September 19th, 2011
12:05 PM ET

Squaring Pat Robertson's Alzheimer's remarks with the Bible

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN)– Televangelist Pat Robertson's comments last week advising a husband to divorce his Alzheimer's-stricken wife drew criticism from Robertson's usual theological allies.

"This is more than an embarrassment," wrote Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Many Christians in the Twitterverse and in other online spaces also expressed disapproval of Robertson's comments, which came in response to a viewer of his "700 Club" TV show asking about a friend who started dating another women after his wife developed Alzheimer's disease.

"He says that he should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone," the viewer asked. "I’m not sure what to tell him. Please help."

Robertson acknowledged the situation is a "terribly hard thing" but said the viewer's friend is right. "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 (is) looking after her."

When his co-anchor pushed back against that advice, Robertson acknowledged the marriage vow of "Till death do us part" but said that Alzheimer's is "a kind of death."

Criticism from the medical community seems to be less harsh than that from Christians but has nonetheless been forthcoming.

Here's Eric J. Hall, founding president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America:

There is no doubt that this heartbreaking disease robs people of their memories and other intellectual functions, but to liken Alzheimer’s disease to, as Mr. Robertson said, ‘a kind of death’ fosters an insensitivity that feeds misperceptions about the disease. It fails to take into account that people with Alzheimer’s disease, although impaired, deserve optimal care and dignity. Love and compassion are the greatest gifts for every human being until their very last breath.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Robertson's show, "The 700 Club," acknowledged the criticism without taking anything back:

Thank you for sharing your concern about Pat Robertson's response to a BringIt On Question about a friend's wife in the late stages of Alzheimer's.

Having had many close friends struggle through Alzheimer's, Pat has seen the devastating impact that it has on not only the spouse with the disease, but especially the caregiver whose quality of life also becomes completely debilitated by it.

- CNN's Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Ethics • Leaders

soundoff (225 Responses)
  1. Lesieie

    What happened to "in sickness and in health??" Robertson has no business making a religious issue–and making people feel BAD for sticking with a sick spouse, andGOOD for leaving one–out of a tragedy. It's a tragedy, and he's making it about–him. I bet he's put an excuse in his pocket for his own use one day.

    September 19, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Pat Robertson's, like so many of the TV evangelists are phony preachers, preaching man (meaning woman too) what they want to hear instead of Jesus' truth of what they need to hear.


      September 20, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  2. Bo

    Rick is right, unbelivers really have no right to comment onthis issue, for sure they see it as an oprotunity to rail on Christians. But, what neither Christians or atheistd seem to realize is that honey attatcts more bees than than vineigar. Both sides would like to convert the other side, and insults and critisim will convert no one

    September 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522

      On the contrary, unbelievers can still have a problem with vowbreaking no matter what form it takes.

      He made a vow: "in sickness and in health, til' death do us part." Or something like that. Under the assumption that those were his exact words (which is a stretch, given that many people write their own vows), he's breaking a promise if he dates other people. If you can't handle it, don't make the vow.

      September 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Was the First Amendment repealed at some point today, and I just haven't heard yet?

      September 19, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  3. fernace

    Pat Robertsons "expertise"is in religion/biblical teachings! According to those teachings & the marriage vows most Anglo-Christian people take, his answer was patently Wrong! But more than that, from a medical & moral standpoint it was also Wrong! It is Wrong all the way around & he needs to retract this cruel (he said it) & un-sound advice & appologize! Will he do that? Don't hold your breath! Ps. Atheists can weigh in on the issues discussed on this blog because of a little thing called "free speech"! It's a "Belief Blog" not a "Christian Blog"! All beliefs are welcome!!

    September 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Robertson is a hack using Jesus to make a living. He's up front and center on judgement day. For the Lord judges the preachers of His truth, first.


      September 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  4. SDC

    "When his co-anchor pushed back against that advice, Robertson acknowledged the marriage vow of "Till death do us part" but said that Alzheimer's is "a kind of death.""

    Doesn't anyone remember what this slug was spouting during the Schiavo case? Then, he was absolutely AGAINST allowing everyone else to get on with their lives. Just one more reason to ignore these parasites.

    September 19, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  5. Brother Maynard

    Dear Christians,
    Like it or not ... Pat is your speaks for you. Until, every Christain publically disavows Pat ... he will be remain pertinent.
    For example the co-host should not have only "pushed back" but should have stood up and walked out on him. By not taking a strong stand against him means that the co-host agrees with him. And that statement on Facebook is a pure foder. What a joke. They should have just said. "Thanks for your comments ... but Pat it right".
    All Christian will be associated with this tyrant until all Christians turn their back on him.

