I care very little about Pat Robertson, the old-time Evangelical Christian who leads the 700 Club. As far as I’m concerned, he has said so many terrible things for so many years that his words hardly merit attention by the larger media. Or at least, that’s how I used to feel.
On his show recently, Mr. Robertson responded to a woman whose husband had cheated on her, and I have struggled to remove it from my mind. I watched the video, and considered the world in which a religious leader can tell a woman these things, and have been troubled.
The woman asked Robertson for help in forgiving her husband’s infidelity; here’s Roberston’s full response:
Stop talking about cheating, he cheated on you. Well, he’s a man. Okay. What you do is begin to focus on why you married him in the first place. On what he does good. Does he provide a home for you to live in? Does he provide food for you to eat? Does he provide clothes for you to wear? Is he nice to the children? Do you have a happy family? Does he take the kids to sporting events? Does he go and watch little league games? Does he share with you stuff that’s going on? Is he handsome? Is he…you know, what is he? Start focusing on those things, and essentially, fall in love with him all over again. I recommend you reach out and touch him. Touch his face. Hold his hand. Look into his eyes. Talk to him.
But you’re praying, Oh God, keep me from not hating for what he did when he was with that stripper in that hotel room ten years ago and that I’ll never forgive him for and please help me. So what are you focusing on? You’re focusing on the thing that makes you mad. Stop that. Start focusing on the good stuff. He must have something good, or you wouldn’t have married him. Think about those things. And give him honor instead of trying to worry about it.
But also, recognize, males have a tendency to, uh, wander a little bit. What you want to do is make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander. Think of the temptations. The internet is filled with pornography. The magazines are filled with salacious pictures of women, anywhere you turn around, there is some solicitation to the senses to entice a man. And so, what you have to do is say my husband was captured, and I want to get him free. Reach out, and think of the good stuff, and then, begin to thank god that you have a marriage that is together, and that you know, you live in America, and good things are happening.
There are many words here but most of them are simply this: Women, if your man cheats on you, it’s your fault. Deal with it.
There’s only so much outrage this warrants. Robertson’s vision of the world is so far from mine that I find nearly everything he says caustic and damaging. Robertson’s chauvinism is similar to that of John Pipers’s recent comments regarding what he finds to be the acceptable “roles of women” in teaching men. It’s been years since I cared about what conservative Christians think about these subjects, but I’m not able to ignore it any more.
This is getting a lot more attention in my mind, as my son is coming soon into the world. Any day now he’ll arrive and already I worry about how he will treat those around him. What if he falls in with a community that teaches him women are not a man’s equal? That’s what Piper and Robertson are teaching their followers. I cannot abide this kind of advice proffered to the world in which my son will grow up.
So, I’ve devised my first lesson to my son: Never listen to men like this. Ever.
In the minds of Robertson and Piper, “women” are a concept to be organized among all the other theological concepts, in a manner they think pleases God but really just harms our society. How else can a man teach that women are to blame for their cheating husbands, or that, only in a woman’s absence should a man be able to learn. “Woman” is not an intellectual notion, son. Women are not theological puzzle pieces needing to be arranged alongside transubstantiation and predestination, whose purpose and value are negotiated in rooms full of men. This may seem obvious. Still, never listen to anyone who thinks otherwise.
This is not to say that you should reject religion, Christianity, wholly. There is life and beauty to be found in religion if you so choose to seek it. But never let theology allow you to discriminate, or denigrate, or act like a brute.
Never listen to a man who tells you that it is natural to cheat on your wife because you’re a man. Never believe that you have the right to cheat on your wife because of how your house is run, or how your wife behaves. If you are married, you cannot wander simply because you’re male. If you cheat, and perhaps you will–it happens, you cannot blame it on your wife, or on culture, or on porn. Take responsibility for your actions.
Never listen to a man who teaches you that the sight of a woman is something to be avoided, or feared, or denigrated. Never listen to a man who says that women should not teach you (what a loss that would be!), that a woman’s personhood is a threat to your manhood, or that your are not responsible for yourself, at all times, in how you interact with a woman.
This is lesson one: make the world better. One way to do so is by rejecting men like these. By the time you are an adult, I hope your generation will have shunned and marginalized this kind of “teaching” to the fringes of society. I know that’s unlikely, as men like Piper and Robertson are propped up by too many Houses of some kind of God, but do your best to turn yourself away from these men.
One day, hopefully, you’ll be a grown man in love. If that happens, take responsibility for yourself; there is no excuse for ill-behavior in the notion of men being men. That’s bullshit. If you want to be a man, recognize the fully-actualized person-ness of every other person, and treat that person with respect. Treat everyone, women and men and children, at all times, with dignity and equality and humanity. Be good, and when you aren’t, take responsibility for your bad behavior.
This is of course easier said than done. And, honestly, in much of this I’m not a great role model. I took far too long to learn all of this, and did not really do so until I met women who demanded more of me. Hopefully we can speed that process for you, but if I ever tell you differently in the future, well, listen to your mother. She’s smarter than me, anyway.