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September 15, 2011

Pat Robertson on divorce: OK if spouse gets Alzheimer’s

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/pat_robertson_latest_mess_divorce_ok_if_spouse_gets_alzheimers_20110915/

We all know that Pat Robertson is prone to saying stupid things. (See here and here and here.) He’s become incredibly irrelevant to most Christians, but the loony old televangelist still knows how to stir a lot of trouble.

From Christianity Today’s LiveBlog:

Pat Robertson advised a viewer of yesterday’s 700 Club to avoid putting a “guilt trip” on those who want to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s. 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.

The response has been harsh. Robertson’s rationale is certainly a stretch. And Russell D. Moore, the dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that Robertson’s statement “repudiates the Gospel.”

Four years ago, the director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns, Rabbi Richard Address, made a related remark when he argued that Judaism needs “to reinterpret the concept of adultery.” He wrote:

Take, for example, the dilemma of a healthy spouse — let’s call her Sarah — caring for her husband, who is restricted to an Alzheimer’s facility. Sarah must deal with the extended institutionalization of her spouse. She cares for him with love and dignity, but also feels that he is not really her spouse.

How does Sarah handle the reality that, while on a brief respite from the demands of care giving, she met someone with whom she became friendly and intimate? She cannot discuss this with her children, or even with her circle of friends.

So Sarah asks her rabbi, “Tell me, rabbi, am I doing something wrong? I love and care for my husband. But I am a healthy 70-year-old woman, who goes to work, enjoys life and has needs. Is it wrong? Am I supposed to just put my needs on hold?

The reaction was quite different than what Robertson is seeing. And I have to wonder how much of that has to do with how tired everyone is of Pat Robertson—especially to many other evangelical Christians.

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