Category Archives: Divorce

Should the Government Recognize Marriage?

A while back in a comment section on another blog, I got into a debate with several other people about the role government ought to play in recognizing marriages. I argued that the government must be involved and was told by others that this was varying degrees of stupid, ignorant, or dangerous. The thrust was that “marriage worked fine before the state got involved” and therefore, the state ought to back off. It was “fantasy” to expect the state to honor and enforce any aspect of marriage, and I was a fool for defending the idea.

Although it might be fashionably libertarian to argue against state interaction with marriage, I don’t think anyone can reasonably defend that case. I think illustrating the situation will help, but first, some explanation.

In the West, there is a strong but recent tradition of radical individualism that sees every individual person as the fundamental unit of the society they live in. The French Revolution gave us the first taste of this, with disastrous consequences. Western tradition has a much longer-lived, deeper, and more attested view of society, however, which views the fundamental unit as the family. Instead of viewing a man, his wife, and their three children (for example) primarily as five equal individuals, this deeper tradition sees one family with a father, a mother, and children. All five are individuals, but not primarily. This is most obvious when it comes to young children, who are fully dependent on their mother and father just to survive each day. To see each person in the family as an interchangeable fundamental unit is laughable.

I think this view of family as fundamental is not just a part of Western civilization, but one of its axioms. I’d go further and say that this is fundamental to civilization itself, but I have not studied the East to the same degree or with the same interest, so I’ll hold back for now.

Marriage is the fundamental relationship within a family because marriage, by nature, bonds a father to a mother, and both a mother and father to their children.

There are two ways that the government can interact with marriage. It can either respect marriage or it can disregard marriage. In the former, the government treats the family as the fundamental unit, and outside of criminal justice, tries to deal with families instead of individuals whenever and wherever possible. The marriage relationship binds the family together, granting legitimacy to the children and – perhaps most importantly – giving the father rights over his own children.

In the latter, the government doesn’t recognize marriage at all, and simply ignores it. It treats all members of the family as atoms.

Here are two diagrams of the models. The irony here is that the people attacking government recognition of marriage are against no-fault divorce, which is exactly what the government ought to embrace if it disregards marriage. But the important thing here is that if you don’t like the government getting involved in your intimate relationships, you are making a grave mistake by inviting the government to ignore marriage relationships. It may sound like the best way to keep the government out of your marriage, but it’s quite the opposite. You all but invite them into your home:

FamilyGov1

Government involvement with internal family affairs when the government respects marriage.

FamilyGov2

Government involvement with internal family affairs when the government disrespects marriage.

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Is Marriage Possible?

For Christians, marriage involves a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church and a wife who submits to her husband as the church submits to Christ. The husband is to love his wife even unto death, and a wife is to submit to her husband in everything. There are no exceptions.

These are impossible standards for mere humans to live up to, but that’s the nature of perfect moral standards. It isn’t a defect in them.

Husbands are also to teach their wives about spiritual things. They are to “wash [their] wives with the word [of God]”. Paul says that only men are to preach because Eve was deceived; naturally then, this role falls to men.

I’m convinced Christian marriage doesn’t exist in the West. Christian marriage isn’t just difficult today. It is actually impossible. We have only clumsy attempts, and can get nothing more.

In the military and in other hierarchies where real submission to authority takes place, there are safeguards to enforce the structure. Punishments exist for those who disobey orders. The mere fact of these consequences is enough to deter the majority of those who might be tempted to disregard their superiors.

In Western marriages, there have also been safeguards against disobedience. Husbands had tremendous control over their wives. While the modern mind might be tempted to think of physical violence, there were more effective ways to accomplish the goal. Women needed husbands to have any political voice, as only men would qualify to vote, serve in officer corps of the military, or in the court of a king. Christian civilization had mercy for widows, but none for adulteresses. It had roles for women who abstained from marriage, but disdain for women who abandoned their vows. Husbands could rely on all of these things to get the job done so they could focus on Christ’s command for them: to love their wives as Christ loves the church.

None of these things exist today. There are no negative social consequences for women who divorce their husbands, who sleep around while married or not. In fact, women who unilaterally divorce their husbands are often rewarded by courts stacked in their favor. Women don’t have to break their family apart on the outside to rebel, though. With universal suffrage, a house can be divided on the inside; husbands and wives can vote against each other, bringing the government into their home like some totalitarian’s dream.

There are no social restraints to keep a wife submissive toward her husband. And there are no legal actions available to men to do so on their own. In fact, a man who tries to enforce his authority in any way will bring only scorn.

