Pat Robertson says outlandish things. That's a given. And often when the media represents him as speaking for all Christians, we cringe. Most of the time we can just ignore him, but with his latest comments, he has not only damaged the reputation of believers, he has done damage to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Christianity Today reported earlier this week, a 700 Club viewer asked Robertson Tuesday what should be done about a married friend of his who was dating another woman because his wife as he once knew her was "gone." She had Alzheimer's.
"That is a terribly hard thing," Robertson replied. "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."
Even his co-host, Terry Meeuwsen, was taken aback by her boss's reaction, asking Robertson if taking such action would be in violation of the couple's marriage vows.
Robertson said a person in this predicament could continue to obey the vow "till death do us part" because Alzheimer's was a "kind of death."
"It's really hurtful because they say crazy things," Robertson continued. "Nevertheless, it is a terribly difficult thing for somebody. I can't fault him for wanting some kind of companionship."
Robertson said he does not want to lay a "guilt trip" on those seeking what he considers to be a "right of companionship," which is just one more made-up entitlement to add to a growing list in our individualistic, narcissistic, morally relativistic culture.
One of the best responses I've seen to Robertson "advice" comes from Russell Moore: "This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
"Marriage, the Scripture tells us, is an icon of something deeper, more ancient, more mysterious. The marriage union is a sign, the Apostle Paul announces, of the mystery of Christ and his church (Eph. 5). The husband, then, is to love his wife 'as Christ loved the church' (Eph. 5:25). This love is defined not as the hormonal surge of romance but as a self-sacrificial crucifixion of self. The husband pictures Christ when he loves his wife by giving himself up for her.
"At the arrest of Christ, his Bride, the church, forgot who she was, and denied who he was. He didn't divorce her. He didn't leave.
"The Bride of Christ fled his side, and went back to their old ways of life. When Jesus came to them after the resurrection, the church was about the very thing they were doing when Jesus found them in the first place: out on the boats with their nets. Jesus didn't leave. He stood by his words, stood by his Bride, even to the Place of the Skull, and beyond.
"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 icon, a man loves his wife as his own flesh. He cannot sever her off from him simply because she isn't 'useful' anymore.
"Pat Robertson's cruel marriage statement is no anomaly. He and his cohorts have given us for years a prosperity gospel with more in common with an Asherah pole than a cross. They have given us a politicized Christianity that uses churches to 'mobilize' voters rather than to stand prophetically outside the power structures as a witness for the gospel."
The pressure to follow the advice of the Pat Robertsons of this world is strong in our society. I've often heard of "friends" of spouses of Alzheimer's patients encouraging them to get on with their lives and to find another companion, even to the point of actively trying to fix them up with somebody. We, as believers, need to pray for and encourage these men and women who faithfully stand beside the person they committed to in this life, to mirror Christ's relationship to the church and not to buy into Satan's lie.