Christians' attitude about divorce


#1

I was thinking about this in the No Fault Divorce thread, and I decided to post this, since it's really a seperate topic.

After my parents' divorce, my mom waited for almost a year before she told the friends she had in church. (This was a Protestant church.) I can't blame her. A classmate of mine had gone through a divorce a couple of years ago, and his mom had to leave their church. (Also Protestant.)

Most Christians, Catholic or Protestant, frown upon divorce. However, I think many Christians have a bad reason for frowning upon divorce.

Many Christians frown upon divorce because they, conciously or unconciously, want to believe that following the Bible or the Church's teachings guarantees happiness. This is, of course, a ludicrus proposition but many Christians believe this. This idea is omnipresent in chastity talks to young people. "Don't have sex before marriage and God will reward you with a great marriage and fantastic sex. I guarantee you, you won't regret waiting." (My mom was a virgin when she married, and she does regret waiting.) It's also present in other ways. Now, I can't be sure, but I'm willing to be that this is largely an American phenomenon, because Americans have been blessed with prosperity for a very long time. I can't imagine a pastor or priest in Haiti telling his congregation that if they obey God, he can guarantee their happiness! Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this is the only reason that Christians don't like divorce. But I do think that this is one of the reasons, and it's a terrible reason. It's a reason that needs to go the way of the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon.

When a Christian couple breaks up, especially a couple who did everything right and follows all the rules, it shows that this belief is a fallacy, and frankly many Christians don't react very well to this truth.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Christians shouldn't care about the skyrocketing divorce rate, or should promote liberal divorce laws. But we need to consider the reasons that divorce upsets us. And we need to accept the fact that, just because we do everything right, we cannot guarantee that life will work out the way we like it.


#2

"Christians spend so much time talking about how they love marriage and hate divorce. If that's true, they should take some of the time they spend condemning divorce and spend it condemning pornography, abuse, and other problems that cause divorce."


#3

I think you are talking about something called Prosperity theology. It is a growing movement in the US, and it is, in my view, essemntially unChristian.

But in general, I think people do try to hard, or maybe in the wrong way, to sell the virginity thing, and also the NFP thing, and the general Christian marriage thing, in the sense of sometimes giving the impression that doing these things right will lead to an amazing marriage, and wrong will destroy whatever chance you have. Of course it isn't really that simple.


#4

We are absolutely not guarenteed a blissfully happy life. In fact, following Christ is taking up a Cross. Even though we are told that "His yoke is easy and His burden light" its still a cross.

I've never heard in chastity talks that God would bless you to have this ultimate happy marriage if you just waited for marriage. The argument I always heard was that having multiple partners does not help you make a wiser marriage decision, and that it can have a negative impact on your decision making process. So if you want to aim for a happy marriage, don't look to fornication as a part of the answer. That's it. They never said that having a happy marriage was exclusively dependant on waiting for marriage. Moreover, there is something special in having only given yourself to your spouse. But, again, that's not a promise that the other componants of your marriage are going to be perfect.

Whatever someone goes through in marriage, its going to be tough. Its going to test us and its going to challenge us to be better people than we currently are. People who have loved each other for 2 years do not love each other as well as a couple who have learned all the life lessons that have allowed them to love each other for 50 years. That couple who has loved each other for 50 years has a purer and more authentic love and part of its purity comes in and through the suffering just as our salvation and redemption comes in and through Christ's suffering.

Now, I am not at all saying that people should stay in truly abusive relationships. There is a great difference between abuse and everyday marital struggles.

I'm a true believer that marriages fall a part primarily due to our sinful tendencies. Overall we must rely on God's grace in everything and not simply on waiting for marriage and waiting for some reward. If we're doing anything totally like a system, as if there were some magic way to choose a spouse that would guarentee us the happiest marriage afterward, than we're deluding ourselves. My parents got married against all wisdom. They were just out of highschool. My mom had a very broken family background and pretty much started shoving my dad toward jewerly stores early on when they began dating. They were engaged only 3 months after meeting and married about a year after they met. They married at 19 and 20 and had me a little over a year later.