    September 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • chaffer

      Okay, where do you get that all christians will be associated with him until he's gone??

      September 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  6. David St. Marsaille

    I've got a revolutionary idea for Pat Robertson: Keep your mouth shut about politics, medical issues, and really, everything else except the GOSPEL. You are NOT any smarter than anyone else on those other matters. Every time you open your mouth you make a fool out of yourself, and disgrace the rest of us. SHUT UP.

    September 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  7. hippypoet

    @ Rick lol you make me laugh... i know and have known what the word gospel means, it has so many meanings that one could twist pretty much anything written in the light of the word gospel. but as for you insulting me over such a small thing, thats very uncatholic of you... love your fellow man! you know just like your priest do! and thats the gospel truth!

    i will never again speak ill of religion once a person can explain to me why Thor, or Zues or any other gods are not real or just not worthy of equal worship! as an arguement for this, your moses brought down from mount. saini 2 tablets, the ten commandents right? WRONG he brought 600 plus down, but off track here... one of those said that your god was the only true god, and he will not tolerlate any idol worship..... so heres my question, what kind of inscure god has THAT as one of his laws? If THAT god was the true and only dude then he would not need to MAKE his followers do anything, they just would! but again, this is logic, the natural enemy of faith!

    September 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Mike from CT

      Thor, or Zues are not found in any litery style of historical narrative but that of Mythology

      You know once upon a time.

      Historical narrative, like the rest of history that you rely upon is of the style. At this time and date this person did this, this person was king.


      September 19, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  8. when

    @ Rick. Also, the irony is, they live in a country that was founded on the idea of "freedom of religion." They have their belief system but want to wipe out any that disagree with their own.

    September 19, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  9. yada

    Leaving your mate in their most desperate time of need? No. Not good.

    September 19, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  10. Terri

    As Christians, our standard of beliefs is to be the Bible, not our own opinion about something based on fleshly experience. "Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it;" Eph. 5:25 There was no greater sacrifice than Christ's, and he's calling husbands to love their wives in the same way; sacrificially. There are many scriptures about suffering and trials, and it's not always God's will that we should be spared from all pain and inconvenience (which would go against Robertson's gospel of health, wealth, and happiness). It would be sin to forsake a diseased spouse because of the disease; it is an opportunity to partake of His sufferings, albeit in a very small way.

    September 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Observer

      You skipped the part about always staying married except for infidelity. Physical and mental abuse don't count for a divorce or getting senile.

      September 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  11. when

    @ Clay. My church doesn't pass the plate or ask for money. You can donate if you want but my church relys on God to supply it's needs. No pressure or begging. @ Rick. They feel it is their life goal to mock and insult God and believers, ESPECIALLY Christians. They are deluded into thinking they can disprove God and turn a Christian from their faith. They hate Cristianity and endlessly blame us for every woe in the world. @Reality. Go to your lab now, hon. Your science god awaits.

    September 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      " God to supply it's needs."..... or bs unfair tax breaks

      September 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  12. Tom

    I wonder what Nancy Reagan thinks about this. She stayed with Ron THROUGHOUT his bout with this disease! Should be a GREAT EXAMPLE of the right way to do this!!

    September 19, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Because her astrologer told her to? Doesn't sound like a religious reason to me.

      September 19, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Reality

    Just another nail in Christianity's coffin cover.

    To wit:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    September 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Mike from CT

      how so, if Christian doctorine does not agree with someone's opinion how is it a "nail in the coffin" of the gospel that transcends all culture and time, please explain?

      September 19, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522

      Technically, if the gospel transcends culture and time then there would be no such thing as taking it out of context. Yet that seems to be an important part of the way we are supposed to read it? If context is important, then we can break it down in terms of the culture and time in which it was written and you have to accept that it *might* not be saying what you think it says. Or, if it is "transcendent" according to the definition of the word, then it means only what it says, and you have to make your peace with the inherent dichotomies.

      Make up your mind: is context important or isn't it?

      September 19, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  14. Paula

    Religion is a PERSONAL issue, not a PUBLIC issue. If the man wants to divorce his wife who has Alzheimer's, then he should do so. If he believes in God, he'll know better. Just because Pat Robertson says it's "okay", doesn't mean it is. We all have skeletons in our closet and we will all be judged some day. To each his own.

    September 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  15. hippypoet

    "This is more than an embarrassment," wrote Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

    right this dude is the head of some religious school and he doesn't even know what the word gospel means... the dude known as jesus, real name joshua, never had a gospel, or i think the rest of us would know – but thats besides the point... forget religion its a pointless shroud of ignorance and its time we the people gain from our enlightened time by removing the ancient waste of time and resouces... or tax them.. simple!

