>“Protect Marriage by Banning Divorce!” Or “Christian social ethics with a hammer.”

Posted: 07/11/2009 in homosexuality, marraige, prop 8


Every once in awhile, in the world of American politics, someone comes a long and shows us how absurd we all we are. To paraphrase Neitzche, some one does politics with a hammer. The activist with a hammer today is John Marcotte who is starting a grass roots campaign to rescue marriage from the evils of divorce.

Marcotte is confident that those who defended traditional marriage with Prop 8 last year will be just as supportive of his ban divorce. To do otherwise, would be hypocritical.

I am sure many Christians out there don’t appreciate the joke. Snide remarks on his website like “hell is eternal, just like your marriage was supposed to be” are likely to get under people’s skin. Yet he has a point he is trying to get across and it wouldn’t be right to ignore the issue that his project raises. Such would seem to affirm his accusation of hypocrisy. Instead, I think maybe we need to think carefully about the problem reflect on our own social ethic. While I don’t think the charge of “hypocrisy” really sticks, I think there is a serious question about consistency on this issue.

The problem is this: What exactly does defending marriage mean? Conservative Christians have fairly clear idea of its definition: marriage is between man and women. Thus, many Christians felt that it made sense to vote “yes” on Prop 8 because that affirms the traditional view. The reasoning behind the social ethic was fairly simple for most:

1. Christians believe that marriage is between man and a woman.
2. Therefore, we should make sure that is the law.

Now, there are many other arguments that were added, but I don’t think there is much doubt that at the root, it Christians defended traditional marriage because this is the way God intends it. Defending it means protecting it with secular law.

So why not do the same thing with divorce? Jesus condemns divorce explicitly in the Gospels. While we all know many divorced Christians, few Christians say that divorce is concept we want to endorse any more than gay marriage. So consider this reasoning:

1. Christians believe that marriage should not end with a divorce.
2. Therefore, we should make sure that’s the law.

What is preventing us from taking this route? If defending marriage means making secular law that affirms what Christians think about it, then legally recognizing divorce is just as much of a problem as legally recognizing gay marriage. Many of the anti-gay marriage arguments apply here too. Non-divorce is clearly better for procreation and raising children. How might this charge of inconsistency be resolved?

I know that many thoughtful Christians will offer good reasons of how to resolve this issue. Here is mine: Traditional, Christian, ideas about the religious sacrament of marriage cannot be defended by appeals to secular law. I do not think that secular law has the right to define marriage at all, whether “marriage” accepts gays or not. I would happily take a “civil union” if that means my religion -and only my religion- defines my marriage. It was on this principle that I abstained from voting on Prop 8 last year. If Christians want to defend our religious practices, than we need to do it with our own religious institutions and not hold hands with secular law.

This may not be convincing to some, and that’s okay. My way may not be the best way. But I still feel there needs to be a way out of the inconsistency. If you have another and better way, please post it!

After all, someone has to shut up the activist with the hammer.

And if you liked this little blog, go ahead and re-post on facebook!

  1. Q says:

    >I wish I knew how to elaborate this better, but ultimately these are two completely separate issues that, while looking connected, have nothing to do with each other. It really only works as an argument against those who thought Prop 8 was trying to "protect" marriage. Personally, I think same-sex marriage and divorce are operating on completely different planes. Trying to juxtapose them is misguided, and I think it's a bit disingenuous as well.

  2. Dan says:

    >A ban on divorce gives men the option of doing whatever they (we) want in a marriage and never having to worry about the consequences. This is why we cannot support it.

  3. Jin-roh says:

    >That's actually a good response Dan, although based on your other post, I suspect you have low view of our gender. 😉

  4. Dan says:

    >Not at all! I totally think we're capable of great things. But I also know what we're capable of in terms of evil. Even in our churches we don't have it down completely right. Hopefully we'll keep doing better. However, until then, a ban on divorce is not a good idea.

  5. >Found your website from imonk, I think you have some thought-provoking ideas. However, while Jesus does explicitly condemn divorce in the Gospels, he does not undo the law that Moses set, especially the exception, however much He did not want it exercised. This, as I understand it, has been the historical explanation why divorce has been condemned by the church without a push for legalization against it.Dan's point is a good practical reason.

  6. Nitewrit says:

    >I agree with Kevin and thus if a law was enacted against divorse already there would be an exception incorporated. Lawyers are good at wiggling through exceptions and widening the hole. I don't think a ban on divorce gives men anymore options than already exists, perhaps just one less. Even with divorce men (and women) abuse their spouses, walk out on responcibilities and neglect spusal duties. We have laws against such things now. A number of years back, my neighbor and her husband divorced. he came to her house and murdered her. Since when has one more law eliminated sin?As a Christian I protect marriage by seeking to obey the will of God. We need to set the example. (I've been married for nearly 49 years.) Comment is getting a bit long, sorry.Larry

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