Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Divorce: Conservative and Liberal

One reason Jesus makes it harder for men to divorce their wives is, in my estimation, to protect women from the real threat of destitution that often resulted. If the woman did not have a family to return to, she found herself without income or support. Another reason is due to a higher view of marriage--Jesus vice Moses--wherein the man in the contemporary eastern "man's world" was told to just stop already with the mistresses, concubines and polygamy. Marriage, like so many other things (including the covenant) is new and better in the New Testemant.

In all this I am conservative.

In the case of spousal abuse, I'm a flaming liberal. As an elder I never would have advised a woman to go back to an abusive husband, no matter how sincerely he stood before her and the elders and apologized and promised to change. I guess I'd be bassackwards from most elders--If the abused spouse didn't want to reconcile--that would have been an easy case for me. If she did want to--that's when it would have been tough.

I think most conservatives will immediately say: No, no, Jesus is quite clear: it is sexual immorality and (maybe) abandonement, and nothing else. Those are the only reason given explicitly in scripture.

Phooey. Those reasons are given to again emphasize the higher view of marriage.

In my opinion, Jesus doesn't include the reason of spousal abuse-- and the Holy Spirit doesn't inspire the writers to include it, because they cannot imagine we are so stupid that we must be told the obvious. (Like all teachers, The Holy Spirit at times must lament that he over-estimated his pupils.)

Scripture doesn't tell us that you can divorce your husband if he beats your children, locks them in closets, and puts cigarettes out on their backs. I would hope an elder board would not respond to such a circumstance by arguing that "Hmm, since it's not explicit, you must take him back if he sincerely apologizes, and it seems to us that he has. That is, we're pretty sure he won't do it again. And until you take him back, we'll fellowship with him, but not with you."



  1. Some people include abuse as a subset of abandonment. Either way it is a biblical reason for divorce. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus states hating someone is equivalent to murder. Although not explicitly stated, isn't that the essence of abuse?

    The only way I can make sense of the cognitive dissonance is the idolization of marriage and family. Evangelicals look to happy (American) families as the saving of society rather than Jesus, so we are willing to sacrifice people for the sake of appearances.

  2. Persis,

    I tend agree, but I am hesitant to make the argument that abuse is a subset of abandonment--I don't find that completely satisfying (except for suitable definitions of abandonment.) I'd rather make the argument: use your brains for crying out loud!

    1. "use your brains for crying out loud!" Amen!