Pat Robertson: Doing good, to do well [classic article]

As first seen on

When opportunity knocks for Pat Robertson, he kicks the door down.

The son of a Democratic senator from Virginia, Marion Gordon “Pat” Robertson was running an electronics firm in New York when he decided God wanted him to buy a TV station to spread The Word. With a mere $70 in his pocket he bought a bankrupt UHF station worth $500,000 for a mere $37,000.

Within the year he started the 700 Club which became one of the longest-running religious television shows in TV history, reaching an average 1 million viewers daily, most of whom were sending in $10 a month.

There’s been no stopping him since, aside from his failed attempt to wrest the Republican presidential nomination away from then Vice President George Bush in 1988.

By the time CBN celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1986, it was pulling in $139 million a year in donations. Its humanitarian arm, Operation Blessing, was providing millions in humanitarian aid worldwide and his CBN University (later renamed Regent) was fully accredited. Robertson, in 1988, founded the Christian Coalition, a political education organization, which soon grew to 1.5 million members.

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Two years later he launched International Family Entertainment Inc., (IFE) to produce and distribute family entertainment programming through its satellite-delivered cable-television network, The Family Channel. With 63 million U.S. subscribers IFE, a publicly held company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, was sold in 1997 to Fox for $1.9 billion. Since then, Disney acquired the Fox Family Channel in 2001 and renamed it ABC Family.

Robertson also founded the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ); has authored 13 books; and is past president of the prestigious Council on National Policy. He is currently a member of the Board of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and previously served on the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors in the State of Virginia.

Pat and Dede Robertson have four children and 13 grandchildren and reside in Virginia Beach, Va.

Bankrate: Talk to me about tithing. What exactly is it? Do you have to give your money to a house of worship? What about paying bills first?

Pat Robertson: Tithing is giving the first 10 percent of your income to the poor, benevolent projects and in Biblical times, to the Temple of the Lord. In the Old Testament, people actually tithed three times, to give 25 to 30 percent of their income. While the churches may get upset, I don’t think it has to go to the church. At least, that’s not biblical. It can be any benevolent project, like building a school or a hospital. Yes, the Bible says that stiffing a debt is like stealing! But, in the Book of Malachi, it asks, “Who has robbed God?” God has the first claim. Christians who give the 10 percent often find that the remaining 90 percent goes a lot further.

Bankrate: You have a divinity degree, like Al Gore and Jesse Jackson. Yet, when you ran for president, there was a huge outcry that electing you would be a violation of the First Amendment — that it would be “like electing the pope.” Do you have any regrets about not hiring spin-doctors to combat that perception?

Robertson: We had an ad that we took out in Iowa, with a picture of John Kennedy next to mine. We quoted those sayings about the Pope, asking, “Why must I be held to a higher standard?” I think there is an antipathy to religious degrees. The difference between me and someone like Jesse Jackson is that they know I mean it! Some of those other ones don’t really mean it. It’s really not even the religious issue, it’s more that I’m a social conservative and they’re social liberals. How often did Clinton talk about Jesus and quote the Psalms? It sounded like a revival meeting when he was around!

Bankrate: I was wondering why, during the “Bring it On” segment of your show and your book, you choose to address questions that seem off point, like vitamin E and weightlifting. With limited airtime, why not filter your message to Biblical questions?

Robertson: We wanted to meet people where they were. How do they deal with all their problems? This is a forum where they can ask their questions anonymously. In a sense, I have a congregation of 1 million people each morning. There’s a big interest in my Age-Defying Shakes and antioxidants. I have had over 500,000 requests for each. God is the whole being! A healthy mind comes from a healthy being. When I was in New York, I was dragging all the time; too much coffee, doughnuts and crullers. Somebody gave me a book on health and nutrition and that was 45 years ago. Now, people are talking about nutrition, but I was way ahead of the curve.

Bankrate: Many presidents, religious leaders and tech leaders are from Virginia. Is there something in Virginia’s community values or educational system the rest of the nation should be copying?

Robertson: I know that my own family goes back to the original Jamestown settlements of 1607 and 1619. We have a set of principles that are passed down, honor and integrity. There’s a saying here, “You can’t just drink at the water, you have to live it.” I think that with all the historical places here — Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown — people are aware that they are part of this nation’s foundation. Virginia is known as, “The mother of states and the mother of presidents.”

Bankrate: You have the television network, the ministries, Regent University. You are in charge of many people. In this time when many people are out of work, what do you look for in a potential employee?

Robertson: Dedication to the Lord and heart to Jesus Christ, primarily. Then, skills — they have to be extremely competent. We just hired a new TV producer from “Saved by the Bell.” Now, if someone is going to be a Professor of Theology, he should know the Bible inside and out. But a lawyer for us would have to know the law.

Bankrate: Do you think people should invest in Christian-conscious mutual funds or are you more performance based?

Robertson: They ought to go for the bottom line, performance. Money is money! Now, we don’t invest in gambling, alcohol or pornography. If you want to give to charity, give to charity. If you want to invest extra money in a “green” fund, be my guest. But keep your eye on the bottom line.

Bankrate: You have many people pulling on your sleeve. How do you get to relax? Do you have to take the phone off the hook?

Robertson: A good leader delegates. I get up early, to pray, read and think. If I didn’t have that time to myself, I would lose my mind! I do play golf and I have horses. I go out to the country. I’m not as busy as I used to be. As they say in the television industry, “I paid my dues.” They used to call me day and night, though.

Bankrate: Are you grooming your son, Gordon, to take over?

Robertson: He is on the 700 Club and is head of our Internet productions. He’d be a good choice. We’ve had a president of CBN for 25 years. He’d be a good choice, too. My oldest son, Tim, was president of International Family Entertainment, before we sold to Rupert Murdoch.


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