Friday, September 16, 2011

Pat Robertson, Marriage, Divorce & The Gospel

Photo Credit: mags20_eb
While on a short-term mission project to Virginia Beach a number of years ago, my wife and I got to know a woman that had what is probably one of the most stressful jobs in America. She was the spokesperson for Pat Robertson. Upon learning what she did for living, I commented that there was probably never a dull moment for her. Her response? "You don't know the half of it."

I'm not sure if our friend is still in that job but Robertson is still making comments that keep his aides on their toes. On a recent episode of his show "The 700 Club," Robertson surprised many when answering a viewer's question about whether it was morally justifiable for a person to divorce a spouse that is stricken with Alzheimer's disease. He said this:
"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.

Robertson gave the example of a friend who faithfully visited his wife every day even though she could not remember his visits to illustrate the difficulty of caring for someone with the disease."
Needless to say, Robertson's response is disappointing. Unfortunately, I've come to expect him to make public proclamations about sensitive topics from time-to-time that are hurtful and not grounded in Scripture. Russell Moore offers a response in a manner much better than I ever could. Moore comments:
"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.

...It’s easy to teach couples to put the “spark” back in their marriages, to put the “sizzle” back in their sex lives. You can still worship the self and want all that. But that’s not what love is. Love is fidelity with a cross on your back. Love is drowning in your own blood. Love is screaming, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

Sadly, many of our neighbors assume that when they hear the parade of cartoon characters we allow to speak for us, that they are hearing the gospel. They assume that when they see the giggling evangelist on the television screen, that they see Jesus. They assume that when they see the stadium political rallies to “take back America for Christ,” that they see Jesus. But Jesus isn’t there.

Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them.

But the gospel is there. Jesus is there."
For a more appropriate Christian response on how to respond to a spouse with Alzheimer's, look to the example of Robertson McQuilkin. Randy Alcorn tells the story of how this Bible college president resigned his post in order to care for his Alzheimer's ridden wife, Muriel. McQuilkin's posture to his sick wife was not one of abandonment, but to stay and care for her. His attitude demonstrates what marriage is truly about:
"I never think about “what if.” I don’t think “what if” is in God’s vocabulary. So I don’t even think about what I might be doing instead of changing her diaper or what I might be doing instead of spending two hours feeding her. It’s the grace of God, I’m sure."
Marriage paints the picture of how God feels about us. He is committed to us for good or for bad, in richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. He will always remain faithful to us no matter what condition we find ourselves in. I'm grateful to have a God that doesn't divorce me in the times I don't have much to offer.

To read Russell Moore's complete post please click here and to read Randy Alcorn's full post please click here.

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