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Robertson’s Attack on the Family

Robertson’s Attack on the Family September 14, 2011

You may have already seen this:

Reprehensible? Yes. Surprising? Sadly, no.

Three things occurred to me while watching this abomination. First, these comments, coming as they do from a noisy – even obnoxious – political “defender” of marriage, only serve to make the case for extending civil marriage to everyone. If, as Robertson apparently believes, marriage is nothing more than a contract that can be voided upon the incapacitation of a contracting partner, not an enduring, divinely sanctioned covenant, then he has no grounds whatsoever for claiming some special privilege for heterosexual unions.

Second, during the 2005 controversy over the removal of Terry Schiavo’s feeding tube, Robertson characterized the judge’s order that the stricken woman be removed from life support as “judicial murder.” In the video above, Robertson justifies divorce on the grounds that a woman with Alzheimer’s is “gone,” that Alzheimer’s is a “kind of death.” He goes on to say that he wouldn’t “put a guilt trip on” a man who decided to abandon a wife who is, in Robertson’s view, all but dead. Huh? So, in 2005 it was “murder” to remove the feeding tube of Terry Schiavo, who every medical expert agreed was in fact “gone,” but in 2011 it’s okay to abandon a spouse with Alzheimers, despite the fact that she continues to be conscious, alert, and will even enjoy many moments of crystalline clarity? Again, he has made the case for those who wanted to end Schiavo’s ordeal, even those who wanted it ended precipitously. Again, if his standard for “life” is so low that he counsels divorce and abandonment of an Alzheimer’s patient, he hasn’t a leg to stand on when someone wants to pull the tube from a woman in a persistent vegetative state.

Last, I’m struck by the threadbare moral logic of someone like Robertson, who has been purporting to “evangelize” for over fifty years. Sorry, but in the Evangelical milieu of my youth, this kind of make-it-up-as-you-go-along thinking was prevalent, and extended to everything from practical ethics to the most profoundly important theological questions. Lacking any kind of magisterium beyond the motley collection of para-church ministries like the Christian Broadcast Network, Evangelical Christian leaders are used to “winging” it, without any effective check by authoritative tradition, the reasoned arguments of theologians, or the binding statements of predecessors. You want to see absolute arbitrary power in action? Check out any independent “Bible” church on a Sunday morning. The sermon may be on the liberty of believers, but offer even a gentle contradictory word and you’ll be out on your ear. It makes me appreciate Catholic moral theology, and it should make you appreciate it, too. Because whether you disagree with this or that, at least you know that the Church takes this stuff seriously. Or, to put it another way, you’ll never read “put a guilt trip on you” in a papal encyclical.

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