Eugene Cho

pat robertson: ’til death do us part?

I don’t want this entry to come out like a Pat Robertson bashing session. One of these days, I’ll share one of the most amazing stories I’ve heard about Pat Robertson. It humbled me…but another time.

I’ve had my difficulties and personal wrestling with figures like Pat Robertson. Many years ago, I was invited to do some sort of interview taping for the 700 Club show but turned it down because well…I just couldn’t do it. While I wouldn’t mind meeting, talking, and chatting over coffee or some Vietnamese noodles, I just wasn’t up to do an interview on “the Club.”

Why? Because I strongly disagreed with him about some of his outrageous comments about political assassinations, September 11, and his “pact with the devil” comments about Haiti post-earthquake. In fact, my post in response to Pat Robertson’s Haiti comments were amongst the most read on my blog.

But his recent comments on his show (here for those on RSS) about marriage and Alzheimers was absolutely incredulous. I really wanted to think some ultra right-wing extremist did some sort of audio/video-shopping of this video.

I just made that up. Get it? Audio/Video-shopping = photo shopping. Umm, never mind.

Here’s the context (the video is below):

I have a friend whose wife suffers from Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t even recognize him anymore, and, as you can imagine, the marriage has been rough. My friend has gotten bitter at God for allowing his wife to be in that condition, 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.

Pat Robertson’s response:

That is a terribly hard thing. I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things, because here’s the loved one—this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone. So what he says basically is correct, but—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 looking after her—

Alzheimer’s and for that matter, any sickness, are indeed cruel. But nothing in comparison to his answer.

If it’s ever appropriate to say, “What the hell?!”, I believe this would be the occasion so I’m just going to say it:

What the hell?!

When given the opportunity to explain himself,  repent,  apologize, __________ … Robertson responded that Alzheimer’s “is a kind of death” and added, “I certainly wouldn’t put a guilt trip on you” for choosing divorce in such a scenario.


I just recently had the honor of officiating a wedding of a couple from my church two weeks ago. [Congrats Leo & Erika!!!]  So beautiful and profound. A truly amazing expression of God’s mercy and grace. The vows are clear and simple:

I take you to be my wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’til death do us part: according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my love and faithfulness.

Let’s be honest here. Sickness or not…Marriage is hard. Utterly hard. Incredibly beautiful but utterly hard. It’s the most difficult and profoundly beautiful thing I have ever experienced thus far in my near 41 years of life. But our vows to one another and to God speaks to a deeper covenant that transcends our earthly circumstances and situations – even sickness.

In these days of pessimism, I do hope that our words and lives speak and testify to a more deeper portrait of Christ’s utter devotion to his creation and His people. In these days where people – including and perhaps, especially Christians – have grown deeply cynical about marriage, commitment, and covenant, we need a better answer. We need a more godly answer; We need a more biblical response; We need a more Christ-like response.

By that very Grace shown to us, I hope and pray that we might be emboldened and encouraged to honor our vows and commitments – ’til death do us part.

Don’t wait till death. Do it now.

Go and honor and bless your spouse. Go, honor, cherish, bless, and serve those you have been called to…

I am not interested in hosting a Pat Robertson bashing session but I sincerely do hope that Pat Robertson – not only in response to public or private criticism but especially to personal examination of the Holy Spirit, would

simply and humbly apologize and repent.

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20 Responses

  1. Clark Crebar says:

    Hope he doesn’t get Alzheimer’s.

  2. Jim says:

    Thanks Eugene. As usual, I appreciate the graceful but firm way you respond to these kind of situations.

  3. Rebecca says:

    What the hell?

    One of my words differ but out of respect for you, I won’t write it. Unbelievable.

  4. dmbaldwin says:

    He needs to read Robertson McQuilkin’s book “A Promise Kept.” In fact Dr. McQuilkin left his position as president of Columbia Biblical University to care for his wife who had Alzheimers.
    Thank you for this post Eugene.

  5. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s almost 3 years ago. Last November my dad had to move her into a care facility close to their home. She has continued to deteriorate. I have always loved and respected my dad, but never more than this past year as I have watched him visit my mom EVERY DAY to sit with her while she eats her dinner. After she is done he walks her around the facility until she is ready to go back to her room. There, he takes a miniature Hershey’s bar from a hidden stash and breaks it into little pieces and gives her one at a time and visits with her while she thoroughly enjoys her chocolate treat, the sits with her until she falls asleep.

    Reading your post, Eugene, all I can think of (well, that I am comfortable posting) is that I am thankful that I am not Pat Robertson’s daughter.

  6. M says:

    This may be the first time I’ve defended Pat Robertson. Yikes.

    But I think the “if he’s going to do something” (which I heard as “he’s already dating, so he’s made the choice to do something other than faithfully stay with his wife”) is a key part of his response, actually – if this person is forming a romantic relationship with another women, then, potentially, the least bad of the bad options is divorce. If the choice is between continued addiction and methadone, then some people are going to say “go for the methadone”. If he’s so hungry that he’s going to steal something, then stealing might be “understandable”, and stealing from someone other than starving children might be preferable, although still sin.

