Sign of the Times


The Most Dangerous Man in America? Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition

By: Robert Boston

Robert Boston was born on December 7, 1962 in Altoona, PA. He graduated from the Altoona Area High School in 1980 and continued at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a degree in journalism (1985).

The Most Dangerous Man in America

By: Julia Yuan

Pat Robertson, in his Answers to 200 of Life’s Most Probing Questions, stated, “There is nothing wrong with being successful financially, but you must be careful not to make riches and honor your god… If a man is humble before God and learns to fear the Lord, he will be granted riches, honor and life as a result…”1 Robert Boston, the assistant director of communication for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, wrote the book The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition, in order to evaluate televangelist Pat Robertson’s unethical actions toward reaching his life goal: to merge church and state so he could rise in power politically. Pat Robertson is an ultra-conservative political activist and TV preacher, who created the Christian Coalition. Having a charismatic and an appealing personality, he had the ability to bend the truth at any time. Many Americans saw him as a “true man of God,” and believed to criticize him stood on equal levels as criticizing God.2 By amassing money from his television show, “700 Club,” he gained supporters and built an effective political machine to construct a powerful political empire. Throughout his book, Boston criticizes Robertson of several acts of dishonesty and hypocrisy and seeks to warn Robertson’s audience about his dangerous nature.

Robertson’s interest in fundamentalist Christianity began under his mother’s influence. He was then enrolled in the New York Theological Seminary in 1956, where he was exposed to “charismatic” Christians. After his graduation in 1959, he became a Southern Baptist Minister in Virginia. His broadcasting career began in 1960, when he purchased a small UHF television station and chartered the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and later bought the WYAH station, which would become a cornerstone for the TV empire. Fundraising appeals played a significant role in his broadcasting career, giving rise to an endowment of $1 billion, making him a multimillionaire. In his introduction, Boston explains how “In Robertson’s world, truth changes simply because Robertson says it does.”3 He possessed the ability to play tricks on the public’s mind, allowing them to believe in ideas that were not true. For example, Robertson, clearly an advocate for combining the church and the state, always denied his advocacy when needed to make himself more appealing to the public. As a result, Robertson created the Freedom Council, his first political group, which was his first attempt to get Conservative Christians involved in politics. Its central aim was to help Americans exercise civil responsibility to actively participate in the government.

On October 1, 1987, Pat Robertson announced his presidential campaign. As part of his campaigning, he used the majority of his budget to mobilize Christians at churches to become Republican delegates. He portrayed himself as just a “religious broadcaster” and businessman and the public saw him as a “televangelist.” Additionally, he possessed a beaming, charismatic personality, which the American public longed for. Ultimately, he wanted to appear as a world leader. Boston elaborates: “Throughout the campaign, Robertson was dogged by accusations that as president he would use the power of government to enforce his narrow theological beliefs and abolish the separation of church and state.”4 When he began his journey of presidential campaigning, many Americans became suspicious that he only desired political power for one sole reason: to adjust religious laws in his favor. Robertson claimed that God wanted him to campaign and his early successes should not be surprising to the American public. However, the tide turned when he was found to be dishonest on his TV broadcasting. The public frequently accused that he would use the power of the government to enforce narrow theological beliefs, since in his mind, only Christians and Jews were fit to hold office. However, there were many planned commercials in Iowa and New Hampshire that depicted him as an unbiased statesman, educator, and communicator. Robertson’s quest to become the President of the United States eventually led to the rise of the Christian Coalition, a pressure group active in American politics. Ralph Reed, the executive director of the Christian Coalition, having a “mask of pleasantness,” became the face of the coalition and succeeded in deceiving the members. Like Robertson, Reed was dishonest, but his gentle and kind image greatly contrasted Robertson’s extremism. This resulted in a two-faced Christian Coalition.

