Flyer sent home with our kindergartner.

divorcescanredactscale

A while back Christian blogger Terry Breathing Grace was kind enough to write a post on Does Your Church Measure Divorce.  Overall the reception was positive but I would also say somewhat cool.  I guess the mix probably looked like one would expect of a group of westerners, whether Christian or Atheist.  Some expressed horror at the devastation divorce was inflicting on their neighborhoods and congregations.  Others were concerned that social pressure against divorce might result in unhappy women.  One thought I was prideful for thinking that pastors should do differently than they have for the last 50 years.  Many were also in the middle.  Something should be done, so long as no adults are made to feel worse than they already do.

Karen wrote a powerful comment which echoes the flyer sent home with our daughter:

over the past 10 years we have seen lots of kids come and go from our home, seems like we are somehow drawing children in who have family troubles. Whatever the reason for divorce even biblical The Children Suffer. I have seen kids from unhappy homes and they were seemingly coping with it, fall apart when it turns to divorce. I never want to hear that they are divorcing for the childrens sake. I also see that the children feel venom toward the parents even the one who had biblical rights to a divorce. I have seen this in these children and it is always the same I have not seen one situation that was made better for the children…and not so much improvement for the adults either. I have seen a full load of sexual abuse by “boyfriends ” of mom ,out and out neglect of children, lies being told, children being used as pawns , children who never seem to bond with anyone I am just so sick and yet I don’t know that the church takes this seriously and the people who attend church seem to have the worldly view that if mom is happy the kids will be too. At least someone is trying , don’t know if it is the right way to do it ,I don’t know what to do, I just know people even in the church are swallowing a pack of lies.

Terry herself made an excellent point:

I think “I’m not happy!” is a terrible reason to divorce and the biggest thing the church can do to help avoid this particular pitfall is stop teaching the world’s view of love and marriage to the congregations.

Can marriage be romantic? Absolutely! Is it always? No, and we shouldn’t expect it to be so.

Teaching a biblical foundation of what marriage really is will stem the tide of “frivolous” commitments and the “frivolous divorces” that result.

This reminded me of another excellent comment Haley made on her blog entry on Eat Pray Love:

I think the biggest cause of divorce is the easy availability of divorce and the belief that lack of “happiness” is a legitimate reason to sever the marriage bond.

A number of the commenters felt that my suggestions were unbiblical. This is a fair point as I’m nowhere near a biblical scholar.  I’m looking for practical solutions, and they certainly don’t have to be mine. The Muellers made the following comment:

As for the sign, well… that’s a bit much in my opinion. I’m not sure posting how many ‘frivilous’ divorces a church has is really a biblical way to handle divorce. If a member of a church is truly being divorced for totally unbiblical reasons, then the church leadership has the right and the responsibility to approach the couple and try to counsel and even, if need be, discipline them. I realize that very few churches actually take the responsibility of spiritual accountability and discipline seriously, but if we’re going to look at the biblical model there it is.

Bike Bubba reinforced the point in his concluding line on his blog post on the topic:

Sometimes, it really is as simple as…..the Gospel.

For the record I’d prefer to not make any women unhappy, nor make any adults feel worse about their divorce.  I’m not looking to maximize the number of loveless marriages.  I also don’t think my proposal is the only possible way to address the problem. But don’t the kids count?  What about the fact that these folks swore before God and everyone they knew that they would stay together until death?  Is Christian marriage no different than being boyfriend and girlfriend?

I’d be ecstatic to see any methods which have produced concrete results. Based on the flyer and Karen’s comment I would say so would millions of kids. I’m heartened by the knowledge that Christians already know how to solve this crisis.  This makes me think this must simply be a problem of the media failing to get the message out of how churches across the nation have already fixed this. Please share your success story of dramatically reducing the rate of divorce in your congregation in the comments section of this post. I’ll devote a separate post to sharing these success stories, so please include the name of the church and the (low) congregation divorce rate you were able to achieve. 

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50 Responses to Flyer sent home with our kindergartner.

