Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Divorce: Why Christians don't care about YOU

There's a new Christian movement to "get tough on divorce," which sounds great. We all agree that divorce is bad. But when I read the details, I was surprised, almost horrified, at its anti-family tone. You'd think getting tough on divorce meant supporting families, but it turns out to be the opposite. As far as I can tell, it's a "Don't embarrass your Church" campaign.

Christians have a commendable respect for family, marriage and the importance of children. In fact, they often want to claim the high road, that those who embrace God and Jesus are inherently better parents and have happier, healthier families. Organizations like "Focus on Family" even make claims like this:
"The panel first suggested that newlyweds should establish and maintain a Christ-centered home. Everything rests on that foundation. If a young husband and wife are deeply committed to Jesus Christ, they enjoy enormous advantages over a family with no spiritual dimension."
Unfortunately, the facts don't bear this out. The most religious Christians are the most likely to get divorced! (For more information see Southern Baptist Convention's Resolution On The Scandal Of Southern Baptist Divorce, which lays it out in detail.)

Well, enough is enough. They've decided to Get Tough on Divorce.

On the surface this seems like a laudable mission. Divorce is a terrible time for a family. It's a time of broken dreams, a time when love turns to bitterness and often hate, and when children's idyllic vision of parental love and home stability is shattered.

But when you read Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Rev. Albert Mohler's key essay, none of that seems to matter. His writings, and all the others I could find, are strangely devoid of any concern for the actual families. Instead, you find stuff like this:
  • Mohler contends high divorce rates make it hard for evangelicals to claim moral high ground.
  • Christian divorce is "an indictment of evangelical failure and a monumental scandal of the evangelical conscience."
  • The high rate of evangelical Protestants divorces "creates a significant credibility crisis when evangelicals then rise to speak in defense of marriage."
  • "An even greater tragedy is the collapse of church discipline within congregations ... divorce is considered only a private concern," that is, none of the church's business.
Do you see anything in that list that shows a genuine concern for the family? No. It's all about Christianity's reputation.

Mohler's essay has one paragraph that started to get my hopes up. Three sentences are devoted to the husband, wife and children. But then the last sentence blows all of that out of the water:
"But divorce harms many more lives than will be touched by homosexual marriage. Children are left without fathers, wives without husbands, and homes are forever broken. Fathers are separated from their children, and marriage is irreparably undermined as divorce becomes routine and accepted. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin, but it is sin, and it is a sin that is condemned in no uncertain terms."
In other words, never mind what might be best for the family. The Bible says no divorce. End of story. Mohler's essay ends with this:
"Divorce is now the scandal of the evangelical conscience."
Got that? If you get divorced, you're embarrassing Christianity.

I guess we know where the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary stands.

I've been through divorce and wouldn't wish it on anyone. At one of the lowest points in my life, I was talking with our family therapist about how awful divorce would be for my three wonderful children, and she told me this:
"There's no doubt about it, divorce is a complete disaster for children. There's no upside to it. Every study shows that divorce is one of the worst things that can ever happen to a child.

"The only thing worse is not getting divorced."
In other words, keeping unhappy families together for the sake of the Church's reputation is the worst thing you could do.

If the Christians want to show real concern for their families, they should focus on realistic family therapy, using the excellent, proven techniques that family psychologists have developed over last few decades. They should look into why Christian families are getting more divorces than non-Christians. That would show true love.


  1. I was under the impression Mohler wasn't focusing on 'how a church should help', but on why the church shouldn't point the finger at gay marraige. I thought the point was that if we're going to get active about marriage reform, it would focus on the larger problem of divorce.

    While I'm sure you could find some crackpipe Baptist church that kicks out divorcee's (we can start by asking Dove World Outreach about their opinions on divorced couples). Something tells me Mohler would fully support helping families who are suffering through a divorce, or who are considering divorce as an option.

    I was always under the impression that one of the key services churches offer are counseling and family help, anyway.

  2. Well, I think, divorce has nothing to do with a religion. Besides it's always better to bet divorced than having a bad marriage. What say you?

  3. D.P. -- You think divorce has nothing to do with religion, but unfortunately the evangelical churches don't agree with you. They'd like nothing more than to impose Biblical law on the United States.

  4. I'm a Christian. I'm currently researching and taking courses on how to care for families during a time of divorce in order to equip others to do the same. In my interest in the topic, I stumbled across your post.

    You've egregiously misrepresented the article you refer to and the Christian view of marriage and divorce. You have taken quotes so outrageously out of context, it makes me sad.

    I'm sorry that you have experienced divorce. And I'm sorry that no Christian had to the courage to step in and support you or your family during that time. That also makes me sad.

    But please, don't misrepresent an entire worldview and faith based on a few sentences of an individual's opinion.

  5. Kim – I applaud your choice to study family therapy, and you sound like one who cares about the welfare of families above all. Good luck with your work.

    But I disagree with your assertions. First, it's unfair to say I took anything "out of context" when I also provided a link to the original. I merely highlighted certain statements made by Albert Mohler that illustrate my point: His essay shows more concern for the church than for families. And I stand by that assertion. If Mohler is actually genuinely concerned for family health, then I can still accuse him of poor writing, since in that case he has badly misrepresented his position.

    I just don't see how you can read his words and not be shocked by his disregard for families. His concern for the church's reputation shows through in every paragraph.

    As to my divorce, why do you think I would want Christian support? Why do you say "Christian" in this context? Why not, "I'm sorry that no kind person had the courage..."? This illustrates one of the things that we non-Christians find offensive about your faith. Do you realilze how arrogant that sounds to us? Try to imagine if I'd written to you, but said, "I'm sorry that no Muslim had the courage to step in ..." You're subtly suggesting that only Christians have the ability to be kind and supportive, even though my guess is that you didn't intend to do that.

    As to misrepresenting "an entire worldview and faith," perhaps my last paragraph should have read "If these Southern Baptists" rather than painting all Christians with the same brush. I hope it's pretty clear that I was criticizing one specific denomination, Southern Baptists, and specifically the opinion of one of its leaders, Albert Mohler.


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