Wednesday, July 27, 2005

And the Prize for the Most Obvious "News" Story of the Day . . .

. . . goes to The Seattle Times, and their enlightening exposé that - wait for it - divorce is bad!

I will pause a moment to let the collective gasp from everyone who has been living under a rock for the past forty years to reverberate around the room and die out. PAUSE. Okay.

Yes, folks, people like the staff at The Seattle Times are waking up to a fact that every child whose parents divorced for little or no good reason has known for years: Divorce sucks. It's bad for kids. It's bad for society. And - and this is the part that may make the demi-children called modern adults sit up and take notice - it's bad for those who are divorcing.

Oh sure, Seattle Times staff reporter, Kyung M. Song, starts with a disclaimer that what follows in the article will sound like a "conservative (boo! hiss!) marriage manifesto." I'm sure that he wants the readership of greater Seattle to know that he is just as aghast at these statistics as any good liberal should be. But wait (he implies)! Don't discount them just because you've heard "conservatives" touting them for years! This advice will benefit your health too! Tellingly, the article starts out by stressing all of the emotional and physical health risks to divorcing couples. Secondly (always, always secondly nowadays), he looks at the health risks to children of divorce.

Then, the article delves into risk factors for divorce. The predominant ones follow:
  • Having divorced parents
  • Marrying young (the article doesn't specify what "young" is, but seems to imply that it is under 20 years of age)
  • Living together before engagement
  • Being previously divorced or marrying a previously divorced partner
  • Having a child before marriage (and to a lesser extent getting pregnant before the wedding)
  • Being much older or younger than your spouse
  • Marrying someone of a different race
  • Following different religions or no religion
  • Having low educational levels

Hmmm . . . My parents did not fall into any of those categories, except the religion one, and that didn't stop them from giving up after 18 years. Oh well.

My mom was married three times. According to the statistics of the article I read, this gives my marriage only a one in three chance of lasting. Baloney! I say. Seeing my mom and her failed marriages and all the emotional distress that she lived with day-to-day has only strengthened my resolve never, ever to divorce. Knowing what it was like to grow up as a child of divorce, knowing the heartache of living between two different houses, choosing constantly between my parents, having every cause for celebration (i.e. birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, graduations) become a cause for peeling off once again the scab over my wounded spirit, I will never, ever do that to Sadie. No! No! One thousand times, NO! To this end, I carefully chose a wonderful man as committed to marriage as I.

The opposite view from that in this article, one that may not be borne out in statistics, but one much more closely aligned with my own philosophy, is found in this wonderful closing paragraph from Emily Post's Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage (1965):

"At present, the breaking up of homes is so widespread it may be that those who grow up never having known the completeness of home will find it unessential. Or will it be the other way around? Perhaps the children of today's divided houses will be twice as earnest in their efforts to provide their own children with the priceless security of a father and mother together in one place called HOME!"

(I love that book! I have spent many a delightful afternoon pouring over it in a reverie of nostalgia. It totally rocks - especially compared to modern day Emily Post - which is a little too modern; proper manners and etiquette are timeless and should not be subject to the whims of vulgarity that infiltrate society for time to time. I'll stick with 1965 and earlier versions, thank you very much!)

Of course, the Seattle Times article loves to point out that really abusive or "toxic" marriages should come to an end, for the betterment of all. Duh! The problem is that, with no-fault divorce, any little reason has become de rigueur for unraveling the marital knot. Who hasn't seen their parents divorce for the nebulous reason of "irreconcilable differences" and wondered if it was simply because of boredom or something different, something darker? This vagueness in dissolution leads to children who do not know the line between emotional abuse and the normal back and forth, anger and reconciliation, of two people learning to live under the same roof. They end up thinking that anything other than constant bliss is a terminally troubled relationship. They see the wedding as an act of "perfection" and finality in the relationship between man and wife, and not the commencement of life-long refining and, well, tweaking that is really is. This lie of instant gratification is what is most "toxic" in marriage today.

The one divorce statistic that I have always found most troubling, that is not addressed in the article because it is not part of its scope, is the equal or higher rate of divorce between "born-again Christians" as compared to the rest of society. This is so distressing, because 1) Christians should be "set apart" from the world (John 17:14), 2) our lives should be reflections of Christ's infinite forgiveness and mercy ("Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16), 3) we should place others' (read concerning marriage: our children's and our spouse's) needs above our own selfish inclinations, 4) we should obey Christ's admonitions regarding divorce - His narrow standards for allowable divorce - one of the few social issues He commented upon directly (Matthew 19:1-9, Matthew 5:31-32), and 5) we should remember that the "Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce" (Malachi 2:16), which, really, should be enough to keep Christians from divorcing for any but the most dire reasons. Once again, just as in the human life issue, Catholics put all of us Protestants to shame.