They've now been married over 30 years and are still very happy in their relationship, and our family is close. Its definitely not perfect. I do see my parents' weaknesses and we've definitely gone through some rough times together, but their marriage is something that works, and primarily what has held them together is their mutual faith, their constant mutual reliance on God and their dedication to marriage. I've never seen them disunited in their faith, and I've seen their faith unite them on non-faith issues. I've seen them get upset at each other and after a short period of venting, stop and pray. I specifically remember one time when my parents were driving separate vehicles and we were utilizing walkee talkies to make sure the other car didn't get lost, my Dad and I were in one car and Dad was upset at Mom and Mom was upset at Dad. Dad and I began praying a Divine Mercy Chaplet which calmed him down. We turned on the walkie talkie and he apoligised to Mom and mentioned we had prayed and my Mom and my other siblings had been in the other car praying as well.

Nothing you do earns God's blessings, but relying and clinging to God especially in difficult moments is very powerful.


#5

The only reason some people wait for marriage is because the bible says so. And there are other reasons, like not getting an std, or not having an unwanted pregnancy outside of marriage. But the main one is because God says so. Thats actually a reason why MANY people do the things they do. Because "God says so". But just because God says something doesn't mean its going to make life any better or easier. I can guarantee you that.


#6

I was always told that marriage involves a triad-- yourself, your spouse, and God. Without that it doesn't matter how well you "follow the rules." We aren't even supposed to be thinking about things in terms of "rules" anyway, but in grace.


#7

[quote="Bluegoat, post:3, topic:219864"]
I think you are talking about something called Prosperity theology. It is a growing movement in the US, and it is, in my view, essemntially unChristian.

But in general, I think people do try to hard, or maybe in the wrong way, to sell the virginity thing, and also the NFP thing, and the general Christian marriage thing, in the sense of sometimes giving the impression that doing these things right will lead to an amazing marriage, and wrong will destroy whatever chance you have. Of course it isn't really that simple.

[/quote]

Yeah. There is a difference between trying to get someone to do the right thing, or make good decisions, and promising that they'll be happier because they did it.


#8

is it me, or is there a theme of unrealistic expectations?


#9

[quote="twoangels, post:4, topic:219864"]

I've never heard in chastity talks that God would bless you to have this ultimate happy marriage if you just waited for marriage. The argument I always heard was that having multiple partners does not help you make a wiser marriage decision, and that it can have a negative impact on your decision making process. So if you want to aim for a happy marriage, don't look to fornication as a part of the answer. That's it. They never said that having a happy marriage was exclusively dependant on waiting for marriage. Moreover, there is something special in having only given yourself to your spouse. But, again, that's not a promise that the other componants of your marriage are going to be perfect.

[/quote]

They don't necessarily promise a happy marriage, but they promise you you'll never regret it. Even recently, I read someone who said, "I guarantee you, you won't regret waiting." They can't guarantee that. And yet, they do.

But it's not simply a chastity issue. It's the whole idea that being a Christian and living a Christian life will somehow grant you a happy marriage. Never mind the fact that evangelical Christians in the United States divorce at the same rate as non-believers.


#10

[quote="spunjalebi, post:8, topic:219864"]
is it me, or is there a theme of unrealistic expectations?

[/quote]

Largely. I think that some Christians encourage those kinds of expectations, and they guarantee things they cannot guarantee. I'm not saying that all Christians do that, or that they do this all **** the time. But this does happen, and it shouldn't.


#11

I find this concept interesting because there was a time where romanticized ideals had nothing to do with Christian marriage. In fact, romanticism had nothing to do with marriage, period. Not that it never eventually happened, but it wasn't the primary venue marriage was presented in.

I remember one of the good things I learned from my premarriage preparation was that couples should strive for unity over happiness. In a way, this is saying that romantic ideas should have a secondary place, behind unity. IMO I see unity described in the way that the Bible does, as Christ laid His life down for the Church, and thus the Church respects and honors Him.

There is a reason why arranged marriages experience such high success rates. But that is my very biased and cultural opinion:D


#12

Hmm, I also come from a culture where arranged marriages are traditional...but so is adultery, abuse, and wives being treated like baby-making machines and domestic drudges first and foremost, not being given any honor or respect, much less love (even a friendship or familial one). Sure, arranged marriages work in that they tend to not end in divorce, but the cultures that support arranged marriages also tend to see divorce as a shameful event that causes embarassment to the whole family. So even if a husband is beating his wife, or openly keeping one (or more) mistresses, the wife is expected to just grin and bear it for the sake of the family. Just because such a marriage doesn't end in divorce, does not mean it's a successful one.

