September 19, 2011
Dear Marketplace Friend,
In the event that you’ve been living in the cave vacated some time ago by Osama bin Laden, you may have missed the firestorm that has swirled over the studios of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and the seat on the set occupied by Pat Robertson.
The situation: a caller phoned the live program – featuring Robertson and his co-host Terry Meeuwsen – with a story about a friend whose wife is afflicted with Alzheimer’s. The viewer is troubled that his Christian friend has turned his back on his ailing wife to begin dating other women. He justifies his actions by saying that “his wife, as he knows her, is gone.”
Robertson’s response: “ What he says basically is correct. I know it sounds cruel, but if he's
going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.” His co-host pressed Robertson about whether that violates the marriage vows. Robertson responded that Alzheimer's “is a kind of death” and added, “I certainly wouldn't put a guilt trip on you for choosing divorce in such a scenario…”
The headline “Sensational” (presenting information in a way that provokes public interest and excitement, at the expense of accuracy) has regularly been placed over media accounts of Robertson’s on-air comments. He has often been more vitriolic than vanilla, suggesting that he had unique insights about God’s allowance of the 9/11 terror attacks and the recent Haiti earthquake, among other things.
This time, it isn’t a world crisis that evokes his insights, but a personal one. For a Christian – living life for the purpose of glorifying God – how does one handle the hardship of a spouse suffering from an incurable condition? We know what Pat would say; but, what would Jesus say?
No mystery on that point; it doesn’t take the command of the original Greek version to understand this exchange: “Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery,’” (Matthew 19:1-9).
In America, we have a government designed to make sure that the administrative and legislative branches live within the boundaries of the Founding Fathers: the judicial branch is tasked with nullifying any actions taken by the other two that cross the line and become “unconstitutional.”
Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of control structure within the Christian world. Things said and/or done in the name of our common faith have no structured accountability. There is no one to blow the whistle, throw the flag and impose a 15 yard penalty.
In the absence of official oversight, you have to provide your own. Each of us is tasked with knowing the Truth – for ourselves! – and then using that standard to evaluate all that we see and hear by that unchanging measure of right-and-wrong. Is it right, just because it’s said by a famous guy on TV?
Even Paul was fact-checked: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true…” (Acts 17:11).
Their model is one we need to follow…