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Robertson’s Attack on the Family

September 14, 2011

You may have already seen this:

Reprehensible? Yes. Surprising? Sadly, no.

Three things occurred to me while watching this abomination. First, these comments, coming as they do from a noisy – even obnoxious – political “defender” of marriage, only serve to make the case for extending civil marriage to everyone. If, as Robertson apparently believes, marriage is nothing more than a contract that can be voided upon the incapacitation of a contracting partner, not an enduring, divinely sanctioned covenant, then he has no grounds whatsoever for claiming some special privilege for heterosexual unions.

Second, during the 2005 controversy over the removal of Terry Schiavo’s feeding tube, Robertson characterized the judge’s order that the stricken woman be removed from life support as “judicial murder.” In the video above, Robertson justifies divorce on the grounds that a woman with Alzheimer’s is “gone,” that Alzheimer’s is a “kind of death.” He goes on to say that he wouldn’t “put a guilt trip on” a man who decided to abandon a wife who is, in Robertson’s view, all but dead. Huh? So, in 2005 it was “murder” to remove the feeding tube of Terry Schiavo, who every medical expert agreed was in fact “gone,” but in 2011 it’s okay to abandon a spouse with Alzheimers, despite the fact that she continues to be conscious, alert, and will even enjoy many moments of crystalline clarity? Again, he has made the case for those who wanted to end Schiavo’s ordeal, even those who wanted it ended precipitously. Again, if his standard for “life” is so low that he counsels divorce and abandonment of an Alzheimer’s patient, he hasn’t a leg to stand on when someone wants to pull the tube from a woman in a persistent vegetative state.

Last, I’m struck by the threadbare moral logic of someone like Robertson, who has been purporting to “evangelize” for over fifty years. Sorry, but in the Evangelical milieu of my youth, this kind of make-it-up-as-you-go-along thinking was prevalent, and extended to everything from practical ethics to the most profoundly important theological questions. Lacking any kind of magisterium beyond the motley collection of para-church ministries like the Christian Broadcast Network, Evangelical Christian leaders are used to “winging” it, without any effective check by authoritative tradition, the reasoned arguments of theologians, or the binding statements of predecessors. You want to see absolute arbitrary power in action? Check out any independent “Bible” church on a Sunday morning. The sermon may be on the liberty of believers, but offer even a gentle contradictory word and you’ll be out on your ear. It makes me appreciate Catholic moral theology, and it should make you appreciate it, too. Because whether you disagree with this or that, at least you know that the Church takes this stuff seriously. Or, to put it another way, you’ll never read “put a guilt trip on you” in a papal encyclical.

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13 Comments
  1. September 15, 2011 11:20 am

    Disgusting. I was never a fan of Robertson to start with, this puts him clearly in the camp of evil. There are a thousand ways he could have answered that question better than he did. Explain why marriage vows include “For better or worse. In sickness and in health.” Those aren’t words included in the marriage ceremony just because they sound cute. No, those words have meaning and are included to get young couples to understand that not every day of marriage will be like the honeymoon. It would have been a great opportunity for him to appeal to his audience to stop in and visit people they know who are serving as caretaker spouses and to maybe give them a break now and then. Nope, instead he chose to declare that ill equals dead.

    I’ll admit it can be extremely stressful to be the caretaker spouse. Just in my small circle of family and friends I’ve seen several cases of the caretaker spouse dying before the ill spouse. Doesn’t matter though. You take care of a sick spouse. That is part of the deal you make when you get married. No, he or she may not be exactly the same vibrant person you married decades prior. Doesn’t matter. I pray I never have to see my wife deteriorate to the point where I would need to care for her as a child. But more importantly, I also pray that I would have the strength of character to do my duty to the best of my ability.

  2. September 15, 2011 4:20 pm

    My best friend’s mother cared for her husband for the 10 years he had Alzheimer’s Disease. It was very difficult for her and stressful. But she did it and she visited her husband every single day at the nursing home where he lived for 10 YEARS! Her devotion and her sacrifice inspires me. I asked her how she was able to do it and she said “I love him.” The type of love she showed is what the Church has in mind for all of us. Love means sacrifice at times.

  3. Thales permalink
    September 15, 2011 5:24 pm

    Ugh, yes, that is reprehensible. It is such a selfish and self-centered notion of love. Love is sacrificial. True love is loving the other, not only when the other can’t love you back, but even when the other hates you, insults you, and hangs you on a tree to die.

  4. BobN permalink
    September 16, 2011 1:51 pm

    Anyone who looks to Robertson for “moral guidance” is a fool. Now, getting his advice on running a financial empire built on the gullibility of the public, that would make sense.

  5. B1gdon permalink
    September 16, 2011 1:55 pm

    I’d be the last person to stick up for Pat Robertson, but the reaction of you so called “liberals” is what is truely shocking and disgusting. If I ever went through this terrible disease and got to the point in the latter stages where I had no recolection of my spouse, I would absolutely want her to move on. The person she married is gone, the experiences we shared are gone. We’re not talking about someone who has good days and and bad or is sundowning, we re talking about late stage dementia.

    This is an incredibly difficult and complex subject and it is apparent here that Pat has looked at the nuances in a way that we so called liberals do. He never said to abandon the spouse. He said that after you have seen to his or her care, he’s not going to judge you if you seek companionship from someone who is able to provide it for you.

    Also, this has nothing to do with Terry Shaivo. While I completely disagreed with him, that case was about life and death, not “adultery” and divorce.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      September 16, 2011 5:30 pm

      Who’s a liberal? Please leave your binary thinking at the door.

      • brettsalkeld permalink*
        September 16, 2011 6:36 pm

        I laughed out loud when he called you a “so-called liberal.”

    • phosphorious permalink
      September 16, 2011 5:38 pm

      “. . . that case was about life and death, not “adultery” and divorce.”

      I like the scare quote around “adultery.” Classy.

    • Brent permalink
      September 16, 2011 7:57 pm

      Dear Bigdon,
      As a Bereavement Coordinator who has worked in hospice for many years I can safely say that your caricature of late stage dementia is a gross over exaggeration. They are not gone, just radically changed yet still a person deserving of love and loyalty to the bitter end and your debasing their value will not change that fact but says more about you than them. It only serves to stigmatize and oppress. Please reconsider.

  6. richard cadena permalink
    September 16, 2011 6:02 pm

    DEAR B1gdon, either you stand by your marriage vows or you do not. either you believe in christ’s teachings or you do not. either you believe that ” marriage” is a “divinely sanctioned covenant” or you do not.

    i realize that “christians” seem to tailor the bible to suit their wants/needs/prejudices/hates/and sinful ways—but the bible is the bible.

    what “liberals” have to do with the above discussion is beyond me. maybe you do not know this–but there are millions of “liberals” who also happen to be christians.

    i think your showing your bigoted roots there a bit.—THE VERY REASON THAT I STAY AWAY FROM THE CHURCH!

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      September 17, 2011 2:25 pm

      That’s a good strategy. It’s like staying away from the hospital. Too many sick people there. Smart.

  7. scholar_John permalink
    September 16, 2011 10:02 pm

    What God has joined, let no man set asunder. Unless they make a lot of money. Or have a good reason.

    That was the original verse, but the latter parts got omitted in editing somehow.

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