While Ralph Reed’s “baby face” image perpetrated deception, Pat Robertson’s portrait of extremism allowed the American public to view him as an extreme right-wing radical. The Christian Coalition escalated in power over a short period of time and Robertson began to implement “modest goals,” which included criminalizing abortion, praying in public schools, and censorship. His ultimate goal was to see America governed by Christians and Christian values. He insisted that the separation of church and state was not intended for by the founding fathers of this nation. He claimed that the only type of separation acceptable was the separation of organization church from organizational government. Oddly enough, however, Robertson frequently denied that he denounces the separation of church and state. He stated that he supported the “freedom of religion,” not “freedom from religion.”5 An example of Robertson’s and the Christian Coalition’s dishonesty was when they claimed that the coalition was to be well educated and supportive of the African American community. The hypocrisy was revealed when it was discovered that only a meager portion of the members were African American. Being an ultraconservative, Robertson did not advocate for welfare reform, and “helped” the poor by taking their meager resources and turning them over to the wealthy, who would supposedly create jobs for them. In addition to being against social welfare reforms, he strongly opposed feminism, the public school system, and homosexual relationships. In his book, The New World Order, he fantasizes about a world where the government consists of both the church and state. The Christian Coalition also created “voter guides”, which were usually inaccurate and biased. They were harmful for American politics because of the oversimplification of complex political issues.

Ironically, Robertson claimed that the separation of church and state was invented by Communists who wanted to brainwash innocent children in public schools.6 The New World Order, which outlined Robertson’s plants of a one-world government under the auspices of the United Nations, gave a reasoning for the overwhelming paranoia that he experienced. In this book, many passages were found to have resemblance to works by Nesta H. Webster, who was a strong anti-Semitist. As a result of these accusations, Robertson endlessly claimed that his was book was not conspiracy literature and that it was a defense of Israel. In his work, he makes a distinction between liberal Jews, who think that Christianity is a threat to them, and Jews who agree with him on political questions. In addition to The New World, he wrote several books, and some of which were written by ghostwriters. This includes America’s Dates with Destiny, which may have been written by Mel White. In addition, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) became a hugely profitable enterprise for Pat Robertson to the point where its secular operation, the Family Channel, could not remain a part of CBN anymore. Robertson’s dishonesty was revealed when money intended for one purpose was converted to a different purpose. This happened when the Family Channel, a secular branch of the CBN, had to separate from the CBN. As a result of their paranoia, Robertson and Reed made several “700 Club” broadcasts, most of which zealously attacked the FBI and BATF. Some of the Christian TV and radio facilities converted to private, for-profit secular business investments. However, Robertson insisted that he wanted his ministry to expand beyond the boundaries of the church to justify his dishonesty. Nevertheless, he persisted in asking his supporters for more money, even though he already had a sufficient amount. As a result of his perseverant commitment to his ultra conservative Christian values, he constantly criticized other religions and labelled the ones that he did not like as “cults.” For example, he viewed Hinduism as being tied with “New Age” philosophes and claimed that India’s poverty-stricken society to be a condemnation of the religion. He claimed that Hindus were part of “very spiritualist cults” and possessed a psychic power to be in touch with Satan and demons.7 He also criticized other branches of Christianity; for example, he admonished Mormons for believing that they can somehow reach the same level as God and that “God was not the only deity.”8

Robert Boston’s thesis in The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition is that TV ministers Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed utilized Christian TV broadcasting for gathering money in order to construct a powerful political empire. In this context, Robertson had just suffered a defeat in a presidential campaign, making him desperate in finding ways to gain political power. In order to reach Robertson’s goals, the Christian Coalition was created, which condemned the separation of church and state, and built an effective political machine. Ralph Reed, Robertson’s partner claimed during an interview with the Los Angeles Times: “...I honestly believe that in my lifetime we will see a country once again governed by Christians…and Christian values.”9 Being ultraconservatives on the far right of the political spectrum, both Reed and Robertson advocate a Christianized society, solely run by Christians. However, they did not make ethical decisions in effort in accomplishing their goal. Ultimately, they expounded lies and utilized charismatic diction to propagandize and appeal to the American public, creating a band of supporters and a political machine.

Being the Director of Communications at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Robert Boston serves as editor for their magazine. In addition to The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition, Boston has written three other books: Close Encounters with the Religious Right: Journeys into the Twilight Zone of Religion and Politics, Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State, and Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do.10 Being an obvious advocate of the separation of church and state, Boston has written these books in an effort to criticize radical Christian conservatives and inhibit their actions. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of his largest influences, is an organization with a focus on defending religious liberty, saying that religion and partisan politics should not be combined. As a result of the Religious Right’s surge in popularity, Americans United’s resources have been declining and suffering overall. Robert Boston felt a need to combat Pat Robertson’s emergence in power by writing books intended to warn the American public of his dangerous nature.

