Pat Robertson’s position that the Israelis do not have the right to grant part of the Holy Land to the Palestinians, it would be well beyond Rev. Robertson’s competence to discern that these tragic events were in any way, shape or form the result of God’s judgment on any individuals,” continued Land, who hosts a weekly syndicated call-in radio program, “Richard Land Live!”
“I am almost as shocked by Pat Robertson’s arrogance as I am by his insensitivity,” Land added, noting he had conducted a small informal poll among students and faculty on the issue at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., while on campus to teach a class.
“I did not find one person who agreed with Pat Robertson and who was not both embarrassed and incensed by his comments,” Land said.
During the telecast, Robertson said, “Sharon was personally a very likeable person and I am sad to see him in this condition,” noting he had prayed with the prime minister in the past. Robertson also said in Scripture the prophet Joel “makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who ‘divide my land.’”
“But here he’s at the point of death. [Sharon] was dividing God’s land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, ‘This land belongs to Me. You’d better leave it alone,’” Robertson said.
Land was not alone in criticizing Robertson.
A White House spokesman said, “Those comments are wholly inappropriate and offensive and really don’t have a place in this or any other debate.”
According to the Associated Press, the Anti-Defamation League and others took aim at Robertson for his comments.
A press release issued by Robertson’s office noted Robertson had met with Sharon at “significant times and considers him a friend.” It said Robertson was a “lifelong supporter of Israel and has continually expressed grave concern over dividing the land of Israel.”
According to a spokesperson for Robertson, the evangelist was “simply reminding his viewers what the Bible has to say about efforts made to divide the land of Israel.”
Speaking for Robertson, Angell Watts, criticized those who “lift his comments out of context and widely circulate them in an attempt to discredit him.”