Monday, August 29, 2005

Nashville Pastor First Makes Excuses And Then Misleads About Pat Robertson's Wish For Assassination

Jerry Sutton, whose Two Rivers Baptist Church hosted Just-Us Sunday II (or as Bill Maher put it on Real Time recently, "Justice Sunday II, Electric Boogaloo") appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews a few days ago and he defended Pat Robertson's advocation of assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez by first minimizing Robertson's intentions and then completely denying that Robertson said "assassination," even though Robertson apologized for saying "assassination" the day before. Some might construe the denial as lying on Rev. Sutton's part, but I'll leave that to your judgment. You will of course remember that lying breaks one of the Ten Commandments so prominently displayed at Two Rivers during Just-Us Sunday II.

Here is a partial transcript of the debate between Sutton and Matthews (via the Church-State Network):
MATTHEWS: I want to start with the Reverend Jerry Sutton, who is an evangelical minister. And he's a wonderful host to us when we went down to visit his great church down there in Nashville. What do you -- what should we make of Pat Robertson when he says one day, go kill that guy, and, the next day, says, never mind, like he is Gilda Radner saying, you know, never mind? Should we take him seriously?
SUTTON: Chris, I think that, in the situation here, that Pat was speaking off-the-cuff. Actually, he was speaking as political commentary. I don't -- from what I read in the transcript -- I didn`t see the show. I read the transcript. He sure seemed to me to be someone who was basically speaking as a frustrated American, more than an evangelical leader.
MATTHEWS: But didn't he say 23 times, something like that, that this action ought to be taken? It wasn't -- it wasn't really off-the-cuff, was it? This was a show that he could have corrected at any point during the show. He could have said, "I didn't mean to say, kill him.' " And he never did. He said "assassinate."
SUTTON: Well, I didn't hear the word "assassinate."
MATTHEWS: Yes, he used it.
SUTTON: I saw the word "take him out." Now, what I see here, though, is -- the question is this. Is the guy a danger and is he a terrorist -- a proponent of terrorism? And if he is, I mean, that needs to be looked at carefully, but Pat Robertson's not the
person to look at it carefully, and he's not the one who makes those kind of decisions.
MATTHEWS: Well, speaking for evangelicalism on the program tonight -- and I'm putting you in a big-time catbird seat here, Reverend Sutton, but Christianity, does it believe in assassination?
SUTTON: No, it doesn't. As a matter of fact, to talk about killing somebody because it's the best thing to do -- what I read was that he said it's better to take him out -- quote, unquote -- than to go to war against him, his country, for $200 billion. And it looked like he was framing it in an economic position. But, from my perspective, I mean, what he said was wrong. I think it was unwise. And if he had to do it over again, I would hope that he would be more careful in what he said.
Unless I miss my guess, Rev. Sutton even pulls a flip-flop at the end of that exchange.
On a related note, Jim Wallis, who will be at Vanderbilt on October 13 and 14 to deliver the Cole Lectures, was less evasive and misleading in attempting to hold Robertson responsible when he wrote this week that Robertson put biblical ethics and the Ten Commandments aside in advocating assassination. Wallis also called Robertson "an embarrassment to the church." Given Jerry Sutton's deceptive defense of Robertson, I would have to say that the local pastor is no less embarrassing to the Nashville religious community.


  1. Mike, he came out and said that it was wrong for a pastor to call for an assasination. Why are you jumping on Rev. Sutton like this? I know Jerry Sutton and he is a good man. He doesn't deserve to be attacked anymore than you deserve to be attacked. I don't understand how you can call Jerry Sutton an embarrassment and then turn aroung and praise Bill Maher, who often says some pretty insulting things about Christians.

  2. Glen--I'm not going to get into a debate over who is the better man: Jerry Sutton or Bill Maher. I don't know either well enough to judge them as men. And I'm not defending everything Bill Maher does (by the way, he identifies himself as a Catholic) nor am I criticizing everything Jerry Sutton does.

    But Rev. Sutton is due criticism for his defense of Pat Robertson. His actions are due criticism. There would be no critical Enclave post if Jerry Sutton started by saying, "What Pat said was wrong." But that's not how it transpired. He defended Robertson by rationalizing that he was not speaking as an "evangelical leader." That's just an excuse. Any time Robertson speaks on the televised 700 Club, he is leading. There is no other role he has on the show. And then Sutton just came out and flat-out denied that Robertson said "assassinate," despite the fact that Sutton read Robertson's transcript. So, by the time Sutton got around to calling it wrong at the end, it came across sounding like his rationalizations of Robertson were not working so he just had to give in and admit it. That's what was referred to as "flip-flopping" in the last election. I don't agree that I am "jumping" on Rev. Sutton in merely criticizing his regrettable defense of Robertson. He just should have begun with, "Pat was wrong."

    While I respect your conclusion that he is a good man, even good men can be wrong. And I believe Rev. Sutton was wrong in this case.

  3. I've said it before here in your comments section, I believe.

    I think that Jerry Sutton's fondest wish right now is to be the next Pat Robertson. I'm sure Dr. Sutton is a fine man, although not having been a member of his congregation I can't speak to that as well as Glen can. However, I do see him having this ambition which fuels these continued public appearances. I sometimes question such ambition, particularly when it causes someone to make such grand compromises.