Defending Pat?

One thing I never thought I’d do is take up for Pat Robertson.  I’ve always thought he represents what I hate about the Church: judgmental, narrow-minded and legalistic.  On many occasions, he’s said things that are way beyond the pale.  He’s accused Haiti of making a pact with the devil, said that liberals back abortion rights because lesbians can’t have babies and that God will destroy America because we allow homosexuality.  Seriously, the guy has given new meaning to the old saying “Open mouth, insert foot.”  And, according to the media, he’s done it again.  Here’s a synopsis of yesterday’s faux pas from an article on Slate:

“Here’s what Robertson actually said. At the tail end of Tuesday’s show, his cohost, Terry Meeuwsen, read a chat-room question from a man seeking advice. The message said:

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.

Meeuwsen turned to Robertson for an answer. He struggled:

That is a terribly hard thing. I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things, because here’s the 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—”

Robertson has been ripped by groups across the spectrum for these comments, even by the fundamentalists that normally take his word as gospel, accusing him of dismissing the sanctity of the marriage vow “Till death do us part”.  But, I think they’re taking what he said out of context.  Notice in the quote, he says “if he’s going to do something”; that’s not advocating that he should do something, that’s acknowledging that the man may have decided to do something.  And, advocating divorce and custodial care, Robertson’s suggestion is definitely better than the adultery that’s going on now.   In reality, Robertson’s comments are actually kind of compassionate.

What I really have problems with is the reaction of the faith community.  As mentioned earlier, he’s been accused of throwing “Till death do us part” out the window, saying “unChristian” things and being callous.  He’s been called an idiot and pathetic.  The dean of the Southern Baptist Seminary, Russell Moore, even accused him of  repudiating the Gospel.  For a religion founded on grace, there’s not much of that in evidence here.  We have fallen in with the rest of the world and taken offense at something that wasn’t really offensive.  Robertson is an easy target for this kind of thing because he’s said controversial, even offensive things in the past and we’re quick to believe the worst of him, especially those of us on the left.  But, as Paul said in Romans 12:2

“Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.”

In this case, I can’t help but think that God’s will is that we cut Pat some slack.