Friday, May 17, 2013

Discerning Forgiveness For Infidelity

Recently a viewer of ABC Family's 700 Club asked a trying moral query for a Bring It Online segment. Ivy asked:  

I've been trying to forgive my husband for cheating on me.  We have gone to counseling, but I 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 so hard to do.  I want to forgive, so we can get on with our lives. 

Co-host Christi Watts noted:  “I think forgiveness can be one of the most difficult things in the whole wide world to do, and especially when it comes to a spouse, because that’s one of the ultimate betrayals.”

Longtime 700 Club host Pat Robertson looked into the camera and  responded: "Here's the secret:  Stop. Talking. About. The. Cheating."  

Among the right reverend's analytical approach to infidelity, Pat Robertson suggested that men have  a tendency to wander a bit so the goal is to  make a wonderful home so your husband is not tempted to roam. He noted that there is a lot of pornography out there, which entices men every day. 

The 82 year old Robertson also counseled that the betrayed spouse ought to remember why she married him in the first place.  Other considerations should be: 1) Is he handsome?; 2) Does he provide food, shelter, clothing; 3) and is he nice to the children.  Robertson asserted that the betrayed spouse should give him honor and fidelity.   Robertson ended his monologue by proclaiming:  “Thank God you have a marriage that is together, that you live in America, and that good things are happening. Okay, next question.”

This advice seems strange and less than spiritual than pragmatic. Christians believe that forgiveness is intrigral to our salvific history.  Jesus taught: " If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (MT 16:15).  

Forgiveness is difficult and a divine virtue but it does not necessitate forgetting the sin.  Catechesis which tried to explain how God treats sin suggests that forgiveness is like a wound healing on the body--the individual is made whole through healing yet a scar remains.   In fact, if we could forget, we would not need to forgive.

The challenge is forgiveness without forgetting and being embittered by the experience. Perhaps that is where Robertson's ramblings about remembering the good things can be put in context.  

I would take more of an Ignatian approach and observe about the virtue of detachment.  St. Ignatius of Loyola had recognized the charism of "Finding God in all things"  but discerning what things draws you away from God and what things draws you closer to divine virtues. 

This is not the first time that Pat Robertson has made controversial pronouncements on the intersection of faith and the real world.  This observation about overcoming unforgiving impulses about fidelity sounds in sync with  Iranian imam Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, who divined fault lines with the fairer sex, only without the burka.  

With such special counsel from Pat Robertson about forgiving infidelity, it is important to remember that the 700 Club name dates back to 1962 when the fledgling televangelist sought to find 700 members who would contribute $10.00 a month to keep him broadcasting on the air in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  It does not refer to the number of times to forgive or levels of infidelity.

h/t: The Blaze

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