Robertson continues to defend Liberian dictator, but other evangelicals are critical
Liberian President Charles Taylor does not have many friends. And for good reason. The dictator has been indicted by a U.N.-related court for crimes against humanity, has fomented armed rebellion across West Africa, and has been accused of rape, mass murder, using child soldiers, and other atrocities in his days as a militia leader.
During President Bush's trip to Africa, this week, Liberia has been a top priority. He and other officials have repeatedly called for Taylor's resignation. "Until Charles Taylor is out of politics, there isn't going to be any stabilization of the situation in Liberia," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said last week. "Charles Taylor needs to leave because Charles Taylor is the problem. And Charles Taylor is, by the way, not just a problem for Liberia. … [He] has been a source of insurrection and insurgency in surrounding countries. And the efforts to make stable places like Sierre Leone, in which the British are involved, are extremely important to the stability of West Africa. So Charles Taylor is a problem on a number of fronts."
In fact, the U.S. is sending a military team to Liberia to support several West African nations' efforts to bring peace there. More U.S. forces may be sent later, but has promised not to "overextend our troops."
All of this is widely supported by American Christians, with one notable exception: broadcaster Pat Robertson.
"We're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country," he said on his 700 Club show Monday. "And how dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down."
In today's Washington Post, religion reporter Alan Cooperman looks at Robertson's most recent demonstrations of support for the dictator and his assertions that the country's "horrible bloodbath" is the result of the State Department's opposition to Taylor.
"What Robertson has not discussed in these broadcasts is his financial interest in Liberia," Cooperman writes, noting a four-year-old, $8 million agreement between Robertson and Taylor to mine gold in the country. There's a good bet that Cooperman's colleague at the Post, columnist Colbert I. King, had some input on this matter. Back in 2001, King wrote a series of columns exposing and criticizing the mining operation, called Freedom Gold.
In an interview yesterday, Robertson told Cooperman that Freedom Gold was intended to fund humanitarian and evangelical efforts in the country, such as a February 2002 Liberia for Jesus rally, where Taylor reportedly told 65,000 of his subjects, "I am not your president. Jesus is!"
"There are people who say that's phony baloney, but I thought it was sincere," Robertson told Cooperman. "He definitely has Christian sentiments, although you hear of all these rumors that he's done this or done that.
"I have never met Taylor in my life. I don't know what he has done or hasn't done. I do know he was elected by the people, and he has maintained a relatively stable government in Liberia; and they observe the rule of law; they have a working legislature; they have courts. And though he may have certain dictatorial powers, so do most leaders in Africa."
But what's phony baloney, says Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is Robertson's support of Taylor. "I would say that Pat Robertson is way out on his own, in a leaking life raft, on this one," he said.
There are several unanswered questions in this. Is Robertson shaping conservative Christian opinion on Liberia? Have conservative Christians even given much thought to what's happening in the country? Might evangelical leaders like Land, who truly care about international human rights, be proactive in countering Robertson's comments? Might this controversy demonstrate that Robertson is "way out on his own, in a leaking life raft," in another way, that is, that he's seen as a spokesman for the evangelical movement only by those outside the movement?
Minnesota pastor released from Laos prison:
- Laos frees St. Paul pastor from prison | The exact purpose of Naw-Karl Mua's trip to Laos remains in dispute (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)
- St. Paul pastor and journalists freed in Laos (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- Pastor's wife awaits his return from Laotian custody (Minnesota Public Radio)
- Pastor's wife paid Laos $2,500 to help secure his release (Associated Press)
- Release of Mua could affect Laos trade bill (Associated Press)
- Jailed pastor's wife, friends wearily await his U.S. return following Laotian custody (Associated Press)
- The importance of believing in charity | Stripping away the First Amendment rights of religious groups threatens everyone's civil liberties (Joseph Loconte, The New York Times)
- Drug czar: Give faith a chance | The U.S. official, speaking in Riverside at a Christian rehab clinic's graduation ceremony, backs federal funding for such centers (Los Angeles Times)
- Also: Drug czar speaks at Riverside program (The Press-Enterprise, inland Calif.)
- Faith-based aid providers lukewarm about federal aid | Upstate religious charities lack one thing in getting on board with President Bush's faith-based initiative — faith. Faith in the government, that is. (The Greenville News, S.C.)
