8 years ago: Counter-culture

August 31, 2005, on this blog: Counter-culture

Right-wing American Christians seem ambivalent about the Gospel’s counter-cultural imperative. On the one hand, they seem to regard America as God’s chosen nation, a city on a hill. They tend to speak of an undifferentiated “we” that refers to both church and state, and proudly speak of their nation in terms that their scriptures use exclusively for the fellowship of believers. On the other hand, they love to rail against the supposed decline of American morality and embrace jeremiads with titles like “Slouching Toward Gomorrah.”

Whether they describe America as Babylon or as the New Jerusalem seems to depend on how you phrase the question. Ask them if America is “good” and you’ll get an uncritically patriotic affirmative. Ask them if America is “moral” and you’ll get a fire and brimstone warning of the wrath to come.

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  • Steve

    These two things don’t seem to be necessarily contradictory. To use a Biblical example: Did the OT prophets love Israel? YES. Did they despise Israel’s descent into immorality? YES.

    I also recall the claim of anti-war protestors who repeatedly defended their patriotism. They made the common-sense claim that a person can love America without loving everything it does, or the direction it seems to be going in.

    So while the religious-right are not necessarily prophets, and are sadly almost never anti-war protestors, it does seem plausible that they can both love America, think America has a special place in God’s providence, AND decry its moral decadence.

  • P J Evans

    That requires that they understand what ‘moral decadence’ is – and that’s something that isn’t at all clear. They don’t like anything that doesn’t fit their particular sect’s view of morality – which is not at all the same thing.

  • Steve

    Whether or not their evaluation is correct is a different issue. I was merely pointing out that they are not guilty of double-thought… at least in this regard.

  • Hth

    I hear what you’re saying, but I think there’s something to be said for questioning the assumptions there. Sure, I can *say* that I love Israel, or the US, or my spouse or my kids, and on some level I can surely even believe it — but if what I really believe is that everything it does/they do is a moral disaster, then what I love is the version of them that I can *imagine* them being, if they conformed more closely to my ideals. So is that love or isn’t it? I think if you frame it as a person-to-person relationship, most of us would be skeptical — like, if your friend said that’s how they feel about his fiancee, you’d be pretty sure that marriage was doomed, right? But somehow it feels more palatable to us when we’re talking about a relationship that seems slightly more abstract, like between a nation and citizen.

    It reminds me of nothing more than the kinder-gentler bigotry that some “moderate” Christians express toward gay people. They love us! Jesus loves us! It’s all love everywhere and all the time! But they can’t *condone sin,* naturelment, so they have to sadly and lovingly make sure to keep the pressure on us to repent and reform. Which, as Fred and many others have pointed out, doesn’t look at all like love to most normal human beings, however much love they feel deep in their hearts. That dynamic seems like it’s also at work with the US religious right and its version of America, and honestly with some of your more agitated prophets and Israel, too.

  • Steve

    Hmmm… I think in a way you’re simply describing idealism. Doesn’t every person who loves their country ALSO want the country to improve in certain areas. I can’t think of a person who is patriotic and says, “I don’t want a thing to change.”

    Perhaps this is different when we’re dealing with people, though. We should want people to improve upon themselves. But at the same time, you want to appreciate the person for who he is, and not harp him. It’s tough to say, “I love you, but you’ve got to work on your health issues.”

    The same goes for moral issues. We’ve all got our moral hobby-horses. Group A spends all day decrying sexual immorality. Group B spends all day decrying the judgmentalism of Group A… comically unaware that they are being judgmental as well.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    “You’re being judgmental by judging my judgmentalism!” is the same logic as “You’re being intolerant by refusing to tolerate my intolerance!”, and they’re both bullshit.

    “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

    — “The Paradox of Tolerance,” Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. I, Chapt. 7, n.4

  • Steve

    I would recommend reading Luke 18:9-14.

