There is an article in Christianity today about Pat Robertson who, being true to form, gave some nasty and foolish advice. Condemnation has come sure and swift. John Piper tweeted “Pat Robertson’s view of how Christ loves the church and gives himself for her. Leave her for another”. Albert Mohler likewise chimed in “This is what happens when you abandon Scripture and do theology and morality by your gizzard. Let’s call it what it is.” During his show “The 700 Club” Pat Robertson advised a viewer to avoid putting a “guilt trip” on those who want to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s. We read;
During the show’s advice segment, a viewer asked Robertson how she should address a friend who was dating another woman “because his wife as he knows her is gone.” Robertson said he would not fault anyone for doing this. He then went further by saying it would be understandable to divorce a spouse with the disease.
“That is a terribly hard thing,” Robertson said. “I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things because here is a loved one—this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years. And suddenly that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone. So, what he says basically is correct. But I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”
Co-host Terry Meeuwsen asked Pat, “But isn’t that the vow that we take when we marry someone? That it’s For better or for worse. For richer or poorer?”
Robertson said that the viewer’s friend could obey this vow of “death till you part” because the disease was a “kind of death.” Robertson said he would understand if someone started another relationship out of a need for companionship.
There is much to be disappointed about regarding the whole affair. The first is the question of the co-host. Why wasn’t the question, instead of asking about “for richer or for poorer” vows, say something like “But isn’t that what the bible teaches? That divorce is only permissible in cases of sexual infidelity and willful abandonment?” [there are those who take an even more conservative view of divorce and remarriage] I’m not sure what Robertson’s response would have been, but having abandoned biblical fidelity long ago and being a man who at this point just likes to make things up about God and Christian doctrine, I doubt it would have been anything remotely sound. There are no excuses for this- this is just another statement in a long litany from a man whose purpose it seems is to bring reproach upon the name of Christ and his Church.
The Book of Ephesians tells us “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” It further goes on to say “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church…” I would suggest that if Christ does not abandon or leave his Church when she is being disobedient, sinful, and faithless, then to love our wives as Christ loves the Church would dictate that we too should not leave our wives when they are being likewise. That is worst-case scenario. In this case though the wife has done nothing wrong. Her mind is being ravaged from within- her neutrons and synapses withering and dying against her will, even as she seeks to be loving, sanctified and faithful.
What a great and monstrous evil it would be for a man to do this thing- or a woman to do likewise to her husband. What a foul stench of sin. This worldly, sub-biblical and selfish mindset ought to bring shame upon the soul of a man, even as he seeks to justify it under the guise of loneliness and need for companionship. It is Christ-less. It is cruel. It is irresponsible advice. Most importantly, it is Gospel-less. As Russel Moore says, “A woman or a man with Alzheimer’s can’t do anything for you. There’s no romance, no sex, no partnership, not even companionship. That’s just the point. Because marriage is a Christ/church emblem, a man loves his wife as his own flesh. He cannot sever her off from him simply because she isn’t “useful” anymore.” Instead he is to walk in love as Christ loved him-giving his very life.
Right now there is a woman taking a sponge and washing the backside of her husband of 63 years, the stench of feces assaulting her senses as she roils in nausea. Later she will wipe the drool from his chin, even as he flinches because he does not know her, and he is scared. Later still she will talk to him for hours on end and pray for a spark of recognition that will never come- as vacant eyes stare back at her. She will do this for years because she knows that Christ has done as much for her and for her beloved husband. When she was poor, helpless and lost- when she was dead in trespasses and sins, Christ came and saved her. He took care of her. He fed her. He clothed her. He nurtured her and treated her gently. He bound her wounds. He washed her in the water of the word. He spoke words of love and said “live”. Christ gave his life for the dead men and women he loved- how could she not do likewise?
That is the Gospel applied to Alzheimers and Divorce.
What Pat Robertson believes looks nothing like that.