  1. J says:

    While I’m ambivalent on the silver divorce thing, divorces involving children break my heart. I think that the reasons religious institutions of various denominations don’t tackle the issue as directly as you would advocate is that they don’t want to be seen as mixing in inappropriately and alienating people. My own congregation has no stated policy on divorce, but efforts are made to support both parties and keep them involved in the congregation and guidance is given to those who seek it. Efforts NOT to take sides are made. I think divorce is a minefield for clergy.

  2. You made this statement Dalrock:

    For the record I’d prefer to not make any women unhappy, nor make any adults feel worse about their divorce.

    I appreciate the sentiment, sensitive and caring as it is. However, I for one have no problem with making women unhappy or making adults feel worse about their divorce if it menas refusing to tell them the truth. Clearly many women (and some men) have absolutely no problem making their children miserable and making their lives worse.

    At our church, the subjects of forgiveness, the sin of divorce, and the Bible’s warnings about divorce come up in the pulpit regularly. And I for one, think it’s a good thing, no matter who feels bad. Any preacher worth his salt makes everyone feel bad about their sin at some time or another.

  3. Oh yeah, thanks for the link…

  4. Pingback: Dalrock Revisits the Divorce Issue | Breathing Grace

  5. Bike Bubba says:

    The success I can point to is that in the churches I’ve attended, divorce is rare to nonexistent–out of about 1900 couple years where one would “expect” 50-200 divorces, I can count the actual divorces on one hand. It has a lot to do with preaching Ephesians effectively…..

    ….and yet I really think that in any of the churches I’ve attended, the work is half done at best. Discipleship is becoming a lost art, sad to say, and many attempts at discipleship really look at the wrong issues. We get all worked up over what translation of the Bible we’re using, and ignore the fact that many congregants read no Bible at all except in church. Oops.

    (and a lot of other examples)

  6. grerp says:

    I agree. Suck it up and think of England…or America. Pick a country.

    Your kids’ future outcomes nosedive if you walk.

  7. “For the record I’d prefer to not make any women unhappy, nor make any adults feel worse about their divorce.”

    I’ll join Terry and Grerp in saying that I don’t give a hoot about women (or men) and their relative happiness. Happiness isn’t the object here, love for another person is. Happiness is inwardly focused. Love is outwardly focused.

    Speaking of love:

    “I’m not looking to maximize the number of loveless marriages. “

    I’m going to be pedantic here and say that words matter. And one problem with the english language is the many ways to interpret “love”. Does it mean “like a lot”? Or eros? Or agape? Or all three, depending on the context?

    When I hear most folks talk about loveless marriages, I suspect they mean marriages where the good-feely chemicals have (temporarily) departed. But talk of a “loveless” marriage becomes nonsensical when “love” is viewed as one’s choice to serve another’s needs. Thus a person stating “I’m in a loveless marriage” as an excuse for divorce is really indicting him- or herself as they are announcing to all that the reason why they are divorcing is because they can’t find it within themselves to be less selfish.

  8. Hi, I am a new lurker by way of Terry’s blog who happens to be a very good friend of mine and we both are pretty much in lock step with our views about how God wants the church and his people to live.

    You ask this question Please share your success story of dramatically reducing the rate of divorce in your congregation in the comments section of this post.:
    I don’t know the exact percentage but I will say that it is probably less than 1%. I am from a small congregation in a somewhat rual location in AR. I have attended this chuch all of my life and most of our married couples have been married from as many as 48yrs down to 1yr. I only personally know about 3 couples in my entire life of attending who have divorced and they divorced because one or both backslid.

    Many people don’t believe that one can loose salvation, but if you go out into the world and stop serving God then you are not saved anymore unless you repent for those sins and come back to the fold. Point blank, that is my belief and it is what I have been taught.

    Our pastor’s (I have only had 2 and one of them died a few years ago) have been very hands on in dealing with counseling married couples. For some this is a bit intrusive, but we have been taught that if there is a problem that you and your spouse can’t solve together through prayer and fasting then bringing in the Pastor or Elder’s for counseling is the next step. Some may think its short of tattling, or meddling, but if a couple TRULY love God more than themselves then seeking counsel for the saftey of your soul should oughtweigh your pride.

