CTBHHM: In Which Debi Further Confuses Poor Sue Ann

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 243—245

Now we come to a section titled “Three Key Issues: Remarriage, Birth Control, and Head Coverings). Remember that we are still in the chapter on being obedient to your husband.

1. But I’m Already Remarried

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Pearl,

It is sad to know you have missed God’s will for your life. I want God’s will and wiht the help of my church, I am willing to lay my life down for Christ.

My first husband left. He filed for divorce (I never would, of course) and offered to give me everything, including the children, as long as I did not push for child support. If I did, he would fight for the children. I let him off, in order to save my children. He was not a Christian and lived a selfish, self-centered life. When two are unequally yoked, it is so hard. He had no interest in church or reading the Bible, and he was a bad influence on the kids. I was not sad to see him go.

Three years later, I met and married Fred. We had both been divorced and both of us brought children into the marriage. For the last 12 years we have had our ups and downs. I started feeling like something was not right about our sexual union and asked him to give me time to think it through. Sex just seemed wrong, and I did not want to dishonor God again. God led me to a lady who went to a very conservative church an hour away. I asked Fred to take us to her church, but he did not want to leave our church, plus he refused to drive that far “just for church.” I went just to see how it was, and that is where I finally saw what God was trying to tell me. I now know that before God, Fred and I are not really married. It is just terrible to think of all those years I lived in adultery. God forgive me! Anyway, I told my husband how I felt and moved upstairs.

At this time in my life, I do not have an income or a home, other than our home we share. I know I cannot live as a wife to Fred, but he is telling me to either be his wife or get out. I have prayed and prayed, and God has not given me direction. I only want to be the pure bride of Christ. Eternity is more important than the here and now. What can I do?

Sue Ann

So Sue Ann’s unnamed first husband divorced her, and she subsequently married Fred. She then started wondering if that was the right thing to do, and went to a “very conservative church” to get answers. She then determined that she was living in sin, and moved upstairs and told Fred that she’s not really his wife, according to God. I’m not sure who I feel worse for—Sue Ann or Fred.

Ready for Debi’s response?

Dear Sue Ann,

You said that your first husband was not a believer and that he left you. God tells us, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” I Corinthians 7: 15.

You also state that your first husband married again, thus joining himself with another.

I—what? No she doesn’t. She says her second husband, Fred, was himself divorced, having also been married before, but she says nothing about her first husband’s actions after the divorce. Did Debi misread the letter, or did she write it herself and assume she put that in since she had it in mind?

Matthew deals with this in two different chapters.

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:32).

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:9)

Um. Debi. This isn’t helping. In fact, I think you’re just further confusing the poor woman. Sue Ann did not say anything at all about her first husband either cheating on her or remarrying, so according to the verses you offer, Sue Ann is in fact currently committing adultery. These are in fact probably the verses the “very conservative church” showed her. These verses also suggest that Fred may be guilty of adultery hismelf, depending on his reasons being divorced from his first wife.

You cast doubt on your marriage to Fred being a “real marriage,” yet Jesus gives us a clear example of what he considers a “real marriage” when he spoke to the woman at the well.

John 4: 6-18

6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.

8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?

12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:

18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

Jesus clearly distinguished between a live-in and a husband. Jesus recognized the legal contract of marriage. If Jesus recognized all five of her husbands as legal husbands, do you think he does not recognize your marriage contract with Fred?

Debi began her response by quoting two verses from Matthew in which Jesus states that divorce is literally not valid except in cases of adultery. Presumably, Jesus isn’t rejecting that here, and that’s the problem. Sue Ann’s divorce did not stem from adultery. Is Debi honestly trying to say with this passage that Jesus is invalidating his statements about divorce for causes other than adultery itself being adultery? As for Jesus calling the woman’s first five men “husbands” and stating that her current one is just a live-in, isn’t that what Sue Ann is so concerned about—that Fred is, in Jesus’ eyes, not her husband? I feel like if I were Sue Ann, this passage and the point Debi is using it to make here would not help at all.

Also, in case you’re curious, the Greek word used for “husband” here is the same word for “man.”

More seriously, didn’t Debi spend last week’s passage intoning against divorce? Suddenly divorce, even five divorces, is totally okay? Debi, you are confusing people.

Lest you think you might have some religious reason to go back to your first husband, it is important for you to remember this passage in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.

3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;

4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

The phrase, “abomination before the LORD,” appears 8 times in Scripture. Abomination is a strong word used only for terrible sins. These 8 verses list what God considers an abomination: witch craft, sacrificing children in fire as worship, sodomy, worship of false gods in high places, and the verse about going back to the former husband.

Debi, seriously, at this point you’re confusing everyone involved.

Some say that this is an Old Testament passage, and that the New Testament never mentions the subject, so it is not relevant for today. Do you believe that God could find something so evil, so disgusting, so totally abominable at the time, yet some years later that same filthy abomination becomes his perfect will? I think not!

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

HAHAHAHAHA.

OMG, Debi. OMG. Do you have any idea what you just did? OMG.

Here is a Bible passage that Debi only mentions to quote the last verse:

Matthew 19:1-9

And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Jesus set aside that Deuteronomy passage. Jesus.

The Conclusion of the matter

I Corinthians 7 deals with marriage, separation and divorce. It’s conclusions are:

“Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife” (I Cor. 7:27).

“Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called” (I Cor. 7:20).

So wait. Does this overrule the earlier passages about divorce for anything but fornication being adultery? Does this mean, if you got a divorce for reasons other than adultery and then remarried, you’re a-okay because you’re supposed to stay in the state you’re in? And besides that, the passage says that if you are currently “bound” to a wife, you should stay that way, so it presumes an actual binding marriage—something Sue Ann is not sure she has with Fred. That’s kind of her question here.

As a side note, it’s also worth looking at the context of the verses Debi uses, because that second one doesn’t mean what she’s saying it mean here.

Frankly, Debi has left me confused. She has pulled verses from every corner of the Bible, not all of which agree.  She really should have stopped where she started, with her very first verse, because it was the only one that actually made her point. Here it is in context (context that would have really helped Sue Ann, I might add).

I Corinthians 7:12-16

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

Debi would have been golden if she’d stuck with this passage. These verses make her advice to Theresa and her advice to Sue Ann consistent—if your husband is not a Christian but is good with remaining married to you, stay with him, as you may win him to Christ, but if your husband is not a Christian and decides to leave you, let him go, you are no longer bound to him and are free to marry another. But instead of sticking with this passage, Debi had to go pulling in a variety of verses from around the Bible and making the situation only more confusing.

Also, Debi doesn’t leave her readers with a clear sense of direction on this point. She could have said “divorce is valid in two cases: If your husband cheats on you, or if he is not a believer and leaves you.” She could have then gone on to say that even if your husband cheats, it would be godly to stay married to him, in hopes that he will someday be saved, or that through your testimony you can show him Christ. She could have then added that a wife of an unbelieving husband should be careful not to drive her husband away with her actions, because while she would be free to remarry should he leave she would lose the chance to witness to him. All of this would be totally consistent with the seemingly contradictory things Debi has said, and it actually holds together consistently. But Debi instead has to simply throw out anecdote after Bible verse and Bible verse after anecdote, resulting in a jumbled disarray of confusion.

This brings up something I haven’t really commented on: Debi’s book is not all that well organized. She’s not good at making succinct main points and then sticking to backing them up with supporting evidence. Instead, she jumps around and throws out seemingly random stories, letters, and Bible verses. This may make it fun to critique, but it has to make it confusing for readers.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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