    I think the genius of that parable is that people read it and say, “Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee…. oh wait.” Then we realize we cannot look down on the tax collector OR the pharisee.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Considering that the Bible you so extensively quote from also has stories in it that seem to imply the acceptability of rape* and incest%, I wouldn’t be so quick to use it as the Go-To Reference Manual For Marriage (or Life, for that matter).

    * God doesn’t have a beef at all with Lot all but throwing his daughters to the mob outside his door if it means keeping a couple of apparently male-gendered angels safe.

    % ISTR the most notable one being two women who wanted or needed to have children, and they got the brilliant idea to go to their drunk father for that. I don’t recal them being smited for that either.

  • Steve

    I’ll go out on a limb and assume you’re not a Christian. But I’d suggest that you not everything that is described in the Bible is presented as model behavior. Much of the Old Testament describes humanity at its worst and most desperate.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Uh, that whooshing sound was the point flying straight over your head.

  • smrnda

    It depends on what you’re criticizing in others. If someone tells me that they find my accent *annoying* the friendship is OVER, since I take things like that pretty personally.

    Criticizing others for being judgmental is not the same as being judgmental. I think we could all do well to mind our own business and not editorialize on people’s sexual choices, provided they are consensual and fully informed. Am I somehow *oppressing* people who think we should openly condemn anyone who falls outside of a narrow view of proper sexuality? I’m not condemning anything they actually do, just their need to criticize others.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Yes, this.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yes, it’s so terrible that social attitudes to sex and marriage are a lot healthier now than they were in the 1950s.

    If you want moral decadence, how about the fact that there seems to have been open season on labor the last 20-some years and business owners and managers feel absolutely no shame at ruining hundreds or thousands of Christmases at a time all to goose up their quarterly bonuses and stock options?

  • Steve

    Well, good sir, I am firmly opposed to the exploitation of workers and unhealthy attitudes toward sex and marriage. However, I’ve seen the devastation wrought by the massive amount of divorce in our culture today. Too many boys and girls have grown up without their dads, and I think a lot of people are hurting because of it.

  • Hth

    1) There’s a lot of silly scare-mongering about the “devastation” of divorce in our culture. Yes, some kids have terrible experiences, particularly when the marriages were toxic to begin with or the divorces particularly hostile or one parent vanishes afterwards (more on that below). But plenty of kids just do not experience it as devastating or as a source of lasting pain. Nobody enjoys divorce, but this idea that it’s this terrible scarring thing that your kid will never get over is completely unsupported by any evidence; all the actual research on it shows that children of divorce and children of intact marriages are statistically pretty much the same, *when you control for similar levels of financial security and parental involvement.*

    2) The problem, then, is that all too often divorces lead to less financial security and the experience of abandonment by one parent, nearly always one’s father. That’s got nothing to do with “attitudes toward sex and marriage.” That has to do with an economy that throws every possible barrier in the way of people trying to raise children, making childcare and healthcare and affordable housing and a living wage increasingly inaccessible. The rest of the industrialized world doesn’t do this. They make a concerted effort to see that children aren’t penalized for having only one parent, which, by the way, has happened to children since time immemorial, due to illegitimacy or death or, yes, sometimes divorce. (My grandfather was divorced in the early 1940s. So was my partner’s grandmother. Despite revisionist history, single-parent families, like working mothers, were not invented by Betty Friedan.)

    3) I can’t begin to speak to why it is that in our culture divorce so frequently seems to mean “growing up without dad.” I find it appalling that so many men find it so very easy to decide they’re not interested in parenting their children now that they’re no longer sleeping with mom, but it does seem to me like that’s less true than it once was. I grew up with a lot of kids whose fathers had moved on to new lives and had very little to do with them, and now I see a lot of divorced men my own age going to great lengths to make sure they’re available for the children of their former marriages. That’s a great trend, but you’re right, for too many kids, when the marriage breaks up, dad’s attention wanders off, while that rarely seems to be the case with mothers. That’s not so much an attitude toward sex or marriage as it is an attitude toward child-rearing and fatherhood. I agree that it’s toxic, but I don’t think it’s all that recent, and like I said, I actually think more egalitarian relationships have led to less of that than there used to be.

