Viewpoint: Alzheimer’s: not a reason to divorce

By Joshua Madden
A&E Editor

Jesus may give you only one circumstance in which divorce is acceptable, but it sounds like Pat Robertson wants you to have at least one more.

Pat Robertson has become well known for his outlandish statements, and he recently lived up to his well-earned infamy for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time with his discussion of Alzheimer’s patients.

The Associated Press’ Tom Breen reported that in a discussion on “The 700 Club,” Robertson said “he wouldn’t ‘put a guilt trip’ on anyone who divorces a spouse who suffers from the illness,” but added, “Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer.’”

Breen goes on to write, “Terry Meeuwsen, Robertson’s co-host, asked him about couples’ marriage vows to take care of each other ‘for better or for worse’ and ‘in sickness and in health’” and Robertson replied by saying, “If you respect that vow, you say ’til death do us part … This is a kind of death.”

I think that it’s time for Pat Robertson to retire.

The Bible is very clear that divorce is something that is not to be encouraged among believers, and I don’t understand how anyone in Robertson’s position could possibly argue that divorce is acceptable in the context of one of the spouses being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is certainly a horrible disease that can place a lot of stress on a marriage, but that doesn’t mean that the Christian attitude should be to divorce as soon as you get back the diagnosis.

In fact, the Bible is extraordinarily clear that the love Christians show for others is to be an example on Earth of the love that Christ has for all people, particularly between a man and a woman in a committed relationship. I don’t think that divorcing a spouse who’s just been diagnosed with a fatal disease is the best example of selfless love.

There is simply no excuse for Robertson’s comments. No matter how I try to reason them out, they simply don’t make sense to me. There is no biblical basis for his argument. Even from a secular perspective, encouraging divorce amongst couples dealing with something like Alzheimer’s is hardly something that can be condoned.

There’s no indication that Robertson was joking in any way, but I doubt there are too many people who agree with what he said. Although I don’t think that anyone will take Robertson’s comments too seriously in this context, this sadly provides fodder for those who wish to criticize Christians as being hypocritical about certain biblical beliefs.

If Robertson wants to stay in the public eye as a Christian figurehead – and at this point, I’m not sure what Christian groups he represents other than himself – he needs to choose his words and advice more carefully.

Joshua Madden is a graduate student in information systems from Olathe, Kan., and the Lariat’s A&E Editor.