The Gospel-less Litany of Pat Robertson Concerning Alzheimers and Divorce

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.

5 thoughts on “The Gospel-less Litany of Pat Robertson Concerning Alzheimers and Divorce

  1. Three thoughts on this, and I think can speak this with fairly accurate assessment because I see Pat on a regular basis (yay working at Regent!).

    1.) Pat was not instructing anyone to do this. In fact, I’m pretty sure the tone of the whole thing was not “You all should go divorce your spouses if they have this disease.” It was more like, “It’s an understandable reaction to the situation”. And let’s be honest, it is an understandable reaction. It may not be the best reaction. It may not be biblically mandated. It may not be what a Christian should do. But it is an understandable reaction. I think we can all at least understand why someone would behave that way. What he was saying wasn’t that this was ok, or even acceptable, but understandable.

    2.) I used to always jump on Pat when he would say things like this but after seeing him around campus and being in chapel where he speaks… his heart truly is to see people be saved. That doesn’t excuse wrong theology, but in this case I don’t think it’s fair to jump all over him for “abandoning biblical principles”. The man is well into his 80’s and is just a person. He’s going to say dumb things (don’t we all). But no one has any right to sit there and point judgmental fingers at him. He really does have a heart to see people be saved. And besides, outside of very conservative Christianity, divorce and remarriage is hardly as big of an issue as this is being made into. What Pat said isn’t necessarily anything out of the ordinary for a lot of people.

    3.) Of all the things that Pat has said, this is so minor it’s not even funny. No one has all their theology together. Not one single person. Just be glad he has the basics down.

  2. Hi Liz. Thank you for your comments,- its good to have you here. You’re right that he wasn’t openly saying “i think the best course of action is to divorce” but I also never said he did. What he said, among other things, is “I certainly wouldn’t put a guilt trip on you if you decided that you had to have companionship, you’re lonely, and you’re asking for some companionship,” and “Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer.”

    If someone were committing adultery, because there is no more love in the marriage and the two people are sleeping in separate rooms, would he have the same response? “I certainly wouldn’t put a guilt trip on them about having an affair with someone else- get me an ethicist”? Why would an ethicist have more authority on morality than the word of God? he has no problem putting the guilt trip on homosexuals, so how is this sin of divorce any different, especially when the bible is explicit?

    You say divorce and remarriage is not a big deal in the secular world, and I think to a point you are right. But Pat Robertson wields a certain influence, and yet every major and minor news program is carrying this controversy, and even the unbelievers are swiftly condemning him. A desire to see people saved does not excuse a checkered history of making unbiblical and controversial statements. Its not a free pass.

    He really, really messed up on this one- and the worst part of it is that he completely ignored what the bible says about it, and instead of using it as a chance to preach Christ and preach the gospel, he caused a scandal which brought low christ and his gospel. :/

  3. I think this is only a scandal because everyone waits with baited breath to see what Pat’s going to say next. The ethicist comment, I think, was partly in jest.

    I still think you’re being entirely too hard on him.

  4. i think myself and most christians would be happy if he didn’t say anything at all. But here is a question- why do you say “it may not be the biblical thing to do” Can we agree that it is in fact NOT the biblical thing to do, and in fact directly contradicts what the bible says?

  5. I, personally, would agree with that statement. But I am not prepared to say that I think anyone who thinks otherwise is going to hell, a bad Christian, or otherwise “gospel-less”.

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