  • Carstonio

    Divorce is not about moral decline. That wrongly assumes that most divorces are caused by one spouse wanting to sleep with other people. What about children growing up without moms?

  • Steve

    You are jumping to the conclusion that the only immoral thing that leads to divorce is adultery. Is that true? What about anger? Harboring grudges? Or perhaps taking another person for granted? Or putting someone down?

    Do you really think my mentioning growing up without Dad (which is more common and what I have experience with) is to claim that Mom is unnecessary?

    Good sir, I think you’re trying to hard to disagree and looking too hard for a fight. If you believe in God and pray, I think you should reflect upon that.

  • Carstonio

    Most of those causes are better described as selfishness rooted in immaturity, and that’s the real root of my complaint. Your argument implies that people should be shamed into staying married, like they’re being selfish for wanting to end the marriage. I would agree that healthy relationships do require emotional maturity, but they also require compatibility, and often even emotionally mature couples lack that element.

    I never accused you of labeling moms as unnecessary. I was questioning why you were fretting about the absence of dads exclusively. I’ve had too many experiences where that argument involves wrongheaded assumptions about hierarchical gender roles.

  • Steve

    Why do people always get to decide for other people what is implied? You read into my text the desire to shame people. It wasn’t there.

  • Carstonio

    I mean that labeling divorce as immoral amounts to shaming divorced people. With numerous couples, staying together would have worse consequences for everyone involved. For any particular couple, that’s not a judgment that outsiders should make.

  • John Alexander Harman

    People always get to decide for themselves what a statement implies to them. Intent is not magic.

  • Baby_Raptor

    No offense, but you have no real grounds on which to make that judgement. You have no idea what really happens in marriages that end, how kids are actually affected, or how their lives would have been different if their parents had stayed married.

    You can pontificate all you wish, but all you’re really doing is advocating forcing people to stay in bad relationships for the sake of the kids, when there’s evidence that this is actually worse than the parents divorcing and moving on to healthier situations.


  • Steve

    You seem to know a lot about me and my experiences. I’ll defer to your superior judgement.

    However, if I would be so bold, I’d say that another way to end a bad marriage is for both people to work together to repair the marriage.

    Sometimes one spouse is willing and the other isn’t. But if everyone valued the permanency and goodness of marriage, that would happen less often.

  • Hth

    The thing is, we as a society have largely decided that genuine intimacy and joy within one’s marriage is a legitimate and objective good that actually outweighs “permanency” as a good. That is, the vast majority of Westerners, at this point in our culture, believe that if you can have either a happy marriage or a long one, the “goodness of marriage” is better served by a happy one. So I guess what I’m saying is, it’s not fair to conflate the permanence and goodness of marriage as though it’s the same thing. Most of us don’t think it is. Most of us think that those are two things that *ideally* occur together, but in the real world one sometimes has to choose between.

    So sure, yes, working on repairing the marriage (although I’m not sure if people who say we should do this know a lot of divorced couples — all the ones I know worked *feverishly* trying to repair their marriages before finally surrendering them, but I guess these people who divorce after one argument must exist somewhere). Great. We’d all like to reach the ideal. But when people do decide to divorce, it’s often because they *do* believe marriage can be good, that it *should* be good, that it’s a cheapening of the institution to accept unhappy longevity as the best one can manage. I think divorce is often an act of faith — faith that something better than this can exist on the other side, that marriage is meant to be more and better than a slog toward the grave with someone you manage to tolerate with enough couples’ therapy.

    I get that this is a value judgment that many conservatives don’t share, but I’m tired of those of us in the majority on this issue being hectored for not “respecting” or “believing in” marriage because we value its potential power to enrich human life over its potential permanence.

  • Steve
  • Hth

    I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re saying here. Do you think this is a new concept for anyone, that having both of those things would be better than having to choose between them? Literally everyone on the the planet agrees with you, as did I directly above: that would be much better! Great! Ideal!

