Leader of the Christian right and televangelist Pat Robertson passes away at age 93

Pat Robertson's long-running talk programmed, The 700 Club, served as a reliable source of information about local and foreign issues for generations of conservative Christians.

Pat Robertson passes away at age 93
In 2015, Pat Robertson gave a speech at a discussion at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Robertson was a religious broadcaster who helped make religion a prominent part of Republican Party politics in America through his Christian Coalition and converted a small Virginia station into the international Christian Broadcasting Network. He also sought to run for president.

The contentious televangelist was best known for his work as a religious right architect who frequently made anti-gay remarks, a pioneer in the Christian broadcasting sector who helped Republican politicians rise to power, and for a brief period, as a politician with presidential aspirations.

The Christian Broadcasting Network stated in a statement on Thursday that Robertson passed away at home on June 8 while surrounded by family.

From pastor to political force

Robertson, an influential U.S. senator's son, was exposed to politics from an early age. However, as an ordained pastor, his origins were in the white evangelical Christian church. He established the Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN, in Virginia in 1960 while using telethons to cover expenses. In time, the network and its programmes would become widely known.

Due to the popularity of CBN, Robertson decided to create a Christian university in Virginia Beach in the late 1970s. This institution is now known as Regent University. Ten years later, he raised the bar and ran as a social and economic conservative for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination.

Despite failing, Robertson's effort raised his prominence among politically active white evangelicals. Robertson established the Christian Coalition the next year in an effort to get these people out to the polls.

Robertson was particularly adept at bolstering the political clout of the Christian right and galvanising supporters behind the causes he cared about, according to Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition.

"It is undeniable, whatever one thinks of his politics — and I was fortunate and privileged to be at his side — that he transformed the Republican party and with it American politics," Reed said.

Another organisation with a comparable aim was disintegrating at the time. Jerry Falwell, a Virginia-based political conservative pastor, created The Moral Majority in the 1970s. The president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, is his son, Jerry Falwell Jr. In a 2017 interview with NPR, Falwell Jr. said that Robertson had a significant impact in bringing the Christian right's political clout together.

They had a significant influence, he claimed. "I guess their main contribution to politics was uniting Christians as a political force," said the author.

A charismatic, divisive leader

Terry Heaton is one of Robertson's detractors, and he has remarked on how well-liked he is. In the 1980s, Heaton worked as a TV producer for Robertson, eventually moving up to become the show's executive producer.

People don't realise Pat Robertson's true brilliance at the time, according to Heaton.

The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP, a book that criticises the Christian right, was written by Heaton. Robertson established the strategy that many other conservative media figures would subsequently adopt, according to Heaton, who spoke to NPR in 2017.

Because Pat Robertson was a politician who also happened to be a televangelist, Heaton claimed, "We helped people into Republican Party politics."

Ronald Reagan was one of the presidents Robertson spoke with while in the White House. Years later, Robertson joined the ranks of other influential members of the Christian right in endorsing Donald Trump. During the 2016 election, Trump described Robertson as a "great gentleman" and said, "the job he's done is incredible" when visiting Regent University.

Before severing ties with many of them, the Rev. Rob Schenk collaborated with Pat Robertson and other evangelical leaders for years. He claims that Robertson was a mentor and mentioned the philanthropic work that Robertson carried out through Operation Blessing, a group that sends teams to assist in catastrophes like natural disasters and COVID.

Robertson, according to Schenk, is mostly to blame for the politicisation of his faith, and his influence on the culture has been negative.

Pat was a major driving factor behind the highly conservative politicisation of American evangelicalism, which, in Schenk's opinion, has been very detrimental. Especially his backing of Donald Trump. In fact, when Donald Trump attended Pat's 80th birthday celebration as Pat's guest of honour, it was the first time I ever saw him in person outside of the media. And I was astonished because I believed Donald Trump represented everything a Christian should oppose.

Robertson continued to host The 700 Club into his latter years, when he continued to stir up controversy with remarks that were frequently viewed as homophobic and racially inappropriate.

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