A widely recognized disability advocate is criticizing Pat Robertson for his remarks.
Robertson, chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, is now embroiled in a firestorm he unwittingly created when he advised viewers of “The 700 Club” that they would be justified in divorcing a spouse afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
On Thursday, Joni Eareckson Tada, founder and chief executive officer of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, a Christian-based organization based in Agoura Hills, Calif., issued a statement condemning Robertson's remarks.
Tada was “dismayed,” she said, that the host of CBN's most popular program suggested "Alzheimer's disease is a kind of death" that makes it morally acceptable to dispose of an afflicted husband or wife. “When a Christian leader views marriage on a sliding scale, what does this say to the millions of couples who must deal daily with catastrophic injuries and illnesses?” Tada asked.
Robertson’s latest controversial remark came in response to a viewer who related that a friend whose wife has Alzheimer’s was “bitter at God” and seeing another woman. "The 700 Club" host told the viewer that his friend “should divorce and start over,” while arranging adequately for his deposed wife.
“I certainly wouldn’t put a guilt trip on you if you decided that you had to have companionship,” Robertson said. “You’re lonely.”
Tada, a disability advocate and a quadriplegic herself, strongly disagreed. “Alzheimer’s disease is never an ‘accident’ in a marriage,” she said. “It falls under the purview of God’s sovereignty. In the case of someone with Alzheimer’s, this means God’s unconditional and sacrificial love has an opportunity to be even more gloriously displayed in a life together.”
Joni and Friends, which Tada began in 1979, offers Christ-centered programs and services to help meet both the spiritual and practical needs of disabled people and their families. “We encounter thousands of couples,” Tada attested, “who, despite living with serious disabling conditions, showcase the grace of God in their weakness every day.”
One prominent brain expert wonders if Robertson himself has mental health issues. “The hallmark of a good brain,” Dr. Daniel Amen told The Christian Post, “is to have forethought, judgment and empathy.”
Robertson's on-air comments “showed such bad judgment,” said Amen, a bestselling author, who is currently helping Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif. with a year-long health campaign. “I would wonder about his brain.”
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually erases even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks, according to the National Institute of Aging.