Submission is impossible to enforce, so we are required to trust that women will simply submit out of their own good nature. But women are sinners, just like men. And women, as Paul says, were the first to be deceived, being more likely than men to be manipulated. Our fundamentally feminist culture has honed its skill in manipulation.

Since submission is impossible to enforce, and impossible to produce without enforcement, and since submission is fully half of what makes a Christian marriage, I posit that Christian marriage is not simply difficult in 2018. It is impossible.

The Divorce Deluge

I overheard an unpleasant conversation recently and before I could regret having been close enough to hear it, I came to believe it might be worth thinking about. It was one of those one-sided conversations where one person says all of the nouns and verbs and adjectives while the other person merely confirms that they are still awake with occasional affirmations.

The topic of this dismal monologue was divorce, at least at heart. The guy doing all of the talking was complaining that his ex-wife demanded credentials for a babysitter he had hired to take care of his children. He jokingly suggested just how absurd it would be if his ex-wife asked for similar information about anyone he dated.

But is this really something to joke about? Divorce causes immeasurable damage to children and adults, and it never seems to lack in the ways it does so. Why should the people invited into the lives of one’s children suddenly be outside the realm of discussion just because the parents of the children are divorced? I’m not arguing that anyone is legally obliged to make any effort on this. The legal system treats sacred vows like junk mail and throws them away only when it doesn’t have enough time to shred them, so this isn’t surprising.

The well-being of children should not be compromised even further than the divorce itself by allowing total strangers to have access to children with the consent of only one of their parents, but such access is legally permitted. Any attempt to limit it is met with mockery. “It’s my life, I see who I want and hire whichever babysitter I like”. But the welfare of a child is the responsibility of both the mother and father. Why do we instinctively mock attempts to protect children as nothing more than sticking our nose in other peoples’ business?

There are no easy answers to these problems because there is no easy answer to a severed vow, especially one that has produced children who are tied as much to the vow and relationship of their parents as they are to each individual parent. For children of divorce, the rejection of one parent by the other will always be in part a rejection of the child. Our civilization seems to care so little for children that after dragging them through the hell of divorce, we still show no concern for their well-being.

Divorce, and particularly its Satanic no-fault incarnation, is just a deluge of suffering for children. Every time you think you’ve been able to list all the ways it harms children, you’ll find another waiting. When Christianity is replaced with the Worship of Self, it is no wonder that the least and poorest in spirit are crushed. Whatever children escape the horrors of abortion often find families broken by selfish, pleasure-seeking adults. It is one of those things that makes hell seem lenient.

Jesus on Divorce

ancient-jewish-wedding-customsFrom Matthew 19

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The authentically Christian view of marriage and divorce is despised as much by those who claim to follow Christ as those who do not. Consistent Biblical mandates about the headship of the husband are transformed into the husband submitting to the whims of his wife. Consistent Biblical mandates about the submission of wives to their husbands is seen as oppressive even in Christian circles. Even when the concept is accepted, there is a substitution for the extra-Biblical construct of “mutual submission”. If mutual submission, why not mutual leadership? The two are the same, and both are clunky ways of saying “Democracy”. Is that really how Jesus relates to His church?

As badly as Christians misrepresent Christian teaching about marriage, the Christian teaching and treatment of divorce is even worse. Jesus declares that divorce is never right, and remarriage after divorce except for sexual immorality is adultery. Somehow, modern Christians have got it into their heads that divorce is right in myriad circumstances. Emotional abuse and unhappiness are frequently used as excuses for divorce, despite the fact that both of those entirely subjective measures are not mentioned once in all of Scripture as a cause for divorce.

Modern Christians often have no problem with divorce and are blind to the overwhelming moral qualities of it. The rest might have a problem with something, but it isn’t divorce itself. Often, and despite not being treated as leaders in their home, husbands are blamed for the negative behavior of their wives – including divorce if it occurs. Instead of blaming the person who initiates a divorce (which is usually the wife), Christian leaders blame the husband for not doing enough. This contradicts Christ, who gives no circumstance that ever justifies divorce, and Paul, who always describes the roles of husband and wife as unconditional.

If Christians want to learn to follow God’s Will, they could certainly do worse than following his clear moral teaching on marriage and divorce. As it stands, it’s a bit of an embarrassment to be surrounded by Christian leniency toward divorce when one of the chief complaints that non-Christians have about Christianity is the hypocrisy of it’s adherents.