Three Celebrities and a Funeral
Gordon MacDonald brings together Gerald Ford, Pat Robertson, and Oprah as he asks what real Christian behavior looks like.

I took a bit of morning time to watch President Ford's funeral service as it was televised from the National Cathedral. There was music (Christian hymns which have buoyed the heart for many generations) sung and played with a beauty, a grandeur, and an artistic excellence that made the soul soar. There were scriptures-so appropriately selected-read with great dignity. There were eulogies (marked with affection, historical reminiscence and humor) that reminded one that Gerald Ford was a very good man. Words like decent, nice, and principled were used more than once to describe his character. All in all, it was a cleansing experience to watch that funeral.

Then later in the day, my wife, Gail, called me down from my study to watch a few minutes of Oprah Winfrey who has brought into being a school in South Africa which will train hundreds of girls who come from the deepest poverty, from abuse and molestation and AIDS-dominated circumstances. The gleaming smiles on the girls' faces, their alertness in responding to questions, and their simple girlish beauty was stirring, arousing tears. All in all it was an inspirational experience to see what Ms Winfrey has accomplished through her compassion and determination to help others avoid the kind of background out of which she came.

Then in the evening on the national news came the report that Pat Robertson was informing our nation of a word he has received from God to wit that several million Americans (who knows where or how) would perish in some unspeakable disaster in 2007.

I must be frank here - what kind of a god tells someone, "there's going to be a big disaster in the next 12 months, but I'm not going to tell you when, or where, or who." When God told Abraham about an impending disaster, he mentioned the place: Sodom. Couldn't he have done the same this time?

Three experiences in one day: one about a man of whom President Bush said, "he brought grace to a nation in grave doubt." Another about a woman who decided to invest in the future of some remarkable girls. And a third about a man and his "god" who speaks vaguely about the doom of millions.

When I was a child, the people in my church would have disparaged a Gerry Ford who smoked a pipe and said "damn" on occasion. "Couldn't be a Christian," they would have said. But his achievements and personhood as celebrated in his funeral speak to me of what the Biblical tradition said of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus: he was a righteous man.

The people in my sub-culture would have put distance between themselves and Oprah citing a few aspects of her private life that they would have found totally unacceptable.

January 10, 2007

Displaying 1–6 of 6 comments


February 05, 2007  1:23am

Thanks JB, I was worried that no one else found that particular juxtaposition wrong. Else it is particularly worrying, is it not, that Gordon and CT appear to tell us that Pat, who reminds us of the grace of the Christ, our need for Jesus, is in any way a worse example for us than Oprah, the modern world's high priestess of relativism, humanism, mysticism, who denies the authority of scripture, who tells the gays that they're not wrong. How could that comparison have been made in the first place? Pat encourages and builds my faith; Oprah preaches to too many people that ethics and morals are relative. Pat is a defender of (I believe he also prays for) your country; was (I believe) a marine in the Korean war; and he was compared to Oprah! It is outrageous.

Report Abuse


January 22, 2007  11:53am

Daniel, I think we make our comments about Pat Robertson because we HAVE really listened to him. I realize that whether or not Christians should criticize others who call themselves Christians is a touchy subject; however, Christian leaders really dropped the ball by not going after Fred Phelps earlier than they did. They let him get away with his bad theology and and worse actions for years before someone timidly said, Maybe we should say we don't agree with Fred Phelps. By that time a lot of damage was doing to the name of Christ. Pat Robertson is no Fred Phelps, but I do think Christian leaders should rally themselves and say, Pat Robertson doesn't speak for us. In fact, we think he is a false prophet. Unless, of course, they agree with him, and then we're really in trouble.

Report Abuse


January 22, 2007  9:04am

Perhaps the unspeakable disaster Pat Robertson spoke of was abortion, which takes the lives of millions of Americans every year.

Report Abuse


January 12, 2007  5:54am

I guess all of you criticizing Pat Robertson have never watched his show. If you did you would have found the 700 Club lifted you up in your faith and encouraged you. The most committed critics of a person are those who will listen to him to him least. Futher you would have found that Pat's ministry meets serious individual needs around the world all year. Sorry but I can't resist reminding you of what I believe one person above tried to say: If you give even a cup of water in My name - note - note in the name of humanity or any other name. Giving alone does not cut it; we must ask who's name the giver seeks to glorify.

Report Abuse


January 11, 2007  12:43pm

I've posted on Pat Robertson at least twice on my blog, and neither post was favorable. I would not label his faith particularly "orthodox," but then what constitutes "orthodox" varies depending on who is defining it. Gerald Ford had consistent character. He was also Episcopalian, I believe. Oprah seems to have a heart to help people. Good for her. Mr. Robertson...well, I guess he likes attention. In the biblical descriptions of the judgment I can't help but notice, especially in Matthew 25, how the emphasis is on help extended to those in need, rather than on whom you have believed. This isn't to say that personal faith is not necessary, but lets not discount the acts of good done by those surprised, at the end of time, that they had done these things for Jesus.

Report Abuse


January 10, 2007  12:02pm


Report Abuse
  • Seeing God on the Silver Screen
    An interview with Kevin Harvey on how engaging pop culture might be the best way to share the gospel.
  • Have Stethoscope, Will Travel
    Nurse Kelly Sites talks about her experience battling Ebola overseas
  • Actively Seeking Change
    Daniel Ryan Day talks to us about his attempt to live intentionally different
  • Digging For Truth
    Josh McDowell on the Bible's truthworthiness, the internet, and the future of the church