The Tale of Two Robertsons
In one corner is Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network.Well known for reckless comments, I shouldn’t be surprised, but I heard he actually justified divorce and remarriage because one’s spouse has Alzheimer’s.If he really said such a thing, surely it would have been removed from the CBN website with a retraction in its place.So I checked it out on the website and sure enough, there it was on the show of Tuesday, September 13.
CBN’s “Bring It On:” is a segment in which Pat takes questions from viewers.Here is the question:
I have a friend whose wife suffers from Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t even recognize him anymore, and, as you can imagine, the marriage has been rough. My friend has gotten bitter at God for allowing his wife to be in that condition, and now he’s started seeing another woman.He says that he should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone… I’m not quite sure what to tell him. Please help me. – ANDREAS
Pat’s answer began with appropriate compassion for those in that situation, but then went on to say, 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.
The cohost broke in, But isn’t that the vow that we take when we marry someone, that it’s for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…? Pat interrupted, Yeah, I know, if you respect that vow, you say ‘til death do us part.’ Well, this is a kind of death. … I can’t fault him for wanting some kind of a companionship, and if he says in a sense she is gone, he is right. It’s like a walking death.
He closed with, But get some ethicist besides me…. I recognize the dilemma and the last thing I would do is condemn you for taking that kind of action.
Pat Robertson doesn’t need an ethicist he needs a Bible where there is no hesitation to condemn the violation of the sacred covenant of marriage. Pat’s rationalization, this is a kind of death, is the same logic used by those who give up because the love has died or we are dead to each other. What a disaster that he would lead so many astray, further eroding the sacred foundation stone of society, in sickness and health and until death do us part marriage.
More encouraging is the Robertson in the other corner, Robertson McQuilkin, former president of Columbia International University who left his post in 1990 to care for his wife, Muriel, as she tragically declined due to the effects of Alzheimers. He cared for her until her death in 2003, even though she stopped recognizing him in 1993. Listen to his 1990 resignation speech and to his four part interview on Family Life Today.
I am not concluding that the only right thing to do in this situation is resign your post and be the full time caregiver.Special circumstances made that the right decision for Robertson McQuilkin, but faithfulness to the marriage vow is not circumstantial, but a matter of keeping your word.
For two other excellent commentaries, Is It Okay to Divorce a Spouse With Alzheimer’s? by Dave Boehi from Family Life Today; and from Moore to the Point by Russell Moore, academic dean of Southern Baptist Seminary.