Perhaps one of the biggest critiques of the Evangelical Right in the US is a tendency to creatively interpret Scripture to support or prohibit activities deemed desirable or less so by the party citing the Bible or its chosen interpretation. (This may be best illustrated by a pro-gay marriage protest sign last year that read, “Leviticus also said no haircuts, but I guess we are skipping that one.”)
Case in point- noted Bible thumper Pat Robertson’s contention that divorce is permissible in cases where one spouse becomes ill with Alzheimer’s. While divorce is generally not considered acceptable among conservative Christians, Robertson likened the crippling form of dementia generally found in older people to be “like a death,” thus legitimizing a divorce morally.
At least some Christian leaders have a problem with this. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, Florida, spoke out against the creative interpretation of what he believes to be God’s word, saying the slope Robertson approached was a slippery one:
“I’m just flabbergasted… I just don’t know how anyone who is reading Scripture or is even familiar with the traditional wedding vows can come out with a statement like that. Obviously, we can all rationalize the legitimacy for our own comfort that would somehow make it OK to divorce our spouse if circumstances become very different or inconvenient.”
“Obviously, you could do this for anything. … My husband watches and plays video games, and so he has left the marriage and it’s kind of like a death… It’s not death, and so we can’t start describing things as death that are really not death, and we have to stop trying to mischaracterize what Scripture says for our own convenience.”
Amusingly, this debate is an issue in which both religion and science converge against Robertson’s controversial assessment. While church leaders have condemned the statements, so too do medical professionals who see the ravages of the devastating disease each day. Dr. Amanda Smith, medical director at the University of South Florida Health Alzheimer’s Center in Tampa, Florida had this to say about Robertson’s assertion:
“To condone abandoning one’s spouse in the throes of this mind-robbing illness is absurd. While Alzheimer’s certainly affects the dynamic of relationships, marriage vows are taken in sickness and in health.”
Have you witnessed the effects of Alzheimer’s? Do you think abandoning a terminally ill spouse is morally or spiritually redeemable? Does it follow the teachings of Jesus?