The Log in Our Eye (Divorce and Gay Marriage, Part 2)

Photo by Tangopaso and Musaromana, Creative Commons

Photo by Tangopaso and Musaromana, Creative Commons

Depending on which study you look at, divorce rates among Evangelicals or Born-Again Christians are either equal to the national average or well below it. But they’re never under 25%. So one marriage out of four, at least, ends in divorce.

Whether this is better than the national average or not, it’s still very high. Much higher than you’d think, given Jesus’s strong words against divorce.

Why is this so? I don’t know, but I have a few observations.  I’ll work through them in more detail in subsequent posts, but today I’ll simply give an overview.

Idolatry of Family – we Evangelicals see the family as paramount. We ignore the Apostle Paul’s words about celibacy (1 Cor 7:8-9), and we push everyone to get married early.

The pressure is so subtle, we don’t even realize it’s there, but we’re soaking in it every day of our lives. We get married before we’re ready, and it sets too many of us on the path to divorce.

Purity Culture – alongside the pressure to marry young is the overwhelming pressure (at least on girls) to stay “pure” for marriage.

The ugly flip side of this is that girls who have sex before they are married (and something like 80% do), are often shamed, treated like damaged goods. Elizabeth Smart’s story is a chilling example of this. The emotional scars this shaming leaves can affect marriage for years down the line.

Purity Culture’s Empty Promises – If the stick wasn’t enough, purity culture has an equally damaging carrot. It’s implied, and sometimes even stated outright, that if you wait until your wedding night, everything will be awesome.

The truth is, virginity is no magic key to a perfect marriage. This should be obvious, and it’s a sign of how messed up things are that it isn’t.

Having mystically high expectations set up that reality can’t realistically meet? Not a good foundation for a marriage.

Game Face Churchianity – you’d think that at church, among your fellow believers, would be the place to share your struggles, to show vulnerability, to be true and authentic, even when it isn’t pretty.

Well, you’d think that unless you’d ever actually been to church.

Pray Away the Gay – I went to a Baptist college as an undergraduate. Several men I knew there got married right out of college, just like they were supposed to (see #1, above). Some even had kids, just like they were supposed to.

Then, down the line, they realized they were gay. Or they admitted to themselves that they were gay. Or they just couldn’t repress the fact that they were gay anymore.

Reparative therapy doesn’t work. That’s been proven to the point that the APA and AMA are both resolutely against it. Marrying a woman and hoping it will all work out certainly doesn’t work.

Dragging a woman (and even children) through that unnecessary hell is just plain inexcusable, but the greater guilt is on those who pressured the gay man to do it.

So What’s Left?

Maybe the answer isn’t found in Jesus’ words about divorce, but in his words about self-examination and self-righteousness in Matthew 7:3-5.

3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?

5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

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Buying the Cow (Purity, Idolatry, and Words Have Meaning)

Woman Milking a Red Cow by Karel Dujardin, c. 1650

Woman Milking a Red Cow by Karel Dujardin, c. 1650

 

Rachel Held Evans’ recent post, “Do Christians Idolize Virginity?”  got me thinking about the ways we talk about purity, chastity, and virginity, and how frankly awful some of them are. Let’s take a look:

 

“Lost my virginity”

Forget looking at sex (and abstaining from sex) in terms of a spiritual practice done for the good of our relationship to God. Forget the wisdom of delaying sexual gratification. Virginity is a thing, a commodity that can be lost.

A commodity whose loss reduces the value of the (former) virgin.

Not too long ago, this was a very real concern. A potential bride was either disqualified or at least lessened if she was not a virgin. Actually, this is still a major concern in many cultures, to the point that honor killings have happened in the U.S. over suspected premarital sex.

 

“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

These days, anyone who calls a woman a cow had better have swift legs or a good, tough chin. I mean heavyweight champion good. And where’s the male equivalent? “Why buy the bull when you can get the $#!* for free?”

Seriously, though, this one is doubly offensive. It paints men as sex fiends and women as chattel, a role that first century Christians moved beyond, but which we slid back to over the course of time.

(Compare the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Greco-Roman house codes, and you’ll see how progressive he was. Today he may look old-fashioned, but he didn’t write those letters today, or to post-feminist information-age citizens of modern democracies, did he?)

Had my wife and I not waited, I would still have married her. What I wanted wasn’t just sex. What I wanted was her, by my side, as my wife, for life. This stupid, offensive livestock analogy is disproven every day as couples who did not wait get married, and stay married, and have good marriages.

The analogy really does hearken back to the days when women were property. First they belonged to their fathers, and then they were (effectively) sold to their husbands. Sometimes there was a dowry involved, sometimes a bride-price, but always a commercial transaction.

And as with livestock, a woman who wasn’t ‘brand new’ and ‘untouched’ was of lesser value, she was, to use the most offensive phrase of all …

 

“Damaged Goods.”

Dear Lord, grant me the patience to not become physically violent when I hear that phrase. Violently ill is okay, though – I’m perfectly fine puking on whoever refers to a woman as “damaged goods.” And it’s always a woman. I’ve never heard a man referred to as “damaged goods” (or a cow, for that matter).

This reduces the woman below the level of livestock, to mere merchandise. A cow is at least a living being, capable of some basic emotions like contentment, fear, and pain. “Damaged goods” is like a couch that’s been clawed by a housecat, or an X-Box with the red ring of death.

 

“Losing my virginity” is bad enough, but “Cows” and “Damaged Goods” are just plain degrading. This is no way to talk about Godly chastity. This is no way to talk about our fellow Christians. And this is definitely no way to talk about our daughters, sisters, and friends.