Adam Graham
January 3, 2005
The sin of divorce
By Adam Graham

The words were said countless thousands of times last year as a minister concluded the ceremony. "What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." But so often man and woman do.

While gay marriage has been roundly condemned in most churches (and rightly so), you will not hear much about divorce. In many cases, if divorce is discussed in church, it's talked about as this horrible circumstance that comes upon people, listed in the same breath as automobile accidents or serious illnesses.

The Bible is quite clear on the issue of divorce. Malachi 2:16 says it clearly, "For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away (i.e. Divorce)..." Hate's a strong word and Christ reiterates this in the New Testament. Yet, in the church, even in Conservative churches, a man is more likely to feel uncomfortable with pierced ear than with a couple divorces behind him.

There's good reason why the church and conservatives are skittish about this topic. There's no one who doesn't know someone who's been divorced. They fill our church pews every Sunday. We know them to be decent folks who agree with us on a lot of cultural issues. Randall Terry, Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh have all been divorced.

We also know folks who have been victimized by their ex-spouse: abused, cheated on, and treated like dirt. Or, perhaps you dear reader have had a divorce where you weren't at fault and that you didn't choose.

On the other hand, most Christians know very few homosexuals and even less know homosexuals who'd like to get married. The odds of a pastor offending a large tither whose gay and wants to get married is quite small.

To say our current divorce rate is a national sin is not to say that all divorcees are to be condemned and treated as despicable outcasts. The church should be compassionate, but even as Christ said, "Go and sin no more," It must be proactive in dealing with divorce.

Divorce must be taught against strongly in the church. The church as a community should be dedicated to helping preserve the marriages of the church. Strengthening the marriages of believers should be considered as important if not more so than evangelism. Children of broken homes often wander spiritually and in many cases fall from faith. Thus, a large church may win 100 converts, but if it produces 40 broken homes in the same year that leads to 100 angry and embittered children, it is not truly building the Kingdom of God.

Also, church discipline should be used when appropriate for those who divorce without just cause and refuse reconciliation efforts. Watching Cornerstone Television, I saw former NFL player and Pastor of Antioch Bible Church Ken Hutcherson. He organized the Mayday for Marriage rally in Washington, DC opposing gay marriage. Call him anything you like, but don't call him a gay-hating hypocrite. Hutcherson said that in the past year, he'd censured five members of the church, including some for ending marriages without just cause.

The structure of most Protestant Churches is anti-authoritarian and the idea of church discipline is scary to most of us as we've heard horror stories about how cults have abused it. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and a biblical use of church discipline could aid in preserving marriages.

Secular Action

The devastating number of divorces is an area where the interests of church and state collide. Studies have shown that divorces lead to economic problems for states and communities, as well as the long term problems that come from children of broken marriages. It's no accident that the richest states are those with the lowest divorce rates.

The fact is that anyone who finds themselves in a bad marriage made a mistake at one time or another. Half the time, their biggest mistake was getting married in the first place. To prevent these bad matches or to help get the marriage off on a better start, marrying couples should be required to undergo several hours of marriage classes and/or marital counseling from a licensed minister or marriage counselor.

Secondly, no-fault divorce laws must be reformed. Marriage is the most important relationship a person has legally, yet it has all the force and effect of a month-to-month lease thanks to no-fault divorce laws. The laws should be reformed so a no-fault divorce can only be obtained if both parties consent. This would also reduce the court costs associated with issues of custody and division of the property as a no-fault divorce could only be obtained if both parties were agreed on it.

Those who believe in gay marriage have pointed to divorce as an argument against those who seek to protect marriage from same sex unions. I reject the argument that one evil prospering requires that we allow another blow to traditional family values. However, preserving the family is about more than one single issue and if we're going to be serious about it, we have to address all the issues that threaten the survival of the Family.

© Adam Graham

 

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Adam Graham

Adam Graham was Montana State Coordinator for the Alan Keyes campaign in 2000, and in 2004 was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Idaho State House... (more)

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