Pat Robertson, one of America’s best-known televangelists as the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Christian Coalition, died Thursday at his home in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He was 93.
“For many of us, he was also a spiritual father, guiding us and teaching us to love the Lord and live lives worthy of the Gospel,” Robertson’s son, Gordon, president and chief executive of CBN, said in a statement released to media Thursday morning. The statement gave no cause of death.
Robertson, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, also was an educator, a former Republican candidate for president, and a New York Times bestselling author who founded the Christian Coalition, which became a political force to be reckoned with in the 1990s.
Robertson’s legacy was cemented by his ability to capture national attention with Christian messaging on CBN. Most notably, Robertson’s weekday talk show, “The 700 Club,” launched in 1966, integrated faith and politics in the context of modern issues.
Admirers considered Robertson to be unorthodox in his approach to evangelism while traditional in his Christian beliefs. Through innovation on television, they said, he was able to reach a wider audience with Christian teaching.
In later years, Robertson sometimes made remarks that created controversy in the mainstream media. He once suggested that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America represented a punishment from God, and said that God caused then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2006 stroke for “dividing God’s land.”
Robertson was born Marion Gordon Robertson in 1930 in Lexington, Virginia, to homemaker and musician Gladys Churchill and Absalom Robertson, a lawyer, state legislator, and conservative Democrat who soon would represent Virginia in the U.S. House and Senate for some 33 years. The elder Robertson was an opponent of the civil rights movement for black Americans in the 1960s, a stance that later was used by political critics of his son.
As a young man, Pat Robertson wrote about his dreams of becoming a New York socialite. That changed in 1950, when he chose to commit himself to Jesus Christ as a born-again Christian.
With a renewed passion for the Lord, Robertson left behind all he knew to start a Christian broadcasting station. He considered his motivation to come from God, who he said told him to begin a television ministry. He started with a dinky TV studio and $70 to his name.
Before long, the Christian Broadcasting Network grew into the leading name in spiritual programming, reaching some 150 countries. One program in particular, “The 700 Club,” steered Robertson toward another calling: politics.
The weekday program, which still airs on CBN, transcended strictly spiritual news and integrated a Christian perspective into reporting current events.
Robertson’s political career included being part of the team that helped usher a former Hollywood actor and California governor, Ronald Reagan, into the White House in 1981 to spearhead a new age of conservativism.
Robertson later ran for the presidency himself in 1988, achieving a second-place finish in Iowa’s Republican caucuses ahead of Vice President George H.W. Bush, much to the amazement of longtime politicians. Bush went on to win the nomination and the presidency.
Robertson founded the Christian Coalition in Chesapeake, Virginia, in 1989, saying it would further his campaign’s ideals, as The Associated Press reported. The organization mobilized more conservative voters and pointed them to the Republican Party through grassroots programs and other activities.
Robertson is survived by four children and 14 grandchildren.
Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.
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