CHURCHIANITY PART IV – marriage and divorce

Published November 5, 2008

WORDSLINGER’S NOTE: It’s been months since I last put up a Churchianity post (May 2008), but something tells me it’s time to start up again. These controversial articles have generated (mostly) positive responses and I stand by everything I have written — although I’ll be the first to admit some of my posits and theories need … tweaking. Before continuing with this article, you may want to read Parts 1 – 3.

Given that the divorce rate in this country is about fifty percent, with no discernible difference between atheists and those of faith (some studies show that evangelical Christians have the highest divorce rate of all), I think it’s time to address this issue head on.

Since we know that God created marriage (Genesis 2:24), hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that this union of man and woman is to be a picture of our relationship to God (1 Corinthians 6:16-17, Ephesians 5:31-32), how can such statistics be true? According to the Bible, the only legitimate reason for divorce is “marital unfaithfulness.” While too many churches define this term as meaning only infidelity, I personally think that’s pretty short sighted. What about violence? Alcoholism. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of spouse or children? If the atmosphere is dangerous, personal safety and common sense are to be regarded over rigid interpretation of biblical law — the believing spouse is not bound under such circumstances. As I’ve stated repeatedly in previous posts, God cares more about the heart than anything else — and I’m going to go there again in this article.

If Jesus is The Way (make no mistake, I believe that HE IS) and Christians are supposed to be the most loving people on the planet (key term here: supposed to be), than how come our marriages are just as likely to fail as those who don’t believe in this Savior?

According to one of the polls that verify such sad statistics:

1. Christians are generally younger when they marry the first time.

2. Christians are less likely to have pre-marital counseling than non-Christians. (This one I don’t believe.)

3. Christians tend to view their faith as protecting their marriage from divorce.

4. Christians are more likely to be ignorant about the problems that can develop within a marriage.

While at least three of those ideas are sound, I would add that marriage in the church is too often viewed as a cure-all. Naive “Bubble-mindedness” is demolished by harsh reality. It is a state rushed into before premarital sex rears its ugly head. And the marriage certificate is given a talismanic quality rather than considered just a piece of paper — like confusing flag and country, or God and the Bible.

Consider these points and questions:

Are non-married couples like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (25 years) or Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon (20 years) living in sin? These Hollywood super couples have accomplished what 50% of all married couples (including Christians) have not — maintained a happily monogamous relationship for over two decades without the assistance of a piece of paper. Are they living a sinful lifestyle or are they exemplifying what a healthy relationship should be? Just asking — their longevity screams that they’re doing something right.

Is the civil ceremony what makes a marriage sacred? It can’t be — it’s a man-made ritual. Adam and Eve never had a marriage ceremony or certificate, but they were considered to be married in God’s eyes. In regards to this, too many “Christians” put the emphasis on The Law rather than The Heart. (Which is what I’ve been trying to say in all of these Churchianity posts — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I’m working on it.)

While adultery (as in Thou shalt not commit adultery) is defined as: voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband … is pre-marital sex addressed in the Bible? To answer that question, one needs to define the term ‘fornication,’ which, according to the dictionary is: consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other. There is some controversy over whether or not the term fornication in the Bible is an accurate translation. Regardless, God’s analogy of marriage: The two shall become one, is at the heart of the matter.

Which brings me back to the Kurt and Goldie question. After a quarter century together, the law considers this a common-law marriage, but what about God?

When half of ALL marriages end in divorce, something is very wrong. I think it has more to do with the health (or sickness) of individuals — their issues and neurosis, their baggage and ability to put someone else ahead of themselves. In a narcissistic society (and we are), true selfless love is a rarity. And narcissism is an equal opportunity affliction, just as likely to be found in church as anywhere else. In fact, when it is found in church, and has the stench of religiosity about it, it is beyond repulsive (but you already knew I felt that way). The repression, isolation and legalism that is prevalent in today’s churches, MUST be a contributing factor to the church having at least an equal (and possibly higher) divorce rate. Where love and forgiveness should be preached, the rigid rules of Churchianity instead breed shame, guilt and neuroses — none of which are conducive to a healthy personal life much less an interpersonal one.

Divorce, while hated by God, is a reality. And yet, even Jesus let a woman who’d had five divorces wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. He was severely criticized for this, but He put His reputation on the line to defend her. He saw her for what she was: a wounded soul in desperate need of compassion.

Yet a woman with five divorces, “living in sin” with a man who was not her husband, would be shunned in most churches today, by self-righteous hypocrites who repel more wounded souls than they attract. People who care more about appearance and legalistic rules than the wounded condition and faulty motivations of someone’s heart.

I feel like I’m repeating myself here, but there are some who refuse to get this message of mine about the poison that is Churchianity.

We are, all of us, looking for love — quite often, in all the wrong places. Obviously, God wants us to start with Him. I have a lot I could say here about TRUST … but I think there’s enough for a post of its own.

So … what constitutes a marriage? Is it a ceremony? A piece of paper? Or is it the condition of the hearts involved?

Just trying to think outside the box here. Or The Bubble, if you will.

I don’t have all the answers folks — but I do have lots of unorthodox questions. And I just thought I’d throw some of them out there to see what comes back. Oh, they loved me in Sunday School when I was a kid … NOT!

Do you think I’m screwed up? Well-intentioned but bitter? Tell me.

More Churchianity posts coming soon — on topics like Sexuality, Self-Medication and Show Business. Oh yeah, and that one on Trust.

Your comments are welcome — let me know what you think.

Continue to Churchianity Part V – Show Business (1).