That doesn't mean arranged marriage never works, I personally know people for whom it worked very well. It certainly tends to make for better in-law relations (unless the marriage is made for some practical business or political reason between families who ally themselves for mutual self-interest without actually liking each other). I think this idea that arranged marriage is some kind of wonderful panacea that is guaranteed to be superior to marriages based on romantic courtship, is unrealistic in its own way. I also think it's unrealistic to have the idea that a lover or spouse is responsible for somehow magically making someone happy, or the idea that love is an external force (like Cupid's arrows) that is beyond anyone's control. So if it's there, all sorts of sinful behavior is excused, and if it's not there anymore, then it's time to move on. The idea that love requires work to maintain is what many people don't seem to understand.

I don't know who said that "virtue was its own reward", but Catholic theology does seem to tend more toward NOT promising that virtuous behavior is guaranteed to produce temporal happiness. Another trend I see is how some singles who are virgins (mostly men) seem to think that because they have kept God's commandments, that he owes them a perfect, spotless virgin spouse as a reward. I hope I don't need to explain how skewed that kind of thinking is.


#13

How about this - I promise you if you don't engage in pre-marital sex you will have one less thing to talk about in the confessional. ;)

BTW- Heaven help us if we don't actually sleep with the people we are dating before marriage - we may actually have to talk with them and get to know them.

Of course - I stopped sleeping with mine and took the path of chastity obviously not soon enough - but I will say this about it - I never regretted knowing I tried to do the right thing even with the divorce because it isn't between him and me - it is between Him and me.


#14

[quote="valient_Lucy, post:9, topic:219864"]
They don't necessarily promise a happy marriage, but they promise you you'll never regret it. Even recently, I read someone who said, "I guarantee you, you won't regret waiting." They can't guarantee that. And yet, they do.

But it's not simply a chastity issue. It's the whole idea that being a Christian and living a Christian life will somehow grant you a happy marriage. Never mind the fact that evangelical Christians in the United States divorce at the same rate as non-believers.

[/quote]

Okay how about this... I can guarantee that you should never regret waiting. You should never regret making a decision in a situation that leads you away from sin...

It's hard to grow in our faith when we have a "santa claus" view of God (if I am good than God will make sure good things happen to me). I think this is probably largely influenced by the whole Calvinist pre-destination mentality and definitely doesn't go hand in hand with Catholic teachings. Coming from the protestant background that I am from, I definitely had this particular problem from childhood through college and it caused a major crisis of faith. I'd done everything I was supposed to? Why did bad things still happen?

Thus one of the things that made a lot of sense to me when I began to learn about Catholicism was embracing suffering, "offering it up" or uniting our suffering with Christ's and the idea that through our suffering we could draw closer to God (boy does that help during labor! At least it's not pointless!).

Now looking back it's not the bad things that "happened" (that were largely outside my control) that I regret. It's the choices that led me away from God and the sins that I consented to and instigated when I lost faith. Now the idea of things that seemed fun in college are physically repulsing.

So you genuinely should never regret making a decision to live your life based on Christ's Church's teachings. You should never regret making choices that are pleasing to God... and the line from the prayer that keeps going through my head as I type this "... I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of because they are offend Thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love." We shouldn't regret choosing God over the temptations of this world.


#15

[quote="RedSoxWife, post:14, topic:219864"]
Okay how about this... I can guarantee that you should never regret waiting. You should never regret making a decision in a situation that leads you away from sin...

It's hard to grow in our faith when we have a "santa claus" view of God (if I am good than God will make sure good things happen to me). I think this is probably largely influenced by the whole Calvinist pre-destination mentality and definitely doesn't go hand in hand with Catholic teachings. Coming from the protestant background that I am from, I definitely had this particular problem from childhood through college and it caused a major crisis of faith. I'd done everything I was supposed to? Why did bad things still happen?

