‘Til Death (or Alzheimer’s?) Do Us Part

Pat Robertson was recently asked about a man whose wife suffers from Alzheimer’s, which has made the marriage very difficult. In fact, the man has begun to see other people, claiming it’s OK “because his wife as he knows her is gone.” To this question, Robertson replied, …

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. … If you respect [the marriage] vow, … you say “till death do us part,” this is a kind of death.

His comments have rightly brought a storm of protest in the evangelical world (and rightly so). Robertson has sought to redefine grounds for divorce to include those whose spouse is suffering from Alzheimer’s. But, Alzheimer’s isn’t grounds for divorce.

Randy Alcorn has commented on the contrast between Pat Robertson’s advice and Robertson’s McQuilkin’s example. He has cleverly entitled his comments “Robertson verses Robertson”  (here and here).

Robertson McQuilkin’s wife suffered from Alzheimer’s. Things were so difficult at home, that McQuilkin resigned as president of Columbia Bible College to care for his wife. Listen to the tenderness of his words at the time of his resignation. McQuilkin said, …

I haven’t in my life experienced easy decision making on major decisions. But one of the simplest and clearest decisions I’ve had to make is this one, because circumstances dictated it. Muriel now in the last couple of months seems to be almost happy when with me, and almost never happy when not with me. In fact she seems to feel trapped, becomes very fearful, sometimes almost terror, and when she can’t get to me there can be anger, she’s in distress. But when I am with her she’s happy and contented. And so I must be with her at all times. And you see, it’s not only that I promised in sickness and in health till death do us part, and I am a man of my word, but as I have said, I don’t know with this group, but I have said publicly, it’s the only fair thing. She sacrificed for me for forty years, to make my life possible. So if I cared for her for forty years, I would still be in debt. However, there is much more. It’s not that I have to, it’s that I get to. I love her very dearly, and you can tell it’s not easy to talk about. She is a delight. It’s a great honor to care for such a wonderful person.

The contrast between Robertson and Robertson couldn’t be greater. One is a display of God’s love for us, faithful to the end, even when things are difficult and life is ugly. The other is a display of man’s love–self-centered and interested only in what meets my needs.  I want to love like Robertson McQuilkin.

You can see the contrast in the videos below.


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