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Recently, Pat Robertson argued on the 700 Club that it would be morally justified to divorce a spouse who has Alzheimer’s in order to marry someone else. When questioned about this by his co-host, Robertson argued that a divorce would not break one’s vow to remain married “until death us do part” because Alzheimer’s is a “kind of death.”

My mom has severe dementia. I wonder sometimes how dad would have dealt with mom’s inability to converse, her talking in the present tense about people who are long dead, and her need for constant watchful care. Getting even closer to home, I wonder how I would cope if my wife Bev developed dementia. Considering my genes, she will more likely be the wife who must tend to a husband who has lost his memory. Bev has such character, grace, and love that I have full confidence that she will stay with me and love me no matter what happens to my mind and memory. I would stay with her too.

In response to Robertson’s statement, Russell D. Moore asserts in an article on the Christianity Today website, “This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Moore argues, correctly in my opinion, that in the Christian worldview marriage is more than a commitment between a man and a woman; it is a sign of the love of Christ for his church. Referencing Ephesians 5, Moore argues, “This love is defined not as the hormonal surge of romance but as a self-sacrificial crucifixion of self. The husband pictures Christ when he loves his wife by giving himself up for her.”

Robertson’s cavalier approach to the marriage commitment reflects our culture's cavalier attitude toward commitment. Any disability or severe sickness could be considered a “kind of death” in a marriage relationship, and one spouse could use it to justify divorce.

But true Christians understand that love is not based on convenience but on commitment. Once I heard Norman Chee, a CRC pastor, speak about an experience when he and his wife were engaged. In an accident, Chee lost a hand and forearm. When he called his fiancée and told her about the loss, he told her that he would understand if she no longer wanted to marry him. She wouldn’t hear of it, and they did marry.

Christianity Today featured a marvelous article by Robertson McQuilkin explaining his decision to resign as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary in South Carolina in order to care for his wife, Muriel, who had Alzheimer’s. Though he does discuss promise making and keeping, he does not frame his decision as a cross he must bear. Rather, he concludes, “It is all more than keeping promises and being fair, however. As I watch her brave descent into oblivion, Muriel is the joy of my life. Daily I discern new manifestations of the kind of person she is, the wife I always loved. I also see fresh manifestations of God's love-the God I long to love more fully.”

I hope no one decides for divorce after hearing Robertson's poor and unbiblical advice. I firmly believe that people who follow our promise-keeping God by making and keeping promises are those who experience life to its fullest.


The marraige vows of my parents included the until death do us part commitment and my mother cared for my father for 20plus years until he died of alzheimers. He had a right side debilitating stroke at 60 and she cared for him at home until the bitter end. When I asked her why, she said she could not do otherwise. Call it 'olde school' if you please, but when a spouse cares for the other even when they essentially give up their own 'life-journey' I believe it is a demonstration of agape love, love without condition.

Mark Stephenson on September 28, 2011

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Fronse, thanks for sharing. Your mother's love for your father is a beautiful expression of Christ's love for his church!

I. P. on October 23, 2011

It is a pity, that Mr. Robertson displays such a lack of Spiritual wisdom. He represents Christian ethos to people who don't know who Christ  is. I have witnessed to enough to non-Christians to have heard about the mis-information that they recieve not from these preachers words but their actions and obvious lack of sincerity. We need to pray for change and help for these straying pastors.

 I think Pat Robertson is a poor excuse for a Christian.  He and others like Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Donald J. Trump during the past campaign because he had promised to reverse Roe v. Wade and other decisions on gay marriage.  As if Christianity were ONLY about abortion or homosexuals.  Actually, those issues are often the hobby horses of some preachers with a limited understanding of the Gospel, but a disproportionate salary.  In one of his programs the comedian John Oliver discussed the obscene salaries and lifestyles of some of those preachers who pressure people in their congregations and online to give them money and God would bless the people with wealth and health, and often the people who give money to those preachers have a hard time making ends meet.  

I'm glad you can trust your wife's character if you should ever need her care, Mark, though I hope it won't be necessary.  I think you have enough of a burden taking care of your daughter without adding dementia as well.

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