Anyway, congratulations to The Seattle Times, for this revolutionary piece of reporting. Who knew that disregarding the sacred bond of marriage, which was ordained by the Creator for humans as being the best foundation for society since the dawn of time, would actually be a bad idea? Stay tuned for more cutting-edge investigative journalism that reports:

  • The sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s was devastating for society, especially for women.
  • Abortion kills actual human children.
  • Abortion is bad for women and humankind in general.
  • Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Savior of the World.
  • Breastfeeding is the best way to feed babies.
  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
  • You should never wear white after Labor Day.
  • Smoking is a primary cause of lung cancer.
  • Chocolate tastes good.

These and other exciting reports coming your way from the daring reporters of The Seattle Times.


Amigo said...

As the saying goes, it's cheaper to keep her. And all around better for ones family.

As for the higher divorce rate among Christians than the general population, I think a lot of secular types hook-up for a while and then move on. Just like a marriage and divorce, but doesn't get counted in the statistics.

Billy D said...

I think the biggest reason for divorce is it's so darned easy to get married. That and, the no fault divorce laws we now have. All you have to do is say you want a divorce, and it's done. Once marriage and divorce were removed from the church's hands, it went downhill fast. Gone are the three "A" reasons (adultery, abuse, abandonment) and it's now a free for all. Folks enter into marriage very lightly, and get out very easily, with no regard for the others involved.

Difster said...

Justine, could you please call my soon to be ex-wife and tell her all of this please. She won't listen to me.

Ok, I'm not really going to give you her phone number but please pray for Mrs. Difster.

Justine said...

Difster -
If I could do or say anything that would save another child from the heartache of divorced parents, I would do it or say it. When two people are reasonably sane, basically nice folks who have stumbled into a troubled spot (or even a troubled splotch) in their marriage, divorce is terrible to do to children. It must break your heart to see your daughter going through this - aside from the turmoil you feel for yourself. Add to this the fact that dads too often get the short end of the stick in divorce court, and my sympathy becomes two-fold. I will pray that your wife has a change of heart, especially since you seem so willing to work it out. I will pray for your daughter, brave little one, she doesn't deserve this - no kid does. I will pray for you.
May God keep you all in His arms of love and reconciliation,

Serena said...

The assault on marriage has come in the whole package of the assault on the family. I sure know the effects, since I and my children have gone through the pain and shock of it. We thought that we had a wonderful "christian" family and I expected to live out the rest of my life with the father of my five children. It was not to be. He chose to live out what he had hidden in his heart and to think that he was "gay." There was nothing gay about it, I can tell you.

Since I have walked through the breakup of marriage when I believe so strongly in it, I also know that there are no easy answers. Sin affects families and sometimes it is awful in its scope. I think Billy brought up what so many Christians are shoving aside in their reaction to the liberalness of our culture in the area of divorce. There are those that say they are Christians and they easily give up their family and accept divorce as a norm. In reaction, there are those that will says there is no room for divorce and then will say that the one who has suffered the breakup of their marriage is sinning to remarry.

I think a real study of the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is in order to get the balance. I know that my Father brought me through the breakup of my first marriage. I also know that He led me into the second marriage and that I have not sinned in remarrying. My husband and I are committed to living the rest of our lives together. It will not reach those high number of years that those who married young and stayed married all their lives reach, but we will have the years our Father has for us and we will bring glory to Him in the years that He gives us.

I believe that so many people do not work through their problems. They do not accept the other person and try to change them and then give up when it doesn't work to do that. They do not realize that they can only change themselves by the power of G-d working in them. But when there is infidelity (adultery), abuse, and abandonment, there has to be a way for the ones that have been shattered by it to have a new beginning.

I know that as a poor single mother with no money for lawyers, etc. that the no-fault divorce laws made it so that what had turned into a nightmare could be dissolved without a lot of expense. I chose to work with my former husband and come to agreement on the details of the dissolving of our union and we were able to do it without lawyers and a great expense. We have also been able to keep the lines of communication open in dealing with our children. I cannot say that it is easy for me at all, but I know that my Father has helped me through it and continues to give me grace to deal with that aspect of my life.

