Some people start the new year making resolutions: I’ll go to the gym and not just spend five minutes on the exercise bike, I won’t eat whole gallons of ice cream, I’ll be kinder to children and animals and so on.
Other people, however, have grander designs. They like to make predictions. In the last few days, several “prophets” have gone out on a limb, each basing their conclusions on spiritual messages and allegedly divine communication.
First up was Antonio Vazquez, who calls himself “the Grand Warlock of Mexico.” He uses tarot cards and observations of the stars. He has concluded that two more Latin American leaders will be diagnosed with cancer (five others have been hit by cancer in recent years) and that the Institutional Revolutionary Party will again rule Mexico after July’s election, having been ousted in 2000.
Vazquez claims to be pretty accurate. He says he predicted last year that the euro would weaken and there would be worsening recession in major economies. But he missed some as well, telling reporters at the start of 2011 that a Latin American leader would be assassinated that year.
Just days after Vazquez’s predictions, the Rev. Pat Robertson, who routinely goes on a retreat and speaks with God at the end of the year, offered some of the Almighty’s insights. During a Jan. 3 appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson related that God had told him the outcome of the 2012 presidential race - but he refuses to share the news.
“I think He showed me the next president, but I’m not supposed to talk about that so I’ll leave you in the dark-probably just as well-but I think I know who it is going to be,” Robertson said.
Now I realize this may sound like Robertson is hedging (two “I thinks” instead of “I know positively, for a fact, without question”), but the Virginia Beach TV preacher also cited some other words from God that do make it pretty clear that President Barack Obama is not going to see a second term.
According to God via Pat: “Your president holds a radical view of the direction of your country which is at odds with the majority.” I am not a statistician but can certainly understand how if the majority of the country is not with you, you are not going to win a two-person contest. But it’s possible if you have a few other candidates thrown as we saw in 2000 with Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan and the fellow who wins the most votes (remember Al Gore?) actually doesn’t win. So there is some room for not reading Pat’s communication as a guarantee of no second term for Barack Obama.
If we are going to look at the track record of Warlock Vazquez, we ought to do the same for Brother Robertson. It’s not so good. In 2004, he reported that God had given the election to George Bush “in a blowout.” I noted to a Washington Post reporter at the time that “perhaps he was talking to Karl Rove and only thought it was God.” Of course, 2004 wasn’t a blowout, but Bush did win. Give him half credit.
In 2006, Robertson claimed a “word of knowledge” that devastating hurricanes would hit American shores, but he was wrong; none made landfall. In 2007, Robertson relayed divine information of a terrorist attack on American soil with millions killed. This didn’t happen, but he had an explanation (of sorts): “So, did I miss it? Possibly. Or, on the other hand, did God avert it? Possibly. But, whatever, it didn’t happen, so I think we can all rejoice.” I don’t know about everybody, but I certainly concurred that avoiding biological, chemical or nuclear catastrophe is a pretty good thing to get happy about.
But there is more. In a clear parallel to this week’s remarks, Robertson explained God’s thinking on elections back in 2008: “He told me some things about the election, but I’m not going to say…I’m not going to tell you who the winner’s going to be.”
I have a few ideas for Pat. I might even call him about this. First, wouldn’t it help your track record if you had at least told us who was going to win the Iowa caucuses? And it would have been even better to have noted the margin between vote getters one and two-even just to say “fewer than ten” would have been a win in my book.
Or, on the bigger question of the general election, there are some things Pat could do to boost his credibility. In December of 2007, my friend the Amazing Kreskin put a prediction about the 2008 election in a jar in a New York City bar. It was opened after the election , and we learned that Kreskin had called it right. Doesn’t Pat have a secure container for his predictions?
As a Christian minister, I don’t reject outright the claim of getting information from unorthodox sources. Perhaps some people do have particularly sensitive impressions of current events that make their prognostications more accurate than, say, monkeys at typewriters. But, please, Pat Robertson has just never seemed like the conduit for much of anything I accept on the religious or temporal spheres.
Of course I could be wrong. One way to find out would be for me to ask Robertson if I could join him on his retreat next year and watch him receive the news for 2013. Even better, maybe I could listen in and then go on his television show and tell the world what I heard. But unlike Pat I won’t be coy. If I get a hot scoop on 2013, I’m going to release it to The Washington Post first.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn is executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.