For a few weeks in 1987, it looked as if a conservative Christiancould give secular politicians a real battle for the Americanpresidency. Televangelist Pat Robertson, the host of the 700 Club andcreator of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), won three earlycaucuses including victories in Michigan and South Carolina and hadgathered more campaign funds than most rivals.
Like many evangelicals, Robertson wanted to see Christian valuesbrought into the American political arena. Recent court decisions hadleft conservatives feeling America was no longer their country. Prayerhad been banned from schools; the ten commandments removed fromeducational establishments; abortion legalized; pornography permitted;and many other social, economic and international trends contrary to thefaith were granted governmental support at taxpayers' expense. Thosetaxpayers included many persons of Robertson's persuasion.
CBN's 700 Club had 12 million viewers. Those who tuned in saw a manwho spoke articulately of national and international issues, financesand Christian values. His newscasts presented an alternative to themainstream media. Inspirational stories were reenacted before camerasfor watching millions. Belief in God's power to answer prayer withmiracles was strong. Robertson also "prophesied," but thepredictions were unimpressive. Faith healing was part of his show. Hewould pray rather generically for "someone out there" with aneck, back, heart or other problem and claim that the person would behealed. Listeners wrote in saying they were healed at the moment heprayed.
His was a devoted audience. The question was, could Pat Robertson puttogether a coalition sufficient to challenge for the presidency? Histhree early wins suggested he might. Effective on September 29, 1987,he resigned from his ministries to pursuethe presidency with all of his vigor. He also resigned his credentialsas an ordained minister.
Robertson had politics in his blood and background. His father hadbeen a senator and he himself had worked in various politicalcapacities. Yet he had a "God-shaped vacuum" in his life. Hisprayerful mother and a Baptist missionary led him to Christ. "Ibelieved Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world and my sins, too,and it was like a light went on!" He had been contemplating suicidebut now found new direction and joy.
As we know, Robertson did not win the nomination. George Bush (thefather) did. Robertson stumbled badly when allegations surfaced that hehad used his senator father's influence as a young man to evadedangerous military service. After that his presidency faded. He was soonback at CBN. Nonetheless, his bid for presidency was valuable. It gaveconservative Christians a chance to air their values in the publicarena. Many who otherwise felt disenfranchised in the United Statesobtained a sense that someone out there spoke for them after all.
After Robertson returned to CBN he built it into The Family Channeland secularized it. He later sold The Family Channel and it's parent,International Family Entertainment, for over one and a half billiondollars. The buyer was media magnate, Rupert Murdock. Years after hisbid for the presidency, Robertson hurt his image by making a number ofradical public statements, including one which seemed to call for theassassination of Venezuela's president.
- Christian Century Oct 21, 1987.
- Current Biography. Bronx, New York, H. W. Wilson Co., 1987.
- Gross, Ernie. This Day in Religion. New York, New York:Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1990.
Last updated May, 2007.