Friday, September 16, 2011
In Defense of Pat Robertson. Really?
On his 700 Club television show this week, a troubled man asked Robertson's advice on what to say to a friend who, in light of his wife's advanced Alzheimer's and severe dementia, wants to see other women. After some clear consternation, Robertson essentially says that the situation and disease are horrible, and that he wouldn't blame the man for being lonely and needing companionship. He also advises, and I am paraphrasing here, that if the man were to pursue other relationships, then he should divorce his wife rather than act in violation of his marriage vows.
It would be easy to blow this whole thing up and frame Robertson as a gutless and heartless bastard (and I'm not arguing whether or not that's ultimately true), but if you review the specific language and the context of his statements in this delicate and difficult circumstance, the reality is that this comments don't support that assertion.
The facts are that Robertson acknowledged the horror of Alzheimer's, he showed an almost tortured empathy for those involved, and he indicated that this is an ethical question whose answers are beyond him. As much as I hate to say it, Robertson showed both humility and humanity, surprising as that may be. (That's not to say that he hasn't made plenty of other reprehensible and insane public comments - gays cause natural disasters and so on.)
In the real world, there are complex ethical dilemmas that individuals and families must navigate when they are faced with things like a family member stricken with Alzheimer's or decisions regarding end of life medical care (or for that matter, beginning of life medical choices - aka, abortion). These situations require us to make decisions that are unimaginably difficult and intensely personal, and those who have had the misfortune of wrestling with these dilemmas understand that our choices will have profound and permanent consequences.
The most anyone can offer a friend, or a stranger in Pat Robertson's case, who is dealing with these life-altering circumstances is a compassionate ear, a loving and non-judgmental voice, and unconditional support and respect.