Marriage, Divorce, and the ROOT of a problem

Marriage, Divorce, and the ROOT of a problem April 22, 2012

It bugs me how often people address symptoms rather than getting to the root of the issue. For instance, the anti-abortion crowd tries to ban abortion even though the root cause is unplanned pregnancies and abortion is only a symptom. In reading through the comments on a post called Divorce and Custody on an evangelical Christian blog, I’ve realized that conservative evangelicals do the same exact thing with divorce.

David D. Flowers says:

My concern is for professing Christians involved in these matters. Why are Christians getting divorced and wrecking their families in the first place? If Christian couples worked on their marriages the way most of them do their ministries and careers, we wouldn’t be near as inclined to get involved in these legal matters of the state–where the courts must play God.

… If it’s a “Christian” couple, I say give the children to the parent who refused to quit on their family and the Lord. If they both agreed to quit, tell the children that their parents have decided to love themselves more than the Lord or their own kids. Mommy and daddy are dangerous people, home-wreckers, domestic terrorists! Give the kids to willing grandparents or a faithful Christian couple in the church–at least until their parents put an end to their selfishness, get right with the Lord, and are restored to fellowship.

Fortunately, just as my blood started to boil I found a perfect smack-down just a few comments down:

Kate Johnson says:

So David, according to you I, as a Christian, should have stayed in a violent abusive marriage and because I did not stay and sought a divorce and my “Christian” X did not want the divorce, he should have been given custody of our 3 sons who at the time were 7, 9 and 11? By the way he was also an alcoholic? And I worked for19 years trying to “fix” abroken marriae that could not be fixed. A very naive comment. And not the example of Jesus. Also, he would not pay his measely child support so yes, I did have to go to court and no, they did not get a percentage.

And yes, the divorce rate for Christians is way too high, it equals the secular world. But why is that? Did you know the divorce rate for non-abused women is 15% but the divorce rate for abused women is 75%? Want to cut down on divorce, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Something most are not willing to do, especially in the church. One last comment…. what breaks the marriage bond is not the divorce, it is the disrespectful treatment that is perpetrated in all too many cases. Love, honor and cherish means just that. If it happened more often, there would be less disrespect and abuse.

In other words, Kate blames divorce on abusive male treatment of women, and calls the church out for not addressing this treatment. And I think she is dead right. The point I find most interesting here is that while David addresses only a symptom – hey y’all, stop getting divorced already! – Kate points to the root – abuse that is perpetuated by church teaching.

For a movement that claims to be all about building healthy families, conservative evangelicalism goes about this completely backwardly. By arguing that God has commanded men to be in charge and women to submit, conservative evangelicalism creates a situation that is ripe for abuse. And more often than not, when an abused woman goes to the church for help she is told that it is her fault, or that she just needs to work harder on submitting.

And then of course there’s the whole “selfishness” thing that David emphasized. According to conservative evangelicalism, thinking of your own needs is “selfish.” You’re supposed to spend your life sacrificing for others and ignoring your own needs. It’s selfish to want out of a failed marriage, selfish for a woman to want a career, selfish for a couple to choose not to have children. By enshrining sacrifice the way it does, conservative evangelicalism tells women that their needs don’t matter and helps keep them from leaving abusive relationships.

And finally, of course, the church’s handling of marriage and divorce is just one more instance of its attempts to value rules over people and roles over individuals. Individual circumstances don’t matter. Individual personalities don’t matter. Men are to lead, women are to submit. And no one is to get divorced. Period. You see what I mean about placing rules and roles above people and individuals?

And they call themselves “pro-family.” Well, if that’s what a family has to look like, I don’t want one. It sounds stifling and suffocating. Fortunately, while they might think they do, conservative evangelicals do not have a monopoly on the family. And personally? I like my dynamic, fulfilling egalitarian marriage just fine, thank you very much.

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