Want to Save Marriage? Ban Divorce

In three of the gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — Jesus is quite clear about his feelings on divorce: it’s a sin. Those who divorce and remarry commit adultery. Divorce is the breaking of a covenant meant to be a lifetime bond — or “’til death do us part,” as the traditional vow goes.

Those who claim to follow Christ, however, seem to disregard this little bit of legalism from Jesus. Apparently the son of God didn’t understand that sometimes it just doesn’t work out between humans and they’re better off parting ways than remaining in a relationship that makes them miserable or may turn out to be abusive. What did Jesus know, anyway? He didn’t have a nagging wife to worry about!

 

Nearly 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Interestingly, according to researcher George Barna, those who divorce the most frequently are those who claim to follow Jesus the most closely.

Among “born-again” Christians, 27 percent currently are divorced or previously have been divorced, compared with 24 percent among adults who are not “born again.” Surprisingly, the Barna report said, the Christian group whose adherents have the highest likelihood of getting divorced are Baptists. The only group to surpass Baptists were Christians associated with non—denominational Protestant churches.

I’ve always found it interesting that right-wing religious groups who spout off about how they have to protect “traditional marriage” from the gathering storm of gays and lesbians who want to take vows and enjoy the rights and privileges of this civil commitment are not all that interested in doing away with the biggest threat to heterosexual marriage: divorce.

A Web-designer-cum-political-activist in California is out to help “traditional marriage” advocates change all that.

In a movement that seems ripped from the pages of Comedy Channel writers, John Marcotte wants to put a measure on the ballot next year to ban divorce in California.

The effort is meant to be a satirical statement after California voters outlawed gay marriage in 2008, largely on the argument that a ban is needed to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage. If that’s the case, then Marcotte reasons voters should have no problem banning divorce.

Even if it’s meant as “satire” Marcotte is still collecting signatures for his ballot measure, and will need 694,354 valid signatures by March 22. His measure will probably fail, but it points up the blatant hypocrisy of the “traditional marriage” crowd. It’s not really that they want to preserve heterosexual marriage — because if they did, they’d be the ones leading this charge. Instead, they are simply bigots who want to bar people they find “sinful,” “sick,” “perverted,” or just plain “icky” from gaining equal rights under the law.

Under the canard of “religion” — the “traditional marriage” folks have made the case that two men and two women are not “God’s best” and therefore do not qualify for the sacred institution of marriage. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1215 that the church even recognized marriage as a sacrament — preferring to leave the obviously civil institution to secular society where it originated.

Divorce used to be something people were ashamed of, and something that churches took seriously. When my father, a Southern Baptist preacher, divorced my mother in the 1970s, he never served another church again. No Southern Baptist church would have a divorced pastor in their pulpit. His career was over. Now, there are plenty of divorced Southern Baptist preachers leading churches including mega—church leader Charles Stanley in Atlanta.

Certainly, divorce is a necessary option for couples. Often it’s the best thing for a couple trapped in a loveless or abusive relationship. People change, circumstances change, and often it’s best for two people to part ways. Even religious institutions, over the years, have come to understand this and don’t tend to vigorously condemn people for the decision. Many churches, in fact, have divorce care groups and other activities specifically for divorced people. Even Ron Prentice, the executive director of the California Family Council who led a coalition of religious and conservative groups to qualify Proposition 8 called outlawing divorce “impractical.” The reality of life has trumped even the words of Jesus.

Ah, Jesus, remember him? Even though he said not one word about homosexuality in his entire ministry — those who oppose marriage equality for gays and lesbians continue to invoke his name to deny equal rights to an entire group of human beings. All the while, they ignore his words against divorce as quaint and antiquated.

I wish I lived in California. I’d sign Marcotte’s petition and work to ban divorce. It would be nice to be able to go to the polls and vote on someone else’s civil rights for a change. It would also be nice to finally show those who have voted to take away my rights what it feels like to be a second class citizen in America.

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