Church divisions on homosexuality:
- Anglicans to meet amid homosexuality row | Bishops, clergy and lay members of the 470-year-old church will gather in the historic city of York for a General Synod — effectively a meeting of the church's parliament (Reuters)
- Evangelicals' money is root of problem | The decision by Dr Jeffrey John to step down as Bishop of Reading does not end the financial threat from evangelicals to the future of the Church of England (The Times, London)
- Church's two wings are locked in moral combat | Ignoring the plea of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that there should be "pause for thought" to reflect on all that has happened, liberals and evangelicals issued combative statements over the direction of the Church of England (The Times, London)
- Schism could be a saving grace for the Church | Rowan Williams seemed like a wild card, an inspirer, a holy man from the West come to revive the faith. Alas, the dreadful suspicion grows that he is just another Archbishop of Canterbury. (Libby Purves, The Times, London)
- Archbishop look-alike teddy weeps | One of the limited edition teddy bears made in the image of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has started to weep (BBC)
- Gay choir leader's firing turns into a test of faith | Dismissal of popular director has brought disharmony to the flock at Rockford parish (Chicago Tribune)
- Survey highlights dissent at Baylor | Majority of tenured professors don't support school's direction (Houston Chronicle)
- Also: Missing player increases Baylor's woes | The disappearance of Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy comes at a time when the nation's largest Baptist university was already embroiled in controversy or intrigue (Associated Press)
- Earlier: 2012: A School Odyssey | Baylor strives to go where no Christian university has gone before—in ten years. (Christianity Today, Nov. 22, 2002)
- Boca seminary attracts a diverse crowd | Classes are open to people of any age or faith (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
- Appeals court sides with reform school | The decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an 18-month-old preliminary injunction granted to Heartland Christian Academy after authorities raided the school in October 2001 and removed 115 students, citing concerns over child abuse (Associated Press)
- Reviewing the books | Validity of evolution at issue as state considers adopting new biology texts (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)
- Players work hard at both football and religious studies | There is more to Evangel Christian Academy's system than X's and O's (USA Today)
- Supreme foolishness in Alabama | Roy Moore's ignorance of the Constitution is bad enough. Let's pray he doesn't shame his state further by trying to defy a federal court (Editorial, Chicago Tribune)
- Also: Alabama's ayatollah | The chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court defied the Constitution when he placed a stone copy of the Ten Commandments in a state judicial building (Editorial, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)
- Also: Moore lost case, won popularity | Commandments battle may help him if he seeks re-election or higher office, say political experts (Birmingham [Ala.] Post-Herald, second item)
- Focus turns to high court and commandments | Supremes may hold to conservative view on Ten Commandments (Marianne Means)
- Cornerstone Church Pastor Hagee has prospered along with his organization | Hagee's total compensation package from the TV ministry and the church amounted to more than $1.25 million (San Antonio Express-News)
- No patterns for church giving in recessionary times | Tithing is down across the board (Grand Island Independent, Neb.)
- Florida pastor now 'open' to lead SBC | The Rev. Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., probably will be nominated to be the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention (The Tennessean, Nashville)
- Tourists bring welcome worship challenges | Summer visitors keep clergy at places of worship near vacation destinations on their toes (Chicago Tribune/Dallas Morning News)
- Politely, a cathedral battles to keep modern scrawlings off a wall's historic bricks | St. Patrick's Old Cathedral has decided to appeal to the sympathy of the perpetrators (The New York Times)
- Why are more teens returning to church? | Over the last quarter century, polls have shown teens are more avid churchgoers than adults (The Daily Journal, Kankakee, Ill.)
- Roaming church to build a home | A planned sanctuary would nurture what may become Spring Hill's first black congregation (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)
- In Texas, parishioners protest church firings | Dismissed lay workers accuse bishop of trying to break labor union contracts (The Washington Post)
- Fury, God and the pastor's disbelief | A popular Lutheran pastor's atheistic remarks and subsequent suspension have set off a tsunami of theological discourse across Denmark. (The New York Times)
- Church to debate African customs | South African Christian Leadership Assembly will "re-evaluate church's value system and identify how African values can be incorporated into Christianity" (Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Missions and ministries:
- Missionary volunteers are growing in ranks | Many see benefits for others, but also see benefits for themselves (The Dallas Morning News)
- Ministering to men on the move | Chaplain, volunteers tend to transient flock at truck stop, wives via internet (The Washington Post)
- Messianic Judaists to convene in Kansas City (Kansas City Star)
- Bikers For Christ burning rubber across the tri-state to save lost souls | Dale Bolling and his wife Nessa, a hairdresser, researched dozens of motorcycle ministries before deciding to start a Bikers For Christ chapter in Dothan in the spring of 2002 (The Dothan Eagle, Ala.)
- With hymns, prayers, Hong Kong Christians demonstrate against soccer betting | Praying that Hong Kong will avoid what they call the evils of soccer gambling, about two dozen Christians on Tuesday began an all-night vigil outside legislative chambers (Associated Press)
- Aid agencies put pressure on Malawi churches over gender rights | Norwegian Church Aid and Danish Church Aid threaten to pull funding unless churches "respect the rights of women and other vulnerable groups" (African Church Information Service)
- Foundation supports kicking the habit | Christian Community Youth Against Drugs Foundation graduates 29 former addicts (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans)
- Teens let their light shine at midnight in park | The Conference on Evangelizing Black America's youth evangelism rally attracted between 300 and 400 teens and preteens—both white and black (The Roanoke Times, Va.)
- Archdiocese will dedicate center to aid immigrants | While the new influx is helping the Catholic Church grow, the church is facing increased competition from Pentecostal and evangelical churches that have made inroads in winning over Hispanic Catholics (The Denver Post)
- Piety with a punch line | Brad Stine can be as edgy as the best of them, but he feels comedy has a higher calling (The Orlando Sentinel\)
- Magic with a mission | Magician Danny Ray has no illusions about his message (Redlands Daily Facts, Calif.)
Vacation Bible school:
- Bible school in a box | Big demand for creative programming (The Washington Post)
- The ABCs of VBS | This summer tradition features creative curriculum, eager children and hard-working volunteers (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
- Nuns seek to copyright Mother Teresa's name | Missionaries of Charity trying to stop other organizations — from banks to business schools — trying to cash in on the Nobel peace laureate's image worldwide (Reuters)
- Raphael I Bidawid, spiritual leader of Iraqi Chaldean Catholics, dies at 81 | The cause of death was not announced (Los Angeles Times)
- Disabled woman dies while trying to escape fire | She was an evangelical Christian, and neighbors often saw her walking slowly away from her house, on her way to preach or give food to people up and down 86th Street (The New York Times)
- Tom Green, Christian television program producer, dies at 55 | Was best known as the host of the "Lightmusic" video show and as co-creator of "His Place," a soap opera and talk show set in a diner (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
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