Thus one of the things that made a lot of sense to me when I began to learn about Catholicism was embracing suffering, "offering it up" or uniting our suffering with Christ's and the idea that through our suffering we could draw closer to God (boy does that help during labor! At least it's not pointless!).

Now looking back it's not the bad things that "happened" (that were largely outside my control) that I regret. It's the choices that led me away from God and the sins that I consented to and instigated when I lost faith. Now the idea of things that seemed fun in college are physically repulsing.

So you genuinely should never regret making a decision to live your life based on Christ's Church's teachings. You should never regret making choices that are pleasing to God... and the line from the prayer that keeps going through my head as I type this "... I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of because they are offend Thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love." We shouldn't regret choosing God over the temptations of this world.

[/quote]

I agree with you that the Santa Claus view of God is probably more prevalent in Protestantism.

*However, it still exists within Catholicism. *

Janet Smith regularly says that using NFP is beneficial to marriage. I remember another article by an NFP promoter, who stated that he tries to show people that practicing NFP would make them happier. This is rediculous, and as responsible Catholics and Christians, we have to put a stop to this.

We need to promote the approach that you talk about, about sin, without making rediculous promises that serving God will result in happiness in this life, or that doing a good thing brings earthly reward. It might, but it might not.


#16

[quote="valient_Lucy, post:15, topic:219864"]
I agree with you that the Santa Claus view of God is probably more prevalent in Protestantism.

*However, it still exists within Catholicism. *

Janet Smith regularly says that using NFP is beneficial to marriage. I remember another article by an NFP promoter, who stated that he tries to show people that practicing NFP would make them happier. This is rediculous, and as responsible Catholics and Christians, we have to put a stop to this.

[/quote]

By the way I hope I did not give the wrong idea - I was referring to Saint Nicholas one of the patrons marriage - not this other Santa Claus idea - but you are right marriage is hard work - hard work that needs to be done by both people.


#17

[quote="joandarc2008, post:16, topic:219864"]
By the way I hope I did not give the wrong idea - I was referring to Saint Nicholas one of the patrons marriage - not this other Santa Claus idea - but you are right marriage is hard work - hard work that needs to be done by both people.

[/quote]

No, I was referring to the PP's talk about how some people view God as a "cosmic Santa Claus," not the idea that St. Nicholas is a patron saint for marriage. (I'll have to start praying to him!) :)

I was referring to the idea that some Christians, and even some Catholics have, that "If you obey God and do the right thing, you're life will be super fantastically awesome, because God would never allow anything bad to happen to you." This idea is unrealistic, and I think it deserves a place in the waste basket.

Like I said above, I think it's probably an American idea, because we've been so comfortable for so long, that we start to feel that we have a right to be so comfortable.


#18

[quote="valient_Lucy, post:17, topic:219864"]
No, I was referring to the PP's talk about how some people view God as a "cosmic Santa Claus," not the idea that St. Nicholas is a patron saint for marriage. (I'll have to start praying to him!) :)

I was referring to the idea that some Christians, and even some Catholics have, that "If you obey God and do the right thing, you're life will be super fantastically awesome, because God would never allow anything bad to happen to you." This idea is unrealistic, and I think it deserves a place in the waste basket.

Like I said above, I think it's probably an American idea, because we've been so comfortable for so long, that we start to feel that we have a right to be so comfortable.

[/quote]

While I think I ultimately agree with what you're saying, your OP and subsequent comments have been very convoluted and problematic.

I admit that sometimes I long to walk into a marriage prep class in our diocese - fighting with my husband just to prove to them that marriage is not wine, chocolates, and roses all of the time. In fact it very rarely is in most circumstances. Because marriage is a vocation. I love my husband very much and my children, but I did not get married because I loved my husband, I got married because God called me to marry him.

However, to equate the lack of marriage prep and the unfortunate idealistic leanings of engaged couples to accepting that happiness in marriage cannot be guaranteed and therefore divorce should be allowed is ignorant of both the problem and the solution at best.

Life is hard! Love is a verb first from which the feeling comes. And while there may be difficult times and problematic times within any marriage (as in anyone's life) it's how one chooses to respond to those adversities is what makes for happiness on this earth. (I recommend reading about St. Therese Lisieux)

Separation from a spouse, divorce and ultimately annulment is perhaps a necessity within some marriages for the physical safety of everyone. But "I know longer want to be married to you because it's too hard, too boring, too dull, too predictable,too (insert adjective here) and I'm not happy; I was promised I should be happy" is not a good enough reason to accept divorce as an option.

