This issue is so important I’m asking my readers and other bloggers to do whatever they can to help spread the word and protect men and their future children. Any blogger who wishes to is free to repost this entry in part or its entirety on their own blog with a link back to this page. Literally millions of men are at risk here, and we can help them understand the reality they face.
One of the more dangerous assumptions I see men making is that if they marry a Christian woman they will be somehow shielded from the epidemic of divorce. I’ve stated in the past that most churches talk like Christ but act like Oprah on the issue of divorce. I’ve also shown how Christians like Glenn Stanton from Focus on the Family are actually proud that devout Christians only divorce 38% of the time. More recently I’ve shown that the movie Christians cherish for representing their values on marriage is actually barely dressed up divorce porn for women.
Yet with all of this even I was stunned by comments left on my blog yesterday by a respected Christian author and speaker on the topic of marriage. In my post Promiscuity is good, so long as it is done on the woman’s terms I pointed out that there is no backing for the popular belief that the female preferred form of promiscuity (serial monogamy/ serial polyandry) is more moral than the male preferred form of promiscuity. I used the example of Christians arguing that the wife in Fireproof was justified in her attempt to swing from marriage to marriage:
This is similar to the argument by the Christian women that the wife in Fireproof wasn’t being whorish because she planned on divorcing her husband and marrying the other man she was after before having sex with him.
Sheila Gregoire is one of the Christian women I had in mind when I made that statement, and she noticed the post and defended her position:
But I just want to clarify: I do believe that she had grounds for divorce because of his pornography addiction. I think that’s where the fundamental disagreement comes in. I don’t think she SHOULD have divorced him, anymore than I think a woman should leave a guy because of a one-night stand. Jesus never said that we SHOULD divorce. He only said that in cases of affairs, divorce is permitted.
And so in the movie Fireproof, she was in a relationship where divorce was permitted, and she was planning on divorcing, and planning on remarrying. Thus, I wouldn’t say that’s whorish. He’s the one who cheated.
I’m just uncomfortable with you saying that Christians are allowing people to “whore” around because we’re permitting divorce, when I don’t think that’s the case. I believe there are very narrow grounds for divorce: abuse, affairs, and in some cases, addictions. In many of those cases, I’d argue that they should separate and not remarry, such as the case of addictions.
Note that she states that there should be only a few very defined reasons for divorce, and then proceeds to expand the definition to the point where nearly every wife initiated divorce is justified. Adultery is expanded to the point where a man watching porn qualifies: He’s the one who cheated.
While Sheila uses the term pornography addiction in her comment, this is outside her primary justification (porn as adultery) for the wife’s plan to line up husband number two while still married to the first one. She states that addiction would be grounds for separation without remarriage, not to divorce and find another man. Based on her own standard even if the husband had indeed been shown as a porn addict, the wife’s actions would not have been justified on those grounds. Her justification is that watching pornography is adultery. This may be why the creators of the movie Fireproof were so murky on exactly what the husband’s transgression regarding porn really was. They didn’t feel the need to make a solid case for porn addiction before they showed the wife shutting off entirely towards her husband and actively pursuing another man. As I pointed out in my review the wife didn’t even accuse the husband of being a porn addict, and while the term was used later in the movie there was nothing which showed the husband as being an addict. Here is the exchange from the movie where we are told the husband is viewing porn:
Catherine: If looking at that trash is how you get fulfilled, then that is fine. But I will not compete with it.
Caleb: Well, I sure don’t get it from you!
Catherine: And you won’t. Because you care more about saving for your stupid boat and pleasing yourself than you ever did about me.
The fundamental problem is that Christian women are being given get out of marriage free cards while Christian men are being told man up and marry these Christian women. This selective moral softness from Christians combines with our legal system which rewards women who commit divorce theft and creates millions of fatherless children. Your husband looked at porn? Dump him and find another man! Keep in mind this isn’t some corner case example I’ve made up. This is from the movie Christians profess shows their views on marriage. Moreover, Sheila isn’t just another commenter on the internet, she is a respected author and speaker on the topic of marriage for Christian women. All men need to understand this; if your wife decides to divorce you for another man, there will be well respected Christians lining up to justify her decision and place all of the blame on you. If that means conflating viewing pornography with actual adultery, so be it. This is true even in cases where the wife was withholding sex in an effort to control the husband. She even excuses the wife lining up the other man while still married.
It isn’t just men viewing porn which gives women a get out of marriage free card though. Sheila also listed abuse as the other fundamental justification for divorce. In one of Sheila’s video blogs she reminded women that they shouldn’t assume husbands are the only ones with obligations. This brought her a chorus of emails from angry Christian women complaining that she was telling them not to be true to themselves. That Christian women would feel comfortable spouting such nonsense to her should be proof enough of what is so terribly broken in Christian culture. To Sheila’s credit, she did a follow on video blog post where she gently reminded these women that being true to yourself is not actually a biblical value. One of the youtube commenters on the original video countered with the following:
Your advice is nice, in thought, but unrealistic in practice. I did that exact thing for 7 years, as a married Christian woman. It got rough after the first year. I doubted my marriage. But I stuck it out. I convinced myself it was ME who needed to change. So I did. I completely revamped my entire being. And I did it several times over the next 6 years.
