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!"

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"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?

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Faith-based initiative:

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Church divisions on homosexuality:

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  • 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)

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Ten Commandments:

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  • 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)

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Church life:

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Missions and ministries:

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Vacation Bible school:

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  • The ABCs of VBS | This summer tradition features creative curriculum, eager children and hard-working volunteers (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Mother Teresa®:

  • 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)


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