    Pride and selfishness are the reasons people divorce, and if one is not being taught to take up your cross and DIE OUT TO SELF DAILY then it becomes easy to be overtaken by two seperate wills. If you are not taught on Dying daily then you become harden to God’s word and eventually you start seeking to do things of your own free will. This is what leads to divorce in my humble opinion.

    I think now days more congregations do not want to be held to the black and white of God’s word but would rather focus on the few gray areas that are left to their own interpretation. Many feel that being held accountable for each other by each other is legalistic but I have a duty to first be a help mate to my husband spiritually. If God leads me to take him to the pastor then I will, but I would first need to be led by God. God is not the author of confusion, and I believe that Christians forget that. When something becomes muddled or foggy they don’t see satan working.

    Anyhoo I have gone all off topic, I do believe our strict conservative teaching in spiritual accountability and dying daily is what leads to our congregations low divorce rate. We don’t date in my church. We go through courtships. My pastor is actively involved in that. If a brother believes that God has shown him his wife, they don’t just hook up and marry, He goes through my pastor, they pray together, they wait for God to reveal himself because my pastor thankfully feels just as much a responsibility for marrying a couple as the couple saying the vows. Remember he is responsible for his flock. He has to answer for those mistakes espcially if God showed him something about the couple that could have been prevented before they got married. I have known some couples to call off or even lengthen their courtship as it was revealed there were more things that needed to be worked on individually before trying to become one.

    I think indepth, pre-maritial counseling is what helps also. that and removing one’s pride out of the way inorder to seek help and be willing to take it from God’s minister is another.

    I hope I haven’t rambled too much….

  9. Jo says:

    I do not have stats, but I have been in two churches where the percentage seems low. I am a divorcee’ and an anomaly. When my husband considered asking me out, he sought the “permission” of the pastor, who felt that my situation was a “biblical” one, though that sounds terrible since God’s heart is always for reconciliation. I write to point out that my current pastor said that my ex would have been disciplined and ultimately kicked out for the wrongs committed within the marriage (assuming lack of repentance). I had heard of one other situation in the church and the elders were confronting the husband and counseling the wife (I realize it’s not usually one person’s fault, but that’s what I heard). I don’t know details b/c I didn’t even know the couple and it seemed tacky to pry, but I was pleased to hear that. I’ve only heard of one other woman who is divorced and a once separated couple reconciling and being counseled by the pastor. We have members in the thousands at least, but it seems that my church does practice biblical discipline.

    My previous church also had a low rate. My former pastor refused to marry any second marriages on either side (excepting widows/-ers or course). He didn’t think the Bible ruled it out, but felt that God’s heart was always for reconciliation and didn’t want to be the one to officiate a covenant that would permanently severe a previous one. I only knew of two divorces in that church, though I knew a couple more women who had been divorced before coming there.

    Both churches were very conservative Presbyterian churches. My original church preached the sermons exegetically. We took two years to get through Acts (I think) b/c my pastor would analyze the Scriptures verse by verse. His son once told me he read the Bible five times a year. I think being so rooted in the very word of God after 650+ reads blessed his teaching which edified his congregation.

  10. Jo says:

    I also forgot to mention something about my current church. We are strongly encouraged to participate in the church. Volunteering and active involvement through service, Bible Study, etc. does not woo casual congregants. I don’t think it would be possible to do this as effectively with a mega-church.

  11. Lily says:

    @Elusive
    “Thus a person stating “I’m in a loveless marriage” as an excuse for divorce is really indicting him- or herself as they are announcing to all that the reason why they are divorcing is because they can’t find it within themselves to be less selfish.”
    That’s a really interesting point, thank you. Going to ponder on it for a while.

  12. dalrock says:

    Thanks Jamala!

    I’ve been in meetings today and will be out with the family shortly, but I wanted to thank you and everyone else for the great comments this is generating. So much of what you wrote echoes what my father in law says, and he is the most devout man I know.

    I think what is clear at the very minimum is that there are many Christians who wholeheartedly get and care about marriage/divorce, as well as some churches. But I think J’s description of her own church is much more the rule than the exception, especially when you factor in congregation size. What troubles me (and maybe someone will correct me on this) is that those churches which feel passion about it tend to do this rather quietly within their own congregation. This makes it hard to find the good churches and gives camouflage to the ones which in the end really don’t care.

