Recently, a woman named “Andreas” visited the Web site of Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club, clicked the “Bring It On” link and submitted a question to Pat in hopes that the Grand Evangelical Poobah would grant her a live, unscripted, rambling answer from the Almighty. Miraculously, the prayers of “Andreas” were answered last week when somebody–an intern? A producer? Jesus?–at The 700 Club plucked her inquiry from the box of unanswered questions and handed it to the show’s cohost Terry Meeuwsen to read aloud to Pat.
“Dear Pat,” read Terry, “I have a friend whose wife suffers from Alzheimer’s…”
As soon as “Andreas”–whose name I like to imagine is really Pam or Sherry–heard Terry read that first line, I suspect she turned up the volume on her TV so she could hear how God (through Pat) would answer her question.
Terry continued, “… She doesn’t even recognize him anymore… the marriage has been rough. My friend has gotten bitter at God… and now he’s started seeing another woman. He says that he should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone. I’m not quite sure what to tell him.”
At first, God and Pat didn’t know what to tell him, either. The two hemmed and hawed as if their aging omnipotence was having a hard time putting their thoughts in order. Eventually, God and Pat babbled some words about how awful a disease Alzheimer’s is, and then Pat called it a “kind of death.”
Then, Pat rambled a few more seconds until he said, “I know it sounds cruel”–but of course, cruelty has hardly stopped Pat before–(but) “if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again.”
News agencies and blogs became abuzz with people sharing their hatred and contempt for God/Pat. Theologians and pastors stormed onto Twitter and Facebook to express how biblically incorrect Pat was on the topic of divorce. And medical professionals as well as spokespersons for several large Alzheimer’s associations released statements and performed interviews to showcase their disappointment in Pat, too.
And every bit of the criticism that Pat’s received is warranted because his “God advice” was careless, poorly stated, and revealed a severe lack of compassion.
However, was anybody really surprised by Pat’s answer? It’s well-known that Pat’s spiritual gift isn’t tact. I mean, this is Pat Robertson we’re talking about, the same Pat who blamed the earthquake in Haiti on some old made-up “pact” that the country made with Satan. For years, whenever Pat plays medium for the Holy Ghost, the majority of the words that come out of the man’s mouth are chock full of bad theology, run-on sentences and fragments, and proof that he probably shouldn’t speak on behalf of God without using a teleprompter. And what’s more sad is that, most of the time, Pat never apologizes or retracts his ill-formed “wisdom.”
The 700 Club did update the show’s Facebook status to let people know that Pat knows a great deal about Alzheimer’s and has lost numerous friends to the disease. But did the show issue an apology? Of course not. Whenever one believes that he or she speaks on behalf of God, humility is rarely an option. Why? Because God and Pat can’t be wrong. For Pat to admit otherwise would be, according to his kind, unbiblical.
Most of us will forget Pat’s “advice” as soon as the next big topic comes along. But I can’t help but wonder what Andreas thinks about God and Pat’s answer to her question. After watching the segment, did she call her friend, send him a text message or leave the words “Pat says you should get divorced” on his Facebook wall?
It’s easy to forget that, at the core of this medical and theological debate there’s a wife and husband who, in very different ways, are both suffering. And too, that there’s a woman name Andreas, a friend who, hopefully with good intentions, is looking for a way to help, a way to bring hope into a very ugly situation. Considering the advice that she received, let’s pray, for the good of all involved, that she hasn’t stopped looking.
Matthew Paul Turner blogs at JesusNeedsNewPR.net