During the late 20th century, America experienced a rise in conservatism. This rise of conservatism occurred as a result of society becoming more tolerant of abortion, alcoholism, and homosexuality. Women began to have dominant roles in society, advocacy for war elevated, and many social welfare programs were implemented. After Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush in the election of 1992, Robertson decided that it was time for a change. The series of events in the latter portion of the 20th century served as the driving force for the rise of the Religious Right and Pat Robertson. To combat the atrocities of these radical conservative Christians, Robert Boston wrote these books.

A review from Publisher’s Weekly on Boston’s book states, “‘Teflon televangelist’ Pat Robertson, target of liberal ridicule, nevertheless has the Republican Party in a headlock, argues the author of this screed.”11 The reviewer sees Boston as a biased individual who solely criticizes Pat Robertson using powerful rhetoric, but does not demonstrate to justify his actions. In order to persuade his readers, he incorporates humor, and utilizes pathos to amplify Robertson’s extremism. Boston also incorporates irrelevant and unrelated arguments to strengthen his claim. He brings up random religions, such as Hinduism, and connects them to having relations to Satan.

Richard S. Watts from the Library Journal states, “Boston, affiliated with American United for Separation of Church and State, makes no attempt to conceal his animus toward Robertson and the Christian Coalition.”12 In this review, Boston is portrayed as a narrow minded individual who only expounds negativity on Pat Robertson and his campaign. Similarly to Publisher Weekly’s review, Watts states that Boston possesses a significant amount of zeal when criticizing Robertson, elevating the negativity of Robertson’s image.

Robert Boston writes his book with the central purpose of warning the American public about the dangers of Pat Robertson and the Religious Right. In order to achieve his purpose, he writes a series of accusations, aiming to portray an evil image of Robertson. Throughout his book, he utilizes passionate language and metaphors in order to dramatize his caveat. In his introduction, Boston connects Robertson’s ability to brainwash the public to George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. He states: “It may be said that up is down, that black is white, or even that two plus two equals twenty-eight. But through it all remember that the number of fingers O’Brien is holding up—no matter what Big Brother says, no matter what the party says, and no matter what Pat Robertson says—is still four.”12 By connecting Pat Robertson to one of the greatest users of artifice in the literary world, Boston allows the audience to visualize the potential threat that Robertson carries in the nation. Although the words coming out of Robertson’s mouth may not match reality, he possesses the ability to sculpt false, but believable statements. Boston then continues the book by elaborating on Robertson’s money-loving and selfish nature. In Chapter 7, “Big Business,” he admonishes Robertson and other Christian television and radio facilities that converted to private, secular business investments and later making a profit off of them.

The 1990’s were an era of the emergence of digital technology. Although Boston’s book does not directly address the impact of digital technology on America during this era, it does portray the clear impact of television broadcasting to the average American citizen. Boston states, “[Americans] may run into his beaming persona on television every now and then while cruising channels and pause for a minute and smile while Robertson prays for a woman…”13 Because of his television broadcasting ministry, Robertson was able to persuade several America to value conservatism and gear away from liberalism. Additionally, he gained a significant amount of supporters for himself, which supposedly helped him during his presidential campaign. As a result of the Cold War, many Americans in the late 20th century feared radical liberalism and shifted towards conservatism. Robertson, being an ultraconservative, heavily reflected the fear of communism during his television preachings. However, Boston was anti-conservative and critiqued Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition’s efforts in swaying America back to conservatism.

As a result of the emergence of Pat Robertson, the Religious Right, and the Christian Coalition, Robert Boston, the assistant director of communication for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, wrote the book: The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition. Throughout his book, he exemplifies Robertson’s ambition, dishonesty, and greed through many examples of unethical deeds that he has committed. In conclusion, Boston’s central purpose in writing this book was the give a caveat to the American public regarding the potential dangers that Pat Robertson and his ultra conservative Religious Right movement could exploit.

[1] Boston, Robert. The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition. Prometheus Books, 1996. 23.
[2] Boston, Robert. 17.
[3] Boston, Robert. 13.
[4] Boston, Robert. 48.
[5] Boston, Robert. 68.
[6] Boston, Robert. 121.
[7] Boston, Robert. 151.
[8] Boston, Robert. 153.
[9] Boston, Robert. 81.
[10] Secular Coalition of America. Robert Boston. Secular Coalition for America Press. 2015
[11] Publishers Weekly. Nonfiction Book Review: The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition. PWxyc, LLC. 1996.
[12] Watts, Richard S. Book Review: The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition. San Bernardino City.
[13] Boston, Robert. 16.