Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thoughts on Divorce (updated)

I do read quite a bit. As far as theology goes, I read the Bible, and mostly stuff by one of these three guys. The last guy linked is a theologian named N.T. Wright, and he's the one I've been reading most recently and am reading now. His stuff is the kind you don't zip through like a Rob Bell book. I take notes as I read his books.

This rambling I'm doing on my blog is just "armchair theology". The kinda stuff I used to hear my parents do after church on Sundays when my aunt and uncle would come over for Sunday lunch. They'd toss everything around out loud, agreeing or disagreeing with parts of what the preacher had said that morning. One big difference between me and my parents, as I recall it, is that they had way more stuff nailed down than I do. I tend to have way more questions than answers about pretty much everything I think about regarding theology.

I'd like to ramble on a bit about divorce. Since I've experienced two of them, I suppose I could call myself an expert. But, I won't.

The thing is, I can remember how it was, or at least my perception of it, 30 years ago for people who were divorced. I was 14 then. Keeping in mind that I grew up in a fundamentalist church in the South, my perception was that divorced people were tainted, or, in other words, sinful. They were certainly less valuable in the church back then and weren't allowed to teach or hold any positions of leadership whatsoever. A divorced church secretary, a volunteer position back then, would be OUT. I got the very clear idea that even though divorced people could receive forgiveness and make it to heaven, they'd rendered themselves pretty much useless for work in God's kingdom because of this great sin. Nowadays, there are some mainline churches that allow divorced folks to do all sorts of things within the body that would never have occurred 30 years ago. Most still draw the line and positions like elder or preacher, but the lines are WAY broader than they used to be within the church for those who are divorced. What changed? Did God change his mind or did we change ours? Could it be that Kurt is onto something in the comments of the last post. (i don't have time to copy and paste it so you'll have to look if you didn't read it).

The fact of the matter is that I'm living in a time when it's much easier to be a divorced person and operate fully within the realm of daily church life than would have been possible 30 years ago. Heck, I could probably go and sign up to teach in ANY one of the churches in this small town, TODAY, and I've been through two divorces! Wait. I take that back. The Church of Christ here still holds a moratorium on those divorced. But, the CoC doesn't really count because you can't tell what one congregation will do for sure on any given issue unless you go in, get comfortable, and find out. Which, I think is kind of a good thing and this is the reason the CoC can claim that they're not a demonimation....they have no governing body. I digress. get my point. And, the point of all my rambling is NOT to try and prove that divorce is not a sin. I honestly believe that the same things that are sin have always been sin. I don't think sin changes over the course of time just because our culture changes. I do think that WE change in the way that we relate to one another within our sinful state of being....and we, as his people, may change our minds about how we view sin, but God has never changed at all in the way that HE relates to US.

I'm short on time, so I'll finish this particular rambling after school today. Thanks for reading so far!

Updated portion begins here-------------------------------------- was I going with this?

Kurt mentioned in his comment that Jesus was talking about abandonement when he was being so strict on divorce, and that divorce in that day and time was very different in it's outcome for all involved than in today's culture. I agree, because, based on what I know about Kurt, I don't think he was necessarily saying that marriage vows aren't to be taken as seriously as they should be, but that divorce, when it does occur, takes place in a completely different context than it used to. I do believe that most divorce, at some point, probably involves some manner of sin. In the case of my first divorce (here goes the expert), there was emotional abandonement by both parties. We sinned against one another by abandoning one another in our hearts . More specifically, I'll let it be known, I abandoned him emotionally. I could sit here and make excuses for why I did that....pretty darn good ones, I might add....but....the plain fact of the matter is that I sinned against him by abandoning him emotionally. And this was MY sin that I had to come to grips with, hold myself accountable for, and reconcile with my ex-husband and with God. And those things have been done. Apologies have been made all around, and each of us has released the other from the burden of a whole boatload of sin that was spread around between the two of us where that marriage was concerned. There may be opinions (mostly by friends and family watching from the peanut gallery) as to who bore the biggest burden of sin, but none of that matters because love keeps no record of wrongs and LOVE is the order of the day.

And it works out similarly in the case of my most recent divorce from Tdub. It's public blog record that Tdub abandoned me emotionally. While I could make a slight case for physical abandonement, it would be slight. The end of that story is that Tdub sought forgiveness from me, and I granted it. He didn't offer reconciliation, but I had no intentions of accepting it even if it were offered. And so, we've made our peace. Whether or not Tdub has made peace with God concerning our divorce is between him and God, and his getting forgiveness from me can't stand in the way of him accepting it from God.