People who are "guaranteeing" the happiness of an individual or couple who choose a chaste life or who wait out an unhappy marriage are indeed correct, not because the marriage will somehow be suddenly happier and better for them, but because these are opportunities to bring them closer to God, the source of all happiness. It is possible that there are some, many in fact, who mistakenly preach a claim of perfect marital bliss (this is poor catechesis and something we have been struggling with for decades now). There are even more who mistakenly only hear what they want to hear and forget that Marriage is a Sacrament that confers the Grace of God upon the couple, uniting them as one; with of course the understanding that ultimate happiness is found only in God and only in Heaven.


#19

[quote="Sullibe, post:18, topic:219864"]

While I think I ultimately agree with what you're saying, your OP and subsequent comments have been very convoluted and problematic.

[/quote]

I apologize for that.

[quote="Sullibe, post:18, topic:219864"]

I admit at times I long to walk into a marriage prep class in our diocese - fighting with my husband just to prove to them that marriage is not wine, chocolates, and roses all of the time. In fact it very rarely is in most circumstances. Because marriage is a vocation. I love my husband very much and my children, but I did not get married because I loved my husband, I got married because God called me to marry him.

[/quote]

I think we should stress this.

[quote="Sullibe, post:18, topic:219864"]

However, to equate the lack of marriage prep and the unfortunate idealistic leanings of engaged couples to accepting that happiness in marriage cannot be guaranteed and therefore divorce should be allowed is ignorant of both the problem and the solution at best.

[/quote]

Where exactly did I say that divorce should be allowed? Can you find that in my previous comments?

[quote="Sullibe, post:18, topic:219864"]

Life is hard! Love is a verb first from which the feeling comes. And while there may be difficult times and problematic times within any marriage (as in anyone's life) it's how one chooses to respond to those adversities is what makes for happiness on this earth. (I recommend reading about St. Therese Lisieux)

[/quote]

Story of a Soul is one of my favorites.

[quote="Sullibe, post:18, topic:219864"]

Separation from a spouse, divorce and ultimately annulment is perhaps a necessity within some marriages for the physical safety of everyone. But "I know longer want to be married to you because it's too hard, too boring, too dull, too predictable,too (insert adjective here) and I'm not happy; I was promised I should be happy" is not a good enough reason to accept divorce as an option.

[/quote]

Of course it's a terrible reason for divorce. But it's just as bad for Christians to shun other Christians because they didn't live up to their moral standards, as if any of us are so perfect! It was terrible that my mom was afraid to tell the people at her church that she had divorced my father. But, unfortunately, the Church Millitant is the only army in the world that shoots its own. Now why is that? I think it's partly because some Christians have a theory that people who are living a Christian life shouldn't have problems or make mistakes, and when this belief is challenged, its easier to shun the offending party than to correct our mistaken view of life.

[quote="Sullibe, post:18, topic:219864"]

People who are "guaranteeing" the happiness of an individual or couple who choose a chaste life or who wait out an unhappy marriage are indeed correct, not because the marriage will somehow be suddenly happier and better for them, but because these are opportunities to bring them closer to God, the source of all happiness.

[/quote]

Exactly. There is no guarantee that, in this life, we will be rewarded, and we have to stop telling Christians to expect a reward for doing the right thing.

[quote="Sullibe, post:18, topic:219864"]

It is possible that there are some, many in fact, who mistakenly preach a claim of perfect marital bliss (this is poor catechesis and something we have been struggling with for decades now). There are even more who mistakenly only hear what they want to hear and forget that Marriage is a Sacrament that confers the Grace of God upon the couple, uniting them as one; with of course the understanding that ultimate happiness is found only in God and only in Heaven.

[/quote]

I agree.


#20

quote="Sullibe, post:18, topic:219864"

[/quote]

Actually, a better choice would be Bl. Elizabeth Canori Mora, whose husband was adulterous, or St. Rita or Bl. Anna Maria Taigi, whose husbands were physically abusive.


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