    September 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Rick

      Why do atheists feel the need to throw their input into these discussions? NO ONE REALLY CARES what you think in a discussion about faith, religion, belief etc. BTW gospel=good news...its not necessarily just referring to a particular book of the bilble...talk about ignorance..you showed yourself "dude"

      September 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Because

      @ Rick – why? Well, you guys constantly throw your opinions all over anything atheists do, so are you really surprised that there is some blowback?

      Do atheists not have freedom of speech? Why do you hate freedom of speech so much?

      Are religious people totally incapable of tolerating dissent?

      September 19, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Rick get used to it.... after a few thousand years of religion spreading through everything from politics to personal life the scale is starting to tilt the other way.

      September 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Why do the religious believers feel the need to throw their input into science classes? Why do they feel the need to assault professors of biology, and vandalize their cars and offices? Why do the religious feel that their religious beliefs should be taught as truth? Why do they feel the need to hold the country and its educational system back, especially in the area of medicine and the sciences?

      September 19, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  16. DamianKnight

    Completely disagree. In most marital vows, you have, "In sickness and in health."

    September 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  17. when

    I completely disagree with Pat but I'm not that surprised he said it. I'm not a fan of televangilists but I used to tune into 700 club from time to time. It seemed to be different from the Jim and Tammys, and Paul and Jans of TV fame. When it became apparent, Pat was begging for donations all the time, it was a real "turn off!" Some of his show and advice is Biblically sound but he missed the mark this time, IMHO.

    September 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "When it became apparent, Pat was begging for donations all the time, it was a real "turn off!""

      Please explain how this statement is different for any religion. Thats what they do.

      September 19, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  18. fred

    It takes a great deal of time and love to manage someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Somethimes there comes a point where professional help in custodial care is needed. So who is really going to care if the love of ones life does not give a rat.
    God makes it clear that we judge ourselves by the way we treat those who need our love and help the most. Life is short, this man has chosen his pleasures over taking care of his wife. There is no marriage in heaven so in short order he will be free anyway. If he is a christian then he and Pat Robinson will both see themselfs as Christ sees them. This will be their lot for eternity based upon what they did in a small snippit of time on earth.

    September 19, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • claybigsby

      very doubtful....but if this makes you sleep better at night then ok

      September 19, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • fred

      As I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep.......................Who's go your back ? There was a potter and this I know He made Clay so he could grow. Grow he may in strength and might so he himself can sleep tonight

      September 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  19. Jimtanker

    It's one person's opinion. Who really gives a rats ass? Just because he calls himself a preacher doesnt mean he knows more than anyone else.

    September 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • fred

      Hey, how did you get that a-ss of yours past the CNN filter?

      September 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Like this

      Do this – but take out all the spaces I put in so that all the characters are together: as s

      You can also do stuff like italics, bold, and bold italics if you want.

      September 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Like this

      Ooops, the vcoding vanished. Let's try it like this – remove all spaces



      September 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Like this

      Lets try again. as s

      September 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Like this

      I give up.

      September 19, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Awkward Situations


      September 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • hahaha

      You can say ass with no problems. No fancy crap needed. check the lists. Ass is not a banned word.

      September 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • hahaha

      Here's the latest list for all you idjits.
      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN "awaiting moderation" filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in spa-rse, pa-rse, ar-senic, etc.
      ba-stard..as in who killed Kenny.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cucu-mber, etc.
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      hoo-ters...hoot, hootie, and hooter is okay. More than one hooter is bad.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      po-on.....as in spo-on, po-ontang, harpo-on, etc.
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
      sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, anti-thesis (any anti-"t" word),beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.
      Allowed words / not blocked at all:

      raping (ra-pe is not ok)
      shat (sh-@t is not ok)
      The CNN / WordPress filter also filters your EMAIL address and NAME as well – so you might want to check those.
      • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.
      CNN also has a list of tips on posting comments at: cnn.com/terms/comment_policy.html

      September 19, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • hahaha


      pis therapist

      September 19, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • hahaha

      Okay, I'm taking pis off the lis

      pi-ss is blocked, though.

      September 19, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • fred

      Why isn't big bird on your list?

      September 19, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Like This

      But you can tell religioous idiots to fuck off if you know how.

      September 19, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      I really do dislike big bird

      September 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      I fucking did it guys! Fuck Big Bird! ahhhhh! 😀

      September 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  20. Kearns

    Perhaps polygamy isn't the most evil thing...

    September 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.