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In Which I Actually Somewhat Sympathize with Pat Robertson - Divorce

Pat RobertsonI've been way too busy this week to write a good blog entry. So, I'll just post something a bit thought provoking.

If you haven't heard yet, Pat Robertson has once again landed in hot water, this time for suggesting that it might be okay for a man married to a woman suffering from Alzheimer's to divorce her. Many people have jumped onto his statements, but not always fairly presenting all that he said. Here, from the New York Times, is one of the fuller accounts I've seen of the conversation.

“His wife as he knows her is gone,” the caller said, and the friend is “bitter at God for allowing his wife to be in that condition, and now he’s started seeing another woman.”

“This is a terribly hard thing,” Mr. Robertson said, clearly struggling to think his way through a wrenching situation. “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.”

“I know it sounds cruel,” he continued, “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, somebody looking after her.”

When Mr. Robertson’s co-anchor on the program wondered if that was consistent with marriage vows, Mr. Robertson noted the pledge of “till death do us part,” but added, “This is a kind of death.”

He said the question presented an ethical dilemma beyond his ability to answer. “I certainly wouldn’t put a guilt trip on you if you decided that you had to have companionship,” Mr. Robertson said, apparently suggesting divorce as a way to avoid the sin of adultery.

So, why do I sympathize at all with Robertson? Well, this is a tough issue. It deals with identity, our obligations in a marriage, how to handle stressful situations, etc. And in fairness, he did specify that the man should ensure that his (soon to be ex-) wife is taken care of.

Why do I only somewhat sympathize with him? It's his glaring hypocrisy. He has no trouble promoting traditional marriage when it's used to support his bigotry in denying homosexuals the right to marriage, but he's willing to ignore traditional marriage when it's an inconvenience to a heterosexual spouse. There's also his inconsistency in saying that this is a type of death, which would make sense to a materialist, but not to a mind-body dualist like him. Plus, I'm not so sure I like his answer. Marriage is a commitment we make that should be taken very seriously, and unless a couple has made some type of agreement before something like this happens, I'd say that a person is obligated to care for their ailing spouse.

Anyway, I'd love to give this more thought and write something better, but I just don't have time right now.

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