On Pat Robertson’s daily program called "The 700 Club," a woman named Ivy called for advice: "I've been trying to forgive my husband for cheating on me. We have gone to counseling, but I just can't seem to forgive, nor can I trust.
How do you let go of the anger? How do you trust again? God says to forgive, but it's been so hard to do. I want to forgive, so we can get on with our lives."
Watch this - Pat’s advice. Not what I expected.
The Robertson Shocker
I expected Preacher Pat to call down hellfire and perdition on the philandering husband. I thought he would urge the aggrieved lady to leave the rascal, hire the meanest lawyer in town and pray that God should smite the brigand with pestilence unbounded. The husband should fall on his knees, repent, say a thousand “Hail Marys” (or the 700 Club equivalent) and prepare to burn in hell anyway.
Pat, you must know, is not one by whom the finer emotions have been touched with great delicacy and sympathetic exquisiteness. (Lafcadio Hearn)
My progressive, freethinking friends basically consider him a hypocritical, criminally irresponsible, smarmy moron, one of the vilest, most sanctimonious bastards in the history of religion – a soft-spoken Elmer Gantry - on a good day.
But, in my view, he did not perform in the expected manner. Instead, he gave somewhat Playboy-worthy advice. He recommended that the lady be cool, take stock, count her blessings and try a charm offensive. Men, after all, are scalawags, said Pat. It’s their nature. They can’t help themselves. Give him another chance. Divorce, after all, is a drastic step for a Christian woman, or anyone else.
For starters, I thought it artful that he gave his co-host a chance to comment before he spoke. After all, millions of
fundamentalist Christians tune in to the "700 Club" to hear the wisdom of the Great and Powerful Master Poobah who knows God better than God. Yet, he offered a mere mortal a chance to opine on the matter.
This is the first time I heard Robertson make any sense. Remember, this is the guy who blamed the ACLU and gays for 9/11.
Not Everyone Is Impressed
It’s true that his advice was sexist but, hey, if your
expectations are low enough, mediocrity is impressive. brilliant. However, my friends were not impressed. I expressed surprise that Pat’s advice was not so bad, considering the source. Well, I soon enough heard from feminist scholars and other deep-thinking savants who did not agree with this perspective, not even one little bit. All took exception to my attempt to find merit in anything touched by Robertson, including the advice under review. Here are a few of the specific complaints against his advice:
* He assumes women are always the victims. In fact, across cultures, women are equal opportunity cheaters. They are no less adulterous than men, though they have less opportunity for infidelity and more reason to lie about it. In this country, women appear to be closing the adultery gap - younger women are probably cheating on their spouses and boyfriends nearly as often as men.
* The advice was simplistic, amounting to “get over it” and be faithful to your servant master, even if he is not loyal to you.
* He failed to recognize that some, many if not most, mates may indeed be loyal, faithful and true to their spouses.
* Well educated health care and mental health professionals know you don't provide specific advice to people you don't know. (My thought on that complaint is that while this is surely so in real life, there are plenty of Joyce Brothers types, Dear Abbys and Dr. Phils doing exactly that in all forms of media. However, it is fair enough to fault him for not urging the caller to seek professional counseling at the end of his off-the-top show business advice.)
* Where does this judgmental holy roller, ordinarily so quick to judge people who violate biblical sexual laws like homosexuality, get off giving a guy a pass for having sex outside of marriage? Isn’t this what leads his angry god to inflict hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and 9/11s on whole populations?
In “Philosophical Letters, Voltaire quoted a character reference made in defense of the Duke of Marlborough: “He was so great a man, that I have forgotten his vices.” Source: Voltaire: Candide and Philosophical Letters, The Modern Library, NY, NY, page 161.)
The situation for the Reverend Pat is quiet different, deservedly so. In his case, the overwhelming sense, at least in my circle of friends, is that he is so vile, he will do no good or say anything sensible - and if he does, they will not admit of such virtues.
Alone among friends, I maintain that, for Pat Robertson, his advice wasn’t so bad. I know for sure it could have been much worse.