    Many people discover that *los dos* is not an option for them, as ideal situations are sometimes not, here in this vale of tears. What you’ve offered in the way of solutions is absolutely nothing other than the vague idea that people should “work harder” on unhappy marriages (again, on the assumption that divorcing couples obviously didn’t work very hard, which is a pretty massive assumption). What the rest of us have offered as a solution to unhappy marriages is divorce, and until you come up with something more appealing, it would be nice if you tried not to belittle people who have chosen the best of the bad options available to them.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    A couple who feels that they have to stay together no matter what is not a healthy couple. It may seem like a paradox, but in order for a relationship to be truly content, each party must be aware that they can leave.

    I know that my husband is with me because he genuinely wants to be with me, not because he has no other legal option, or fears being socially stigmatized.

    I would never, ever want to be with someone if I suspected that the only reason they were with me was because they felt they didn’t have a choice, or that staying with me was only the least bad of all other options.

  • Steve

    If the only dimension of marriage was the happiness of the spouses, I would say you are correct. In the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus declares the indissolubility of marriage. Why was Jesus so cruel and foolish?

    I think the answer comes in verse 14, when Jesus embraces some children and says the Kingdom belongs to them. The promise of permanency isn’t so much for my wife, as for my son.

    I can look at him and say, “Mommy and Daddy promised to love each other and stay together. We’ll never split up. We’ll work out whatever problems we have. We promise.”

  • dpolicar

    I 100% endorse the commitment to work out problems together. This has little to do with children, actually; my husband and I are child-free but have nevertheless made such a commitment, for example.

    That said, treating a commitment to stay together as equivalent to a commitment to work out problems together is very confused.

    Many couples have the former but not the latter. My parents were among them, for example, until my father chose to leave his marriage without benefit of divorce.

  • Lori

    The promise of permanency isn’t so much for my wife, as for my son.

    This is incredibly grim.

    Exactly how do you envision this offspring-centric commitment going once your son is grown and out of the house? Do you think the happiness of his life rests permanently on mommy and daddy gutting it out no matter what, or do you believe there will come a time when he will be independent enough that the existence or lack thereof of your marriage will no longer have potentially catastrophic effects on his well-being?

    I can look at him and say, “Mommy and Daddy promised to love each other and stay together. We’ll never split up. We’ll work out whatever problems we have. We promise.”

    I sincerely hope that you have never and will never actually say this, or anything remotely like this, to your son. You seem to think that doing so creates security for your child, but what it really does is make him responsible for your marriage. That’s probably fairly benign as long as the marriage remains happy and healthy. However, if the time comes when it’s unhappy and unhealthy “I’m sticking it out for you, son” will become a burden that can crush his spirit every bit as badly as the worst divorce.

    And the thing is, you can’t guarantee that your marriage will always be happy and healthy and that your problems will always be solvable. You may think you can because your religion tells you so, but you can’t.

    The fact that this does not seem to have occurred to you is both sad and rather troubling.

  • Veleda_k

    The funny thing is, my mother promised me that she and my father would never get divorced. At the time, I’ve no doubt she meant it. But life never works out the way we expect, and I can only be grateful that she didn’t consider that promise to be some grim oath that she had to stick to no matter who it hurt.

  • Steve

    I think that after my little boy (and any other kids we have) has left the house, he’ll be happy that mom and dad are still together. It’s nice to have that place to return to. And later, we can even enjoy grandkids together!

    Of course, making guarantees is a tricky businesses. I can’t guarantee that I won’t become schizophrenic and live out my days convinced I’m Oprah. But on the day of my wedding I made a vow to my wife, and I’ll keep it with all my strength.

    That includes having to mend fences, say I’m sorry, and put myself second sometimes. But that’s the great beauty of marriage – two people seeking the good of one another before themselves. I’m sure we can conquer whatever obstacles come our way. But I appreciate your concern.

