Like many people I was saddened to see Pat Robertson's latest comment hit all the main media sites this week. Robertson was quoted (and the video evidence is readily available) saying that it is morally justifiable for a man to divorce his wife if she has Alzheimer's disease. He was responding to a caller who was asking if it was alright for a man to date another woman if his wife had the disease. Yes, Robertson replied, but divorce your wife first. His in studio partner questioned Robertson's reasoning reminding him of the marriage vow, "til death do us part". Robertson said that Alzheimers is a kind of death. His wife is gone so he is justified in seeing another but he should divorce his wife first and make sure she gets custodial care. I don't really care what Robertson says. But many people do. For many people he is one of those very visible faces of Christianity and so when he speaks, people do listen, and they form opinions about the Christianity he espouses. He has said some outrageous things in the past like when he defended China's one child abortion policy, and when he identified God's judgment with the 9/11 attacks and the hurricanes that hit New Orleans and Haiti, and on and on we can go. Russell Moore, dean of the Theology School at Southern Baptist University, wrote in an online editorial in Christianity Today that "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 they are seeing Jesus...but they are not."
Moore said Robertson's comments are more than an embarrassment, they are a repudiation of the gospel. Christian marriage, he wrote, is an icon in Scripture of the relationship between Christ and his Church. Paul says husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave his life for it! Moore states that a woman with Alzheimers can't do anything for her husband. There is no romance, no sex, no companionship but according to Scripture a man loves his wife as his own flesh so he can't sever the relationship just because she is not useful to him anymore.
In fact, there may not be a more powerful way to live out Christ's sacrificial love than by remaining with your spouse and caring for her or him if they do become incapacitated. There surely is no explicitly Christian reason for leaving him or her!
Moore adds that "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 self and do all of 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."
I remember reading about another public figure. He was the president of a Bible College. His wife got Alzheimer's and he quit his job to stay home and care for her. He gave up his writing, his speaking, his teaching, his life as it was to love and to serve his wife til death do them part. That is the image of Christian love and marriage our -put my self first- culture needs to see. It is a true picture of Christianity. Unlike the thoughtless remarks of a tv Christian this week.