I will say, I was extremely emotionally abused. What do you suggest in those circumstances? I got out. And my life is happier than ever.
What exactly is emotional abuse? I’m not sure, but ladies you will be excited to learn it also counts as a get out of marriage free card! Sheila responded with the following:
Of course, if there is abuse going on, that is a totally different story. But changing yourself doesn’t mean that you change who you fundamentally are. It just means that you change your expectations and go to God to help you be the person He wants you to be. That’s a good kind of change. Changing so that you tolerate abuse is something else entirely. But abuse was not the issue in this woman’s letter; she just felt like she didn’t love him.
So now we know emotional abuse fits in her definition of abuse. Again, she states that only two very specific reasons justify divorce and then proceeds to expand the terms to the point where nearly every wife initiated divorce is justified.
Sheila also had the following criticism for my approach in this blog:
I find that you talk a lot on this blog about how people should never divorce (which I more or less agree with), and that women shouldn’t expect so much from their husbands (which I also agree with), and that women are asking their husbands to be both betas and alphas at the same time (which I also agree with), and that women leave their husbands too much (again, in agreement). But what I don’t find is you dealing honestly with genuine problems that couples have with communication, with distance, with betrayal of trust, with porn, etc. I agree with everything you’re saying, but I don’t think marriages can be fixed with a simple “suck it up and put on your big girl panties”. That might make someone STAY in the marriage, but it won’t make the marriage thrive, and what I’d like to see is couples who are genuinely attached and intimate.
Sheila misunderstands me. I don’t believe people should never divorce. My concern is that the definition of justified divorce has been so expanded as to make a mockery of the concept of marriage. She is also missing a fundamental point; putting on your big girl panties really does lead to happy marriages, at least in the majority of cases. Moreover, if Christians were serious about holding men and women to their vows they would then have the moral authority to try to assist these couples in good faith. While religious leaders may disagree, secular scientists have studied the issue and found that brute force willpower to stay married actually solves surprisingly difficult marital problems. It’s almost as if God designed marriage that way. I’ve covered this in detail here, but here is one of the key quotes from one paper which studied this:
Many currently happily married spouses have had extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for quite serious reasons, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, illness, and work reversals. Why did these marriages survive where other marriages did not? The marital endurance ethic appears to play a big role. Many spouses said that their marriages got happier, not because they and their partner resolved problems but because they stubbornly outlasted them. With time, they told us, many sources of conflict and distress eased.
One factor which undoubtedly plays a role here is the widespread adoption of feminism by Christian and secular women alike. The knee jerk blame the husband tendency which I have described above shows how immersed modern Christianity is in modern feminism. Fellow blogger Laura Grace Robbins captured my own thoughts when she wrote:
I’m starting to think the feminism in Christianity cuts much, much deeper than I originally thought.
This is relevant both because a general sense of unhappiness is the philosophical foundation for modern feminism, and because we know that women who try to be the leaders in their marriage are very likely to be unhappy as a result. As I mentioned earlier, Christian women hold some truly outrageous beliefs when it comes to marriage and being “true to themselves”. It is no wonder that millions of these women are unhappy. Like the wife in Fireproof, many have decided that their husbands should submit to their leadership. Christians could of course address this if they weren’t deeply mired in the very feminism at the source of the problem.
I’ll close with a brief defense of both Sheila Gregoire and Christian women in general. Sheila is actually one of the stronger pro marriage voices in modern Christian culture. This is what makes her fundamental weakness on the issue so deeply troubling. She isn’t on the pro divorce fringe, she is one of the speakers churches bring in to strengthen marriage. She writes some of the books Christian wives read on the topic of marriage. I have focused on her arguments because she is proof of how incredibly soft on marriage Christians in general have become. If this weren’t the case, she wouldn’t be seen as pro marriage by mainstream Christians. As for defending Christian women, there are many women who comment on this blog who do not believe that a woman is justified in divorcing one man and marrying another because the first husband viewed pornography. Single men looking to marry shouldn’t write off all Christian women. Just like there are atheist women who truly believe in marriage there still are Christian women who feel the same, and the statistics bear this out. What a man looking to marry needs to do is test for this trait in the woman herself, and not assume it comes with regular church attendance or even a seeming deep devotion to Christianity. More difficult is the question of church attendance itself. Studies have shown that divorce tends to spread like disease. Attending a church which is soft on divorce puts a man’s marriage (and therefore his children) at risk. Unfortunately no one has yet been able to identify a congregation for me which isn’t soft on marriage. I have seen one so I do know they exist. Christianity doesn’t have to be soft on marriage, the vast majority of Christians have merely chosen to be.