  • Lori

    You think he’ll still be happy you’re together and want that place to return to if your marriage has become unhappy & unhealthy and you can’t fix that? Not if he’s a healthy person he won’t. If you’ve taught him that being married is in and of itself all that’s required then I suppose he might, but that wouldn’t exactly be a positive outcome.

    You can say that no matter how crappy things get you’ll stay married because that’s what you said you’d do or it’s what you’re supposed to do. If that’s your choice, it’s your choice. Again, the point people are trying to make is that staying no matter what is of no particular value to your child(ren) because being a child of divorce isn’t actually worse for most kids than being the child of an unhappy home.

    The problem we’re having here is that you persist believing that you can be sure that you and your wife “can conquer whatever obstacles come our way”. The point I and a number of other people have been trying to make is that such certainty is an illusion.You can say you’re sure until you’re blue in the face and the cows have long since come home and headed back out again, but you can’t actually be sure of it. You can resolve to do your best, and no one is arguing against that, but you can’t be sure.

    I’m sure your judgmental assumptions about those who weren’t able to conquer what came their way is a great comfort to you now. I hope it doesn’t come back to bite you in the ass later. I mean that. I honestly hope that your marriage is both lifelong and good, that it provides a solid base for your son and any other children you may have and is a source of joy and strength and comfort to both you and your wife.

    I also honestly hope that as the years pass you will come to have a more realistic and understanding view of the challenges and choices of other families.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    You should probably stop saying that before he’s old enough to realize that it means the exact same thing as “You are the reason I have resigned myself to a life of unhappiness.”

  • Steve

    Ahhh, sir… you’ve not met my wife. Don’t worry about me being unhappy.

    You seem unfortunately dismissive of optimism about marriage. That’s precisely the attitude I’d love to see reversed in our society. If more people believed it were possible, more would do it. And we all be better off.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    If it’s not an issue, why are you filling your son’s head with nonsense about how you wouldn’t get a divorce even if you needed one?

    We don’t find a couple that’s had a successful marriage for decades worthy of celebration because they stubbornly refused to get a needed divorce. We find it worthy of celebration because *they didn’t need to*. There is nothing praiseworthy about staying in an irreparable marriage.

  • Lori

    That’s precisely the attitude I’d love to see reversed in our society.
    If more people believed it were possible, more would do it. And we all
    be better off.

    citation needed

    Please keep in mind that “the good old days” weren’t actually all that good for a whole lot of people. Folks didn’t change things because they didn’t know when they had it good or whatever other nonsense you might believe. They changed things because for a lot of them things were bad.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Optimism is hoping it won’t rain. Wisdom is carrying an umbrella just in case.

    I mean, hey, I don’t see me and Mr. ShifterCat ever splitting up. We’ve been together a long time, and both have the attitude of “try to figure out, together, how to solve any problems that come up”. But that doesn’t guarantee that there won’t, ever, be some problem that’s insurmountable (like, I dunno, aliens experimenting on our brains).

    That very lack of guarantees in life is one of the reasons why I don’t give divorced friends a “you should have tried harder” speech. If they hadn’t been willing to try, they wouldn’t have gotten married. But sometimes, all the willingness to try in the world cannot provide a solution.

  • smrnda

    The reason people are dismissive of the ‘anybody can make it work’ optimism is that it’s not realistic. When divorce was less prevalent, unhappy marriages simply persisted out of fear of social shame, and expectations for ‘happiness’ were pretty low as most people, at best, were hoping to simply survive.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    First of all, remember that not everyone you’re talking to is Christian.

    Second, you’re assuming that divorce is never the better option for the children of a marriage. Please get it through your head that that simply isn’t true.

  • Lori

    First of all, remember that not everyone you’re talking to is Christian.

    This is true, but not really relevant, in spite of what Steve thinks. The divorce rate among Christians is virtually the same as the divorce rate for the population as a whole.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    True also, but I was pointing out that Steve’s “Jesus says so!” arguments aren’t particularly relevant for those of us who don’t follow Jesus.

