I honestly don’t know how much influence Pat Robertson has in the culture today. My hunch is not much. And, frankly, that’s a good thing. But his recent comments regarding Alzheimer’s and divorce have received plenty of attention in the last 24 hours. Even the New York Times ran a story.
I’m deeply grateful for the many Bible-believing Christians that have repudiated Robertson’s comments. It’s right to distance ourselves from his hurtful and blasphemous understanding of marriage. One of the best commentators on this controversy is the Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Russell Moore. From his blog post yesterday:
This week on his television show Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife with Alzheimer’s disease in order to marry another woman. The dementia-riddled wife is, Robertson said, “not there” anymore. This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But surely, some will say, Moore is making this a bigger deal than it is. In other words, this is nothing more than yet another embarrassing (and at worst, cruel) comment by the televangelist. Hasn’t Moore said too much by calling this “a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ”?
The reason Robertson’s comments are a repudiation of the gospel is because of what marriage is. Moore explains:
Marriage, the Scripture tells us, is an icon of something deeper, more ancient, more mysterious. The marriage union is a sign, the Apostle Paul announces, of the mystery of Christ and his church (Eph. 5). The husband, then, is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). 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.
At the arrest of Christ, his Bride, the church, forgot who she was, and denied who he was. He didn’t divorce her. He didn’t leave.
The Bride of Christ fled his side, and went back to their old ways of life. When Jesus came to them after the resurrection, the church was about the very thing they were doing when Jesus found them in the first place: out on the boats with their nets. Jesus didn’t leave. He stood by his words, stood by his Bride, even to the Place of the Skull, and beyond.
Indeed, marriage is a profound gospel issue. By assaulting marriage as he did, Robertson denied the gospel. And, tragically, some people think Robertson speaks for Christianity; some people think he accurately represents Jesus. Moore laments this fact and writes to correct any misunderstanding:
Sadly, many of our neighbors assume that when they hear the parade of cartoon characters we allow to speak for us, that they are hearing the gospel. They assume that when they see the giggling evangelist on the television screen, that they see Jesus. They assume that when they see the stadium political rallies to “take back America for Christ,” that they see Jesus. But Jesus isn’t there.
Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she thinks he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them.
But the gospel is there. Jesus is there.
See, also, Dr. Moore speaking clearly on marriage and the gospel on CNN today.