  13. dalrock says:

    Your “lie still and think of the empire” allusion had me chuckling through my meetings today. Good thing I have a mute button.

  14. @ Jo, you are not the only anomoly! :):):)

    My husband was married in college. Actually that is how I came to know him. He came to our church during a revival seeking salvation because he wanted God’s help in salvaging and holding together his marriage. He didn’t cheat or mistreat his wife, (actually he turned down a couple NFL opportunities because she didn’t want to be a pro-football player’s wife) they were very young, she was the only child and not used to the financial struggles of a young family with husband and wife both being full time college students. She left him. My pastor and wife tried to gain her favor but she wanted nothing to do with him anymore, she simply “outgrew”him.

    I found out later ( a couple years later) that she filed for divorce and he was advised NOT to sign or have any hand whatsoever in man’s law. It meant having to wait 6 extra months before it was final, but he contested it. He didn’t understand then, but God had given my pastor wisdom on how to address this issue that was something he had never dealt with. After a period of time in which he felt the wife had moved on,( even after the divorce) and there was no indication that she would reconsider, he said God showed him to release my husband according to the scripture in I Cor 7:15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace” (NKJV). “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace”

    I said all this to make this point…. Pastor’s really have to have their congregation’s spiritual well being at heart. I said earlier that many thought our story was a bit “back woodish” and “cult like” but we wanted a God ordained marriage. We know what God told us in regards to us being married but we wanted to be married by someone who invested in our marriage on the front end!

    The reason why we don’t see too many churches stepping outside of their congregation is that it is hard to follow a couple if they are not consistently under your leadership. If a couple doesn’t feel a pastor’s advice is from God or they are not willing to follow it then how does the pastor help?

    Religion has become somewhat a comfort food… people only want to eat it when they need comfort and we all know that a good diet that does not make.

  15. Jo says:

    I didn’t mean an anomaly everywhere, just at the churches I’ve attended. It was hard to wear that scarlet D. And I understand why people are scandalized. People should be scandalized that a “Christian” marriage is severed, though they shouldn’t judge w/o knowledge. I realize no one here is doing that to my (or your husband’s) situation. I’m just saying.

    I do think that practicing strong church discipline would help reduce the number of broken marriages. Plus not feeding the church the same garbage the world feeds us. Even Christian women and men are taught to naval gaze. Churches too often preach that God wants our happiness rather than our holiness.

    The problem is that the ones who have such a self centered faith and marriage are rarely going to immerse themselves in a church that will call them on their sin. Once we married, my ex and I moved to a new town. Soon he was too busy with med school to attend church (we had been both active and he’d grown up in a conservative Baptist home. No dancing or alcohol even.). He quickly tried to cut me off from family and friends and began a typical cycle of abuse. I think it’s a common story. The ones who have the hardest hearts aren’t going to open up to some people who are going to criticize them or submit to a spiritual authority. If they truly care about what God thinks, then they wouldn’t intentionally break their covenant repeatedly or hide from those who would know it. I don’t write this to defend myself, I’m just trying to illustrate that I’m not sure we can confront the divorce issue w/o starting at the root of a believer’s faith. They’ve got to be challenged at a more personal level. They have to know their purpose (glorify God by enjoying Him forever) and dig deep in His Word. The marriage is important, but how they handle it is a symptom. The divorce is just a legal piece of paper that reveals the refuse within the marriage. Our problem was the perversion, infidelity, addiction, abuse, abandonment, etc. It wasn’t a piece of paper that broke the two of us up.

  16. grerp says:

    Glad I made you smile. :)

  17. J says:

    the sin of divorce

    Please be aware that we do not all come from denominations that regard divorce as a sin.

  18. J says:

    Your kids’ future outcomes nosedive if you walk.

    True dat! With loads of research to support it.

  19. J says:

    Great post.

  20. Anonymous age 68 says:

    I am certainly glad to hear of churches which have virtually no divorce. They should be studied to see if they are doing something which will transfer to other congregations.