  • Lori

    On this topic at least it’s apparently not all that relevant for those who do either.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat


  • smrnda

    At the risk of sounding trite, no matter how hard I try, I cannot fit a square peg in a round hole. Trying to grow a lush, golf-course like lawn in Arizona is likely to be a failed enterprise.

    You can’t just slap two people together and guarantee they’ll work out long-term, partly because people change over time. People are not infinitely plastic, and sometimes 2 people cannot be happy together because their values and such do not align well enough. The best thing to do for both is to end the marriage.

    On the value of permanency, I don’t see any reason to view permanency as good, nor do I view marriage as intrinsically good Being married when you don’t want to be has to be about pretty lousy.

    Now, if I valued self-deception and ‘playing house’ rather than meaningful intimacy, then I’d probably see something bad about divorce, but I really just can’t value that over authentic intimacy.

  • Steve

    When we see an old married couple holding hands and learn that they’ve been married for 60 some-odd years. I think deep down we know the goodness of permanence.

  • Greenygal

    No. Deep down I know the goodness of a happy marriage, whether it’s lasted for six years or sixty. If that couple had been unhappily married for sixty years, and had stayed together because they believed divorce was a bad thing and things would get better if they just kept trying…that would be awful.

    (And speaking as a child of divorce, the idea that that’s what my parents ought to have done, and that they ought to have done it for me…god, no. I can’t express how awful that would have felt, knowing that my parents hadn’t been able to have happy lives because they thought they owed it to me.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Yeah. My parents have been married for forty-two years, and that would not mean a damned thing if the only reason they’d done it was for the sake of the children.

  • smrnda

    What about the couple married for 60 years who barely talk to each other and avoid even being in the same room together but who stayed married because they thought divorce was somehow bad? I’ve seen lots of marriages that were dead as could be, but which lasted a long time.

    Sometimes marriages work well. That’s great. Other times nothing could have been done to keep the people together and happy for 60 years.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It strikes me that complaining about divorce on the grounds that it is painful and dififcult and unpleasant is a lot like complaining about bypass surgery.

  • John Alexander Harman

    Trying to grow a lush, golf-course like lawn in Arizona is likely to be a failed enterprise.

    Um, actually Greater Phoenix has, IIRC, more golf courses per capita than any other metro area in the U.S. — and most of the houses in Paradise Valley, North Scottsdale, Sun City and the other wealthy areas of the valley have lawns as green and well-manicured as the golf courses. Of course, the long-term prospects for all that out-of-place greenery may be grim — unless we manage to build some massive desalination plants in California and/or Mexico and run similarly massive aqueducts from them to the Valley of the Sun, sooner or later there won’t be sufficient water to keep irrigating the lawns and links.

  • smrnda

    I should have added that it would not necessarily be a failed enterprise, but would likely be unsustainable in the long-term, and perhaps it’s better to just accept the climate and locate golf courses where they would be more natural.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    As opposed to, y’know, laws that favor abusive husbands keeping their wives trapped in marriages because rape was legal in some jurisdictions within a marriage because some dunce thought consent was automatic when you got married, or laws that keep women from being independent because property in a marriage was assumed to belong to the husband, etc etc etc.


    Christ, you’re a walking talking caricature.

  • Steve

    I’m not sure if you’ve had the privilege of being a young person whose parents are divorcing. But in my experience, divorce is a calamity for those kids. I’m not sure if it is right to belittle that.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino


    In your experience

    One anecdote proffered as evidence of a general trend

    Not buying it


  • Veleda_k

    As the child of divorced parents, I experienced no such calamity. Was it fun? No, but neither are a lot of things. I don’t see Invisible Neutrino as belittling my experience. In fact, I feel he’s being a lot more respectful than you are because he’s not assuming what I, just like all kids whose parents divorce, must feel.

    My parents stayed together long after their marriage was making them happy. I think that’s a shame. I wish they had split up sooner, so they could have stopped being unhappy.

    And quite frankly, the idea that people should stay together because they have children is to me a horrible one. You want to talk about calamity? I have difficulty imagining a more traumatizing burden being placed on me than, “Mommy and Daddy could be happy, but they’re staying together and making each other miserable, and it’s all. Your. Fault.”