I desire to help all those that I can to be committed to their marriage partner for life, but I also want to help those who have gone through having their lives shattered by divorce. I want them to know that there is One who is there for them in even that evil that befalls them. My husband also has that heart and that is why he recently shared a wise woman's study on divorce which addresses the abuses of religion in it.

All I can say is that we need to know the Most High. We need His redemption in all areas of our lives. We need to know that He is the healer of wounded hearts and that He does it in many different ways. It is wonderful when a shattered relationship is restored. What a testimony when a husband and wife who have torn apart their home and family learn forgiveness and work together to restore it by G-d's grace! That does not discount the ones who it does not work out that way.

What is important is that we seek Him with all our hearts and follow His leading in the difficulties of our lives. Then He will receive the glory however He chooses to work in each life.
Love and shalom,

Difster said...

It must break your heart to see your daughter going through this - aside from the turmoil you feel for yourself.

Oh it does. It's terrible. Little Dif wants nothing more than to be with mommy and daddy every day.

Thank you for your prayers, all of you.

Justine said...

Serena -
I never read your honest and heart-rending accounts of your divorce without sadness. I certainly do think that churches should not "blame the victim" and should be refuges of strength and solace to their hurting congregants. I cannot imagine how devastating that must have been for you to have your marriage end - shaking the very foundation of your identity and your security. Your boundless faith and forgiving heart are beautiful reflections of your Creator's grace.

I'm certain that, as someone who has been through the fire and seen her children suffer too, you will agree that it is not too simplistic to say that divorce is bad. Even in situations in which it becomes necessary (e.g. your spouse has left and will not reconcile, there is abuse, etc.), I do not think that it is ever anything more than a "necessary evil."

As a child whose parents were good people caught up in the lie that difficult times should lead to dissolution of marriage, I can say, unequivocably, that I would have far preferred that they get over themselves, resolve their differences, and stay together "for the child." I'm not talking about people staying together to bicker and snip and make everyone around them miserable; I'm talking about people making the choice to be happy - if you were committed enough to walk the aisle, you should stay committed enough to go the miles. God's mercies are new every morning, and so can wedded bliss be, if you are willing to humble yourself before your spouse and seek forgiveness continually.

Sorry. I'm so passionate about this. I know there are many hurting people out there who have suffered through divorce for little to no fault of their own, and for whom I feel tremendous sympathy. But, too many people just mutually give up, and that is sad - for them, but especially for their children. Kids deserve better than divorce.

Serena said...

Justine, thank you for that compassionate response. I agree with you, Sister. No problem there. I just also know that life is not always ideal. I learned that the hard way and I learned that my Father is bigger than the difficult things that come into my life. He just has to be bigger in my childrens' lives, too, and I am trusting Him to be that and to work in them.
Love and shalom,

Arielle said...

I'm glad that Mom allowed my dad to walk away. Had they stayed together for myself and my siblings, things would have been a lot tougher on us. The homosexuality of a parent is not a reconcilable difference unless that parent comes to repentance and allows YHWH to work genuine, lasting change in their lives.
It would have been better if my dad had died. The love his children share for him has allowed his sinful life to influence and corrupt our lives and our perception of the truth. Had he stayed with Mom, that corruption would have been much closer, more powerful and more influential. There are times - this being one of them - when it was better that the marriage end. In Biblical times, my dad would have been put to death and my mother would have been free to remarry without the stigma of divorce.

Arielle said...

That sounded harsh, but I wanted to offer the perspective of a child on this particular divorce situation. Divorce because of homosexual infidelity is very different from divorce for any other reason.

Elazar said...

Marriage has always been a reflective act concerning the Lord and His bride. It was the pagan cultures who chose to embrace the pomp and circumstance but as the way of sinners they sin and so do the redeemed. Therefore, He provided the bill of divorcement which has been conveniently underminded by the interpretations of "done away with" instead of the "ordinances and traditions of men." Now the complicated theological jargon has put untold millions in a crisis of bondage.
Recently, Gemstones has dealt with this topic through an excellent teaching by Norma Neal Gause entitled "What the Bible Really Says About Divorce and Remarriage." So feel free to critique it and throw out the bones and chew on the meat.
I really encourage the union of marriage through submission to the Creator and His perfect redemptive plan. Also, He has made a way for individual lives to be forgiven and restored because of sinful selfish choices. Divorce is not an unforgiveable sin as it has been made into by theological bondsmen.