    However, it is not good if anyone thinks from reading this page that divorce among Christians is low. In fact, Christians have approximately the same divorce rate as non-Christians.

    I also note the usual examples given for divorce are male adultery, which is not the main cause of divorce. But, of course, Satan wants everyone to believe that, because it is another way to destroy male leadership. And, in our anti-male society most people are willing to believe without thought or investigation.

  21. Jo says:

    The previous post on divorce showed just that. My two examples were given as churches that have done this well. I’m sorry I don’t have the actual stats. He has discussed recently the high rate within the church and the number of frivolous divorces that were often filed by women.

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  23. Chris Gale says:

    I’ve just come back home from a trip to mediate the final bit of the financial settlement in my divorce. And, three years on, my ex reduced me to tears discussing how it was at the beginning, and that I hurt her by insisting on separation… (details are ugly, let’s just say that I am now raising our sons). This has hurt my sons deeply.

    Now, I did seek counseling from my pastor at one point… and there was minimal correction. I now avoid the church we used to go to: I assume my name is mud and I am seen as a notorious sinner.

    I think many mainline churches are de facto feminized. There is a real need for older women to talk to the younger women about working at marriage, and that the romantic stuff is not where it is at. I keep on thinking that the Mennonites and Amish are ahead of most of us on these issues. We need some way of having an old-fashioned contract, like the Puritans had, with similar penalties. And.. the unfashionable teaching about the husbandly and wifely duties (which ain’t the same)…

    http://pukeko.net.nz/blog/2010/09/spring-snow/

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  25. Another one of my readers (a succesful Christian author who does marriage workshops with her husband) has picked up on your thread and weighed in with her thoughts about stemming divorce among Christians:

    http://tolovehonorandvacuum.blogspot.com/2010/09/what-to-do-when-friends-marriage-falls.html#comments

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  28. Jess says:

    I’d be curious to know how children whose parent who sucks it up and stay in an unhappy marriage fare. I wonder if they sense their parents unhappiness. I wonder if the parents resent their kids for be the reason they stay.

  29. dalrock says:

    I think this is the wrong frame for an adult, and especially a parent. Basically thinking this way you are holding everyone else hostage to your own inability to be happy. If I’m not happy, I’ll make my kids miserable.

    We are responsible for our own happiness. No one else can make us happy.

  30. J says:

    The research that has been done on this issue (I can’t remember the researcher’s name, started with a W.) Says that as long as there isn’t physical abuse, drug use or any other obvious probelem that children do better in a two parentg family. Obviously, the happiest kids are those living with happily married parents, but kids whose parents are vaguely unhappy but stay together do almost as well. Kids whose parents divorce for real cause are better off with one functional parent in the home than with an addict or abuser. They have been shown to benefit from divorce if it gets the dysfunctional parent out of the home and their lives.

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  44. Stonelifte says:

    If the chruch wants to fix marriage it needs to work on fixing women in the church. No sane man would saddle himself with what passes for “good” women these days. I stopped going to church. I got sick of hearing about the failing of men and never hearing women being called on their behavior. From my experince churches go out of its way to blame men and excuse women. Church made my marraige worse since they all basically said it was ok for my wife to be a gossip; spend money we didn’t have; hold sex and show no respect for me while pinning her bad behavior on my “secert” failings or that I should make more money, not be proud etc

    the chruch will never fix marriag because it’s ate up with modern thinking and is part of the problem

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  46. Bailey Stone says:

    To: marriageafterhisheart…. Are you out of your selfish mind?? “Outgrew him”???? When I hear that particular term, I think of one poor spouse that was unselfish in the relationship and it allowed the other spouse to achieve goals at the unselfish spouse’s expense.. And now they think they are “above” the very spouse that allowed them to achieve their selfish goals….. (in other words, this trash used their spouse to “get ahead” and now they want to dump them).. Any woman or man that says they have “outgrown” their spouse is pure selfish trash, and the mate is better off without them… B

  47. Peter T says:

    Bailey, I think you misunderstood marriageafterhisheart. She was describing the relation of the former wife of her current husband to him and how the former wife might have seen the end of the old marriage marriage.

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