    Sure, some kids whose parents got divorced had a rough time, and for that I’m sorry. But I don’t need your sanctimonious “what about the children?” spiel, because I am one of those children. My parents loved me and they did what was best for all of us, rather than drawing out some mockery of a perfect family and making us all miserable in the process. Good for them.

  • Shayna

    Yeah, I am glad my parents divorced. My bio-dad was a drunk who wasted his money instead of taking care of his family, my mother was right to kick him to the curb. When his second wife died from cancer, he abandoned that family too and left my half-siblings with nothing but resentment towards him.

    I am thankful every day for my father, the man who raised my sister and me, who married my mother when I was four, who adopted us before I started kindergarten. The calamity would be not having him in our life, not having the marriage and the extended family that he brought to us.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Mr. ShifterCat has given me permission to use his family as an example.

    His mother’s ex-husband was a narcissistic, womanizing drunk. He kept a “little black book” full of booty-call numbers, would stumble in late at night and throw up on the bed, then pass out and leave her to clean everything up. He spent most of his wages on his fancy car. Finally, his wife told him to choose between her and the car… and he chose the car.

    Mr. ShifterCat is nothing but glad that his mother divorced that guy, and frankly, so am I. I shudder to think how damaged both he and his mother would have become if they’d been forced to stay with her scumbag ex.

  • smrnda

    I don’t know of any young people who would have preferred their parents stay together in those cases. Most of them have told me that, divorced, the parents got along better since their relationship was simpler AND after the divorce, the relationship between the parents was only about sharing time with the kids.

  • P J Evans

    There have been divorces as long as there have been marriages.
    Your church/s teachings on the permanence of marriage notwithstanding, marriage is between two people, and if the marriage is over, it’s over.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    There have been divorces as long as there have been marriages.

    Well, it may be more accurate to say that as long as there have been marriages, there have been ways of getting out of them, whether or not a given society legally allowed divorce.

    For instance, before the digital age, people would sometimes move to a place where nobody knew them (and therefore, nobody knew they were technically still married), and start a new life there, often with a new spouse. Sometimes they didn’t even bother changing their names.

    Other people simply chose to murder their spouses. In Victorian England, an era when escape for most women was impossible, husband-poisoning became quite popular.

    Consider as well that for the nobility, marriage was often in name only. Sure, the king had a wife, and dutifully visited her chambers now and again to beget heirs, but everyone knew he spent most of his time with mistresses.

    And finally, factor in that life expectancy before the 20th century was drastically lower. Someone who managed to live a long time probably went through more than one spouse, because the previous ones cacked it.

    To anyone with a reasonable knowledge of history, all this “Oh, what a fallen age we live in, when people Don’t Take Marriage Seriously Anymore” is bullshit.

  • Maniraptor

    Have you been a young person whose parents hate eachother, absolutely hate eachother, and put off divorcing for years because of a misguided idea that it’d hurt the kids? *That* is a calamity. Divorce is an inconvenience. The process can be hurtful for the kids as well, but it’s because of the underlying problems more than the actual paperwork that allows the people involved to finally put together some kind of tolerable life.

    Finally getting divorced was the best thing my parents ever did for us.

  • AnonaMiss

    Without divorce, marriages are traps in which one partner can abuse the other without recourse and without escape.

    You make it sound like it’s better for a child to grow up with 2 parents in an abusive or desperately unhappy household than to grow up with one parent in a better situation. Fuck you, sir.

  • Steve

    Dear miss, keep in mind that you’ve written that in response to a person saying: “I wish more people would live out healthy, happy, life-long marriages. Divorce hurts a lot of people.”

    The anger which you’ve displayed seems disproportionate to what has been said. It sound like you’ve been hurt, and I wish you all the best.

  • John Alexander Harman

    “I wish more people would live out healthy, happy, life-long marriages. Divorce hurts a lot of people.”