    I haven’t watched the whole video (this one is… trimmed), so I don’t know whether any time at all was spent on the “but, obviously, it would be better if he just plain stays with his wife” side of things, or whether he only covers the pragmatic side: this man is already dating, he is, to some degree, now actually lonely due to Alzheimer’s, not just making up completely flaky excuses for dating-while-married, and he intends to “fix” this situation his own way no matter what anyone says; given this trajectory, divorce (with care taken of the wife), is possibly preferable to straight adultery, and Pat Robertson would not publicly condemn him for choosing divorce, since this is a very hard situation.

    Isn’t choosing to not throw stones in the case of hard or complicated situations something that people like Pat Robertson are supposed to flunk every time?

    (but yes, there are many amazing examples of people choosing the harder, better road of “till death do us part”, and it would have been good to bring that in within the first minute, whether or not he mentions that after the cut on this video)

    • noon says:

      youve said a lot of things but distilled, i think youre saying: between two bad choices its better to do the less bad option.

      maybe so. but what if there is a third, good option? like staying faithful to ones spouse. is it not a reasonable choice because its too hard?

      the addiction analogy fails because addiction is supposed to be compulsory. likewise with the hungry man example.

      so i think your defense of robertson doesnt make sense. if you really want to defend him and/or the poor guy who wants to divorce, you might argue that the difficulty of fidelity is a valid reason to leave someone. or you might agree with robertson that dementia is equivalent to death. but i think those are still terrible arguments.

      which is why im unhappy with pat robertsons comments. like him or not, hes influential enough that airing poorly thought out ideas negatively affect people.

      that said, id like to hear the good story mentioned up at the beginning.

  7. […] pat robertson: ’til death do us part ( Rate this: Share this:TwitterEmailFacebookStumbleUponMorePrintDiggRedditLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  8. Matt Simonsen says:

    Thanks for taking a stand Eugene. This reminds me of a college professor I had who said that “liberals/non-believers” who do not necessarily follow the Bible’s standards as truth have no motivation to water down what Jesus said. And they see that Jesus set a very high standard for marriage, affirming the lifetime commitment as right and good.

    It is the conservatives who say they live by the Word who water it down, and work around it’s radical standards. No wonder in our “Christian” nation we have so many failed marriages, when people think of themselves first and have “dead” spouses who are subsequently legally “divorced” from when the going gets tough.

  9. Eugene Cho says:

    a good read – defending pat robertson. more nuanced and contextual.

    i acknowledge i should have included the full context but nevertheless, an incredibly careless answer.

  10. Benjamin C. says:

    I went to Regent for a year and half and visited CBN.

    My own intrigue with Pat comes from the fact that he gave a word of knowledge on his show and my grandmother was healed. Having met him briefly, he’s a very nice man. I was astonished at the taping of the show when I realized, and had it verified later, that he does everything unscripted. On one hand, it is very impressive. I only wish I had his memory recall! On the other hand, you got seem very human responses, that often for political correctness and human decency, one normally would not say in the public discourse. And yet in honesty, what has been dubbed his controversial statements, reflects the sentiments of more people than often goes notice. In many of the cases that you list, were I too vehemently disagree with what he said, there was no malice in how he said it, rather, like a grandfather talking is how speaks it. This, I’d say is reflective of his philosophy. For while a fiscal and moral conservative, at his core, he is a pragmatist.

    In the above situation, the man is already having an affair, from a pragmatic perspective, he might as well get the divorce an go on. This is also why Pat was once able to say once, like Biden recently, he understood China’s one policy. He really isn’t thinking of the larger ethical implications, which I agree with you he should, he is responding to the immediate reality. In an age were soo many people are not honest with what the they think or feel, I appreciate Pat’s honesty, even when I disagree with him.

  11. Katherine Ryan says:

    I read some of your posts and I was wondering if you were interested in reading a book that just came out called Emory’s Gift” By W. Bruce Cameron. I can send you a copy of the book. All you have to do is read and give me your opinion of it. Let me know if you are interested.

  12. […] …read his comments and watch a video clip from The 700 Club… […]

  13. I will second your “What the hell?,” Eugene. Terribly pathetic. Hasn’t Pat Robertson seen ‘The Notebook?’ I cried like a baby, and I hate movies like that. That movie provides an answer to the question that is infinitely better than this man, who is supposed to be a spiritual leader.

  14. Kimberly says:

    I am sincerely curious about your answer to…What should a person do if they find themselves married to someone like Pat Robertson? I am in a situation where I am married to a Pastor. We have been married for 2 1/2 years. We only knew each other 3 months when we got married. I rushed into it, without knowing much about him. I ask sincerely because I take the covenant vows that we took before God seriously. I am questioning the til death do us part. Sometimes I and others have stated that my husband reminds us of Jim Jones. What would you do if you ignorantly got married to “Jim Jones” or “Pat Robertson”, or to someone who’s spiritual views are completely conflicting with yours and the Word of God? Please respond.

  15. Kimberly says:

    I just want to add…the person spoken of with Alzheimer’s is better off without the piece of poo poo that left them at a time of such helplessness. I do not care about highly educated opinions of why Pat Robertson said what he said…he was sickly wrong!!!

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It appears I brought a little Seattle to the NYC. Drizzle fest. 24 hour gathering with a small group of leaders from around the country. Learning. Listening. Asking hard questions. Head exploding. Heart trying to have hope. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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