Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Marriage and Hypocrisy

I was just looking over the October 2007 issue of Christianity Today this evening (I've been busy, as you know) and was really struck by an article that called for better ministry to "stepfamilies." The point of the article is that instead of passing judgement upon divorced and remarried persons, churches should simply accept that everyone makes mistakes and welcome them into full fellowship.

I've heard of that before: it's called "welcoming and affirming," but it's usually applied to something just a little bit different.
"In many cases, divorce is indefensible, bringing serious consequences to adults and children. It should not be taken lightly. Yet to deny somone full forgiveness and the right to live life to the fullest in Jesus Christ denies the healing power of the Cross."
Denying the Christian legitimacy of a divorce and remarriage is a denial of the healing power of the cross? That's a stunning accusation. There's not a single nod in the article to the idea that Christian discipleship requires some basic decisions for self-denial.

Ron Deal's article, "Redeeming the Remarried" is a nearly identical to most arguments for churches celebrating same-sex unions. One of the really fun things about talking with evangelical Christians who are in favor of serial monogamy is that by the time they offer all of their conditions and caveats, they've left the door wide open in their theological house for the legitimation of same-sex unions.

Of course I also watch people go in one of two ways with this (if they don't ignore it altogether): 1) since we're obviously not going to be so draconian as to turn back the clock on our practices of divorce and remarriage, we should bless same sex unions, or 2) maybe if we're going to claim a theology of marriage, perhaps we should have one and quit legitimating the notion that everybody gets to define the meaning and boundaries of their own relationships with no real reference to the Christian tradition.

Option 1 would at least be honest, and option 2 would be a miracle.


SaintSimon said...

You make a very valid point here, especially on issues of consistency and hypocrisy. However, I don't find the same clarity in this issue as in the case of homosexuality.

Paradoxically, the marriage of our recently ordained 'assistant minister' has just ended in separation, one of the reasons being that our church does re-marry divorcees and the non-ordained partner doesn't approve.

That aside, there are far too many christians indulging in serial monogamy, and i agree we are too casual about it. One should certainly not divorce in the hope of finding someone better - that's just the very adultery that Jesus condemned.

On the other hand, I heard an interesting theory: in the OT the punishment for adultery was death, but the court would usually be merciful and not implement the penalty. However, the person might still be 'deemed' to be dead. Therefore the 'innocent' partner would not be prevented from a new marriage just because of the court's mercy.

In the mercy of Christ I think it is similarly possible that a previously divorced person may deem the former partner 'dead', and remarry.

+ Alan said...

Good thoughts Kyle. This is one of the "miraculous" and fairly consistent things I like about this issue in the Roman Catholic Church. I know a lot of people have problems with the whole annulment thing. In fairness, though, it's not the same. It may be used that way by some, but at it's philosophical core, it's consistent with a very high view of Christian marriage as Sacramental and indelible in its nature. It certainly calls on people to look seriously about what they're doing when they enter into such a Sacramental union, but it also has the ability to see that all such unions are not entered into properly. Things are imperfect and messy in other words. But things are not just whatever people want them to be.

SaintSimon said...

Do you believe that where a remarriage has occurred, this second marriage should be terminated, like those who had married pagan women in Ezra, or do you believe that having reached a point of repentance you should pick up where you are and continue, which is closer to David and Bathsheba?

Garrett said...

I officially declare movie rights for "The Last Temptation of Kyle."

If it already hasn't been a South Park episode...

Jody Howard said...

Very good. I think you've hit on one of the biggest blind spots most of us have. It's actually a widespread problem: we all seek to self-justify, it's just that there are more divorced people than homosexuals.

I agree with the first commenter that things are a little more cut and dry with homosexuality--at least as regards divorce--I'm not sure they're any more cut and dry when it comes to remarriage while a divorced spouse is still living, Rabbinical mercies aside.

The irony is that, according to a statement released by ARCIC in the 70's on Marriage, there is *no difference* between the doctrine of marriage in the two churches...I can hear the moans now.

I recently posted something about another blind-spot: contraception. Specifically, the ease with which so many Christians talk about things like vasectomies. Check it out, I'd love to here any of your thoughts.

Also, I'm not contributing (or will at some point) to a new blog Covenant. I notice that you're now attending an AMiA parish--we could use some constructive dialogue over there, and I think Captain Sacrament is someone to go to. Talk to you later.

Jody Howard said...

hah... that "not" in "not contributing" should be "now." (though I suppose the first might be true... I should ask the rest of the contributors).

SaintSimon said...

I recommend Jody's link on the topic of Vasectomy above. Very thought provoking!

Personally, after my 6th child when my wife started to suffer rheumatoid arthritis and was placed on drugs which could harm a foetus, I prayerfully had a vasectomy. The prayer was on the lines of "Vasectomies can fail, and so Lord, this is more of a prayer expressing our aspirations rather than a block on your right to give us children". Much later, after prayer at church, are arthritis has reduced and she has come off the drugs. It's a long story, if you want you can read my whole blog....!.. but in 2006 we felt GOd was calling us to have another child and I reversed the vasectomy.

It is interesting that Jody's link talks about dysfuntional sexuality as a whole, and this ties in to Kyle's objection to serial monogamy and my involvement in the True Freedom Trust (which provides support to celibate homosexuals) whose has very similar philosophies at its core. I believe God is speaking to the World about these things in these days.

Josh said...

Kyle, will you marry me?

Kyle said...

Yes, but only in Vermont or Massachusetts. If we do it in California, it won't take.

Anonymous said...

Could it be, that just like the church, once protestants stopped viewing marriage as a sacrament, it is now defined primarily by whatever the culture dictates, rather than having an ontology that is nurtured within scripture and tradition.

Jody Howard said...


I think you're definitely right in part. I also think part of it has to do with the amount of "choice" in our society. This is something that some authors have hit on in fiction. I believe it's related to the way Walker Percy saw something he termed "Certification" in his novel "The Moviegoer." The idea is that somehow, because of the way we live modern life (or don't live it) we have the tendency to see it as somehow unreal--that is, until our life is somehow "certified." In the case of the character in the book, his worldview changes when he sees his town in a film. I think this sort of waiting on "certification" plays on people's minds and causes them to think "what if" a lot more than they used to... or perhaps to act on the "what ifs" more often. So it's easier to break off a marriage and move on to something else that seems more "real" or stimulating, more likely to be "certified" than where one already is.

Just a thought...

Unknown said...

Let's just say I have a good story to tell you.