    False dichotomy. People in marriages that are happy and healthy and have the potential to be lifelong are not interested in divorcing; divorce is the alternative to a miserable, harmful marriage, not a happy, healthy one, and there are many, many couples for whom divorce and a miserable marriage are the only possibilities. Not every possible couple has a non-zero possibility of forming a happy marriage. Not every actual couple that chooses to marry has a non-zero possibility of forming a happy marriage. Not every marriage that has been happy in the past has a non-zero possibility of being happy again in the future. And even if it is possible for a marriage to be restored to a happy state, it may still be less probable for a particular couple and even for their children that staying married will lead to them having happy lives than that getting divorced will lead to them having happy lives.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    My God, you have no idea how patronizing you come across, do you?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    What alternative solution do you propose for a nonviable marriage?

    There was a time when I had developed a false impression that people divorced because it was easier than working through solvable problems. But as I’ve aged and known people who have gone through divorces, it’s become clear to me that this is a minority case, and for the most part, when adults who have gone through the process of marriage make it all the way to the process of divorce, it’s because the marriage was no longer viable, and no amount of pretending otherwise would result in a fully functional marriage.

  • Steve

    Hmmm… I’ve not heard of a case where people divorce because it is HARDER than reconciling.

    The way you speak of marriages as “non-viable” sounds very odd to me. Marriage as a “process” that leads to the “process” of divorce. That sounds like an assembly line, not an intimate relationship rooted in love. That’s a depressing thought.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I used the same word that I’d use to describe, say, a pregnancy that can not reach a successful end.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    I don’t believe Ross was saying that marriage inevitably ends in divorce. It sounded to me like he was saying marriage is a process, which sometimes turns into the process of divorce. (The only other route it can take is for one partner to die, in which case the process of mourning must begin.)

    And when someone says, “nonviable marriages”, that’s obviously not the same as saying, “marriage itself is nonviable”. It’s the same as a biologist referring to “nonviable specimens” — it’s clearly not the same as saying, “no specimen is viable”. Either expand your vocabulary, or go back to lurking.

    I notice you still haven’t answered the question, either.

  • John Alexander Harman

    For my ex-wife and me, divorcing was one HELL of a lot easier than trying to continue our marriage. Because we divorced, we are still on friendly terms. Had we continued trying to live together as a couple for much longer than we did, we would surely hate each other by now; that was the trajectory of the increasing friction between us due to our fundamental incompatibility. Of course, had we made the mistake of having children before we recognized that our marriage was not viable, divorce would have been much more difficult than it was, though probably still easier than “reconciling;” fortunately, we did not, and our divorce affects only us — and mostly for the better.

    I also note that I am a “child of divorce” in a rather different way than you are: I would not exist if either of my parents had not been divorced from their respective previous spouses. Their marriage to each other has now lasted a few weeks over forty years, and is still going strong, and my mother’s ex-husband and my father’s ex-wife both moved on and had happier marriages of their own.

  • smrnda

    You seem overly concerned with choice of words that don’t affect the substance of the argument, but are instead a distraction away from it – you’re nit-picking using ‘mechanical’ rather than ‘organic’ language.

    People change over time, many times these changes are not *good* or *bad.* Whether these changes work for both people depend on both people, sometimes they don’t, and then the relationship ends.

    You also seem to infer that all divorces are tragic. Believe me, many are not since people are *okay* with the idea that the relationship isn’t working and cannot be made to work because both people can no longer be happy within the marriage – what they each want is too different for both parties to be accommodated, so the best thing is to end it.

    It’s sort of like someone finding that they *really don’t want to be an accountant, computer programmer, police officer etc.* – it’s nice to know what you want to be at 10 and live our whole life with that dream, but sometimes, it’s better to change, and once you realize you should, it’s best to move quickly.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    In a lot of situations, the hard solution is not necessarily the best one.

  • smrnda

    there’s also this illusion that all non-viable marriage are sturm und drang conflict. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and people can be adults about it and just move on without hostility.