Perhaps conservative evangelist Pat Robertson needs to himself ask a valuable question in regard to his view's on Alzheimer's and marriage.
What would Jesus do?
The cliche question has been around for a long time for good reason. In the case of Pat Robertson's Alzheimer's and marriage perspective, it's particularly useful. In fact Robertson should have asked himself that question before he stumbled and bumbled his way to an offensive viewpoint on marriage, suggesting that having a spouse with Alzheimer's is worthy reason for divorce.
In case you missed the story to this point, it went down like this: Robertson, host of The 700 Club religious television show, got a viewer inquiry regarding Alzheimer's and marriage.
I have a friend whose wife suffers from Alzheimer's. She doesn't even recognize him anymore, and, as you can imagine, the marriage has been rough. My friend has gotten bitter at God for allowing his wife to be in that condition, and now he's started seeing another woman. He says that he should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone ... I'm not quite sure what to tell him. Please help.
Robertson admitted a tough decision was being faced by the viewer, but he leaned toward agreement with the viewer's friend.
I hate Alzheimer's, Robertson said. 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.
I know it sounds cruel, Robertson continued, but if he's going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again.
Robertson was clearly uncomfortable with his answer. But he was uncomfortable for good reason. If anything, Alzheimer's is exactly when a spouse does not need the other to walk off, leaving them. Many Christian marriage ceremonies have been christened with for better and for worse, but the evangelist seems to forget that.
Sure, Alzheimer's is horrible. It's like death. But it's a slow death, and one isn't gone until they are gone. Cancer can be the same way. So can someone left in a coma, and other grave illnesses.
That's why some Christians became outraged at Robertson's views, suggesting it was a cop out. One in a difficult marriage, facing anything from a spouse with Alzheimer's to a spouse addicted to drugs or alcohol, or even video games, could say the very same thing -- it's like death.
But that doesn't always make turning and walking away right. It may be the easy thing to do, but marriage is built upon often doing the hard thing.
The argument against Robertson's views could go on and on, but finding the right answer for the viewer question he faced could have simply come from the cliche question that has been asked so many times.
What would Jesus do?
Probably, Jesus would not walk away, divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's. Thus, the answer doesn't seem to be as complicated as Robertson made it.