I guess the point of all this rambling is that so many of these things have to be worked out personally. I just don't think the Bible can be looked at like some giant rule book where every situation is laid out with instructions for when a person can consider themselves "in" or "out" where God is concerned. It even seems to me that once your ever really "in"....God's just so relentless in His pursuit....that even when you run you can't seem to hide. And for that....I am most eternally grateful!

love and grace,

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Norm! said...

Thank you for sharing, Pam! I almost commented this morning after reading the first part, but I'm glad I held my tongue.

I've also witnessed the change in conservative Christian culture's attitude about divorce. My mother stayed in an unhealthy marriage to my father because, in part, she didn't want my sister and I to carry the stigma of divorce. It wasn't until her old fashion, conservative pastor actually asked, "Why don't you get a divorce?", that she seriously pursued it.

One thing (well, one of many things) that really irked me about the ex-gay experience was the implication that my family was a "broken home". I'm actually proud of the tough decision my mother made and know I'm better off than in the chaos of a unhealthy marriage. Sure divorce is not ideal, but even the Bible makes exceptions for divorce.

While Jesus did speak out about divorce, above-all he taught that we are not to blindly apply biblical rules to condemn or stigmatize others. By example, he showed that it is more important know people personally. As more conservative Christians have been personally affected by divorce, it has been much harder to blindly stigmatize and condemn divorced people. (Similarly, I hope more Christians may be a little more open minded as they know more open LGBT friends and family.)

[Well, I could go on, but I better stop. Sorry for the rant. Thanks again.]

kurt_t said...

Wow. I just can't get over the fact that people are paying attention to what I said.

I have a four-year-old at home. I'm not used to that.

Did you know that the Florence Henderson character in the Brady Bunch was supposed to have been divorced? That was Sherwood Schwartz's vision of that character. But they could never say she was divorced on the show. That was just too controversial.

And Mary Richards on the Mary Tyler Moore Show was originally supposed to be a divorcee, but the producers changed her back story at the last minute because they thought that audiences would confuse Mary Richards with Laura Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke Show, and America just wasn't ready for Rob and Laura Petrie going Splitsville.

As far as I have been able to discern, the first divorced character on prime time TV was Vivian Vance's character on "Here's Lucy," but there was only ever one very off-hand mention of her marital status on the show.

And I'm actually kind of ashamed that I know that.

Anonymous said...

Your parents had it nailed down?? Lucky you. I remember asking my father for advice once and the first time he said "Honey, I don't know. God does it differently for each."

grace said...

Norm!: I couldn't agree more.

Kurt: Wow. I love it that you knew all that!! Television works as a sort of mirror of our cultural values...which is a horrific thought when watching some of the stuff put out there....thinking MTV, specifically.

Anonymous: Having parents who have it all "nailed down" is not necessarily a "lucky" thing. While I wouldn't take for my "raisin" personal preference is much more inline with your dad's approach. It can be really difficult sometimes for parents who have everything all figured out, to put forth this child that questions all of that. Difficult on both sides....but, I think more difficult for them than me since answers, for them, are more valuable than questions.

Debbie said...

Hi Pam

I've been on a hiatus all was a busy one for us; lots of transition.

I found myself back on your site the other day. I admire you; I appreciate your honesty in sharing your personal thoughts and experiences. I feel a kinship with you, though we've never met and I only know about you what I read!

I've not experienced divorce myself, but my sister is going through it right now. My first thought when I read your thoughts on divorce was that I'd like to send her the link to your blog....and maybe I still will; she lives on a small, secluded Island in Norther Ontario (Canada). The folks there are good people (mostly related to us, very conservative Christians) who view these things as black and white and unfortunately are quick to label....she's hurting terribly, yet sitting in judgment does not bring restoration; neither does it bring healing to a wounded soul.

ANYWAY glad to see you're still blogging. I'll be sure to drop in more regularly.



FeatherIron said...

Christianity Today's October issue Cover Story is about Divorce. It's good.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about Jesus' comments on divorce in Matthew 19. I do think that he is opposed to divorce. However, I don't think the main point of this conversation was divorce. I also don't think he was making a statement about timeless ethics applied to any and all cultures/relationships. I think he was talking about Israel. I think he is speaking directly to those who were testing him.

Tin Man

grace said...

Tin Man,
Thanks for your input. I'd love to learn more and I personally wish you'd spend more time writing/teaching about these things. While a person shouldn't have to have a degree in theology to live a Christian life, it would be helpful for those of us less learned about such subjects to hear your take on things as we try and apply this stuff to our daily walk. If you aren't going to write your own post about it...I'd love a "guest post" here....what ya think?

(for real)