12 September 2012

Women and Divorce

Athol Kay and Vox had a bit of a disagreement on how Christian men should view divorce.  Vox takes the biblical stance that divorce is only permitted in the event of sexual immorality, which he defines rather broadly.  Athol takes the stance the Christ’s law was valid only for the culture to which it was delivered, and therefore men should be willing to play the ultimatum game with their wives, irrespective of their religious beliefs.  While this is an interesting discussion, I believe a very pertinent question has been ignored:  what does the wife think about divorce?

Here’s the key problem that Christians miss with their “no divorce” platform. Once you remove the possibility of divorce from the equation, there is no longer an effective consequence for what would otherwise be a genuine relationship breaking problem. Which means relationship breaking problems can never effectively be addressed and end up simply being tolerated. Oh sure you can beg and plead and pray and take her to the elders and they can frown at her yada yada yada, but that’s all just talk and making threatening gestures with the banana. Like she cares about that. Thus the “no divorce” platform can actually be a significant causal factor in a really shitty Christian marriage.

And Vox concurs with this assessment (though he disagrees with the conclusion):

I disagree somewhat with Athol on this subject, although only because he is working off a different postulate. His actual logic is perfectly sound, as removing the threat of divorce for bad, but non-adulterous behavior absolutely does significantly weaken the possible consequences for a poorly behaved spouse of either sex. In fact, if we extend his logic a little further and take the legal realities of Marriage 2.0 into account, we quickly reach the inescapable conclusion that no man should marry at all, since maintaining a long-term relationship without marrying allows for an even broader range of more easily delivered consequences for negative behavior.

What both seem to miss is that the argument can cut both ways.  If a woman cannot divorce her husband for any reason other than sexual immorality, then she has no ultimatum with which to “encourage” him to shape up.  Or, to state it another way, “relationship breaking problems can never effectively be addressed and end up simply being tolerated.”  The real issue is not that the man cannot use divorce as an ultimatum; rather, the issue is that his wife, as well as many other nominally Christian wives, doesn’t view marriage and divorce the same way her husband does.

In this case, this changes the dynamic of the analysis.  Consider what Paul has to say:  “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”  Now a nominally Christian wife is not obviously an unbeliever, but the broader principle remains, in that one ought not to be unequally yoked with anyone.  If a man who is serious about marriage and his marital vows marries a woman who treats her vows frivolously, then he is almost sure to face a subpar marriage, and possibly even a divorce.  But then, if he didn’t bother to select a mate that shared his views on marriage, then he ought not to have gotten married.  Therefore, the consequences that arise from being unequally yoked are just, and the man ought to deal with them as equitably as he can.

One final note worth making is what Paul says in I Corinthians 7:  “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.”  If attempts at reconciliation fail, and the wife decides to leave, let her leave.  One is no longer under bondage in this event, and so it would be best to simply move on.

There is much more that can be said, and many lessons to be learned from this problem.  The chief lesson, I believe, is that it is best to not marry unless you can be sure that your potential spouse will be as serious about her vows as you are ofyours.  To be unequally yoked is to ask for misery and heartache, so avoid it all costs.  I will address other related matters later, but for now the conclusion to contemplate is that of what happens when you marry someone who views marriage more frivolously than you do.

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