Ol' Crazy PatIt’s been a while since I blogged about the inane stupidity that spews from the mouth of televangelist Marion “Pat” Robertson. That’s not to say he hasn’t been saying anything idiotic; it just means the idiocy he has been saying, isn’t something I found very remarkable. I mean … it’s Patty Robertson we’re talking about, after all! But yesterday, he offered up some ridiculous tripe that I find remarkable, not merely because it’s moronic (like everything else that comes out of his mouth) but because it was in response to a problem that fundamentalist Christians face. Right Wing Watch reports on his answer to a question about purchasing clothing in a second-hand store (locally-cached article):

After a viewer, Carrie, asked whether to follow her mom’s recommendation to pray away demonic spirits over her secondhand sweaters, Robertson recounted a story about “a witch who had prayed over a particular ring and asked for a spirit to come into it, and this Philippine girl was so attached to this ring, she had to buy it and all hell broke loose because she finally recognized what it was.”

“Can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects, the answer is yes,” Robertson said.

While Robertson noted that people don’t have to worry that every item they purchase is possessed by demons, he added: “Hey, it ain’t going to hurt anything to rebuke any spirits that happened to have attached themselves to those clothes.”

RWW offers video of this exchange, via Youtube:

Now, it’s easy to laugh at Robertson’s primitive religionism and its irrational concern about demons that may or may not be in second-hand clothing. It is funny that there are people in the 21st century United States who truly think this way. But really, given Christianity’s history, it’s not all that strange.

As a student of early Christianity, I’m aware that concerns of this sort date back nearly to the religion’s founding. Back in the first century CE, a lot of meat consumption (what there was of it, anyway) was associated with religious rites. It wasn’t entirely unlikely that any meat someone managed to buy might have been sacrificed to a pagan deity prior to it being butchered for sale. Because of this, a lot of Christians were very cautious about eating meat.

As it turns out, this anxiety shows up a couple times in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes that, since there’s only one god and idols don’t represent anything real, there’s no harm in eating such meat:

Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. (1 Corinthians 8:4-8)

Since an idol’s deity isn’t real, there’s no harm in eating meat sacrificed to it. The sacrifice itself was meaningless, so the meat is untainted.

Even so, this was such a contentious issue in the early Church, that Paul suggests Christians should avoid eating sacrificed meat, if it’s a problem for someone else (see 1 Corinthians 8:9-13). Elsewhere, Christians are advised to avoid eating sacrificed meat, likewise in the name of promoting harmony (see Acts 15:28-29).

What I find remarkable is that the position Paul laid out, way back in the 1st century … i.e. that idol-sacrifice is meaningless, therefore meat can’t be profaned … is a more rational and mature position than Patty Robertson’s. He claims that demons are real and they actually can infest objects, and might conceivably be found in second-hand clothing, therefore Christians must de-demonize all second-hand clothing before bringing it into their homes. Patty is actually more backward and primitive in his thinking, than the apostle Paul was.

Whodathunkit?

Photo credit: Random Factor, via Flickr.

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