A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Reducing The Divorce Rate: A Fundamental Shift In Thinking

[July 29, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

I was recently engaging via email with a friend who is trying to see clearly on the whole divorce issue (his church teaches no divorce, ever). One of his questions was if I would consider remaining single even if I believed it wasn’t required, so as to encourage other Christians to take their marriage commitments seriously. Among other ideas and questions he had (and let me re-iterate he’s a good fellow really trying to understand God’s heart), I saw the same old thinking that our mission as the church is to convince everyone that marriage is serious business and to stop being so casual about it. This is a response I sent to him, and I thought it was worth sharing:

The evangelical church has been lamenting the rise in divorces and shouting as loud as possible that the answer is we need to be more committed. I see that viewpoint echoed in your questions to me.

But what if commitment isn’t the issue? What if the issue is the church creating an environment that allows people to be abusive in marriages and garner sympathy when the other party finally bails? What if the answer to lowering the divorce rate isn’t exhorting everyone to “take it more seriously”, but rather, cracking down on those who blow up their marriages and taking a hard line against those who don’t honor their marriages with their behavior?

In short, what if the focus of the church wasn’t try harder, but live more in loving harmony with one another? Which of these two approaches seems more Christ-like? And we give lip service to the latter with our sermons and conferences. But when it comes to a point where we “take a stand”, the stand is almost always against the party who cannot endure any longer, not the party who cannot seem to behave in a way fitting for a Christian indwelt with the Holy Spirit.

So what am I driving at here? I really do think we’ve gotten the core assumption wrong about why the divorce rate is so high. The church assumes the issue is “commitment” and so it just hammers at this over and over again. Interesting to note — did either Jesus or Paul hammer on commitment to marriage? Did either of them tell us the way to prevent divorces was to think more highly of marriage and get better at enduring pain? I’d say no, neither one took that approach. Jesus specifically was zeroing in on Pharisees for treacherously divorcing their wives. He didn’t say “Wow, you guys need to get your head on straight, put your back into it, and be more committed”. No; He told them they needed to stop being sinners destroying what God had put together. And Paul — well Paul spends a lot more time telling people how to have great, God-honoring marriages than he does harping on commitment. He does correct the thinking which some Christians had that it was proper to divorce unbelievers, but for the most part I see neither of them saying, “The problem is, you don’t value marriage highly enough – you need to work harder on being more committed.” Rather, I see them saying, “Stop behaving badly toward your spouses and doing it thinking it is sanctioned by God.”

But what if divorce was seen as a legitimate consequence of egregious behavior in the marriage? What if abusers saw that they were going to be called to account for their misdeeds? What if women felt safe confiding in pastors and knew that they would be protected and helped long before things got to the violent stage? What if our church culture did not fear talking about abuse, but addressed it head on and made it known that it would not be tolerated?

Well, I’ll tell you this — Christian women and churches would stop being easy marks for abusers. And yes, I believe our divorce rate would drop dramatically, at least in the church. We are treating the symptom not the cure. We need to stop telling people that the simple way to cure the divorce epidemic is to never divorce. Instead, we need to work at holding people accountable to not engaging in the behavior that causes divorce.

[July 29, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to July 29, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 29, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 29, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 29, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

58 Comments

  1. Bethany

    Right on! what if divorce was seen as a legitimate consequence of egregious behavior in the marriage? AMEN!! Divorce isn’t the problem – legitimately it is an option and should be an option.
    About a month ago I posted this on FB:
    What if Marriage isn’t as “Sacred” as you think it is? What if life, dignity, respect, love, liberty, safety, etc.. are more Sacred then Marriage? What if divorce isn’t the end of the world but just a natural and necessary step of a Marriage that is violating more sacred aspects of life?

    I ended up loosing some “Friends” that day after a heated debate. But my counselor said something that I will never forget: If a marriage is violating life, dignity, liberty and safety, then it’s already a broken contract. The divorce papers just reflect that reality.
    I wish this were the attitude of more pastors and counselors.

  2. Katy

    Jeff this is so true – last year my church had a “Valentines Day Marriage Conference” and invited a couple of marriage counselors to give the talk. I am endlessly curious about what normal couples talk about in these conferences so I got the syllabus to snoop.
    I am not kidding – the first half of the day was an emphasis on forgiveness of each other’s sins. The second half of the day followed the theme: How to Manage Your Disappointment.
    I couldn’t believe it. Then I thought – well maybe that really is all there is to marriage? Is it really just forgiving “70 times 7” and accepting the disappointments? ….

    • Bethany

      Well Forgiveness of his sin and managing my disappointments definitely described my marriage! This is so VERY sad…how many people will spend another year in abuse after going to this conference?

    • Anonymous

      Yes Katy, if the forgiveness is about life matters, not abuse and if the disappointments are about the same life matters, not about how high the counseling bill is becoming for the one spouse to get help dealing with abuse, mental, physical or otherwise. So, if you are talking about paint, carpeting, simple arguments, he/she doesn’t pick up well or help the other spouse as well or often as they should, etc., because the list is not exhaustive, then what you speak of here, would be normal life. It happens everyday! But, that is NOT what we are talking about, is it? We are talking about one spouse abusing the other and not truly repenting or changing, and the abused spouse just being expected to take what God has given to her, only it is not God that gave it to her.

  3. Wendell G

    Great words Jeff S. We seem to want to deal with the results of sin, but not what leads up to the sin. Prevention is always better than trying to cure, or amputating what is so heavily damaged that it can no longer survive!

  4. Lynette D

    This is so good! I think it should pertain to all bad behavior in the church. So often i see/hear ‘just keep forgiving, keep loving, we all sin, don’t judge, etc.’ Maybe if we started holding people accountable, we’d see more of God’s glory come back in the church.

  5. Still Scared( but getting angry)

    I think you hit the nail on the head with how we are missing the mark in our churches!

  6. Now Free

    “We need to stop telling people that the simple way to cure the divorce epidemic is to never divorce.”

    How simplistic and condescending. That’s a bit like telling people that the simplest way to prevent cancer is to not contract it in the first place!

    • Anonymous

      Amen!

    • Jeff S

      Yes, but it’s a popular approach with pastors. They give you a very simple solution to a complex problem, and then they kind of shrug and say things like “I’m sorry, but it isn’t me- it’s what the Bible says.”

      And then everyone laughs.

      Except the woman in the back who doesn’t want to show her face.

      • Anonymous

        Hmmm. That’s very good.

        So they take their own interpretation, twist God into a merciless master and then apologize for simply upholding their own misconception of Who God really is, but blame Him for it, saying “He said it, I didn’t”.

      • Now Free

        “Except the woman in the back who doesn’t want to show her face.”

        Yes…..

      • anewfreelife

        Oh, whoa, I’ve been that woman before! This was just a great post, Jeff!

  7. Anonymous

    Great post, Jeff S. This makes much more sense, than trying to convince a victim of abuse, that they are just not committed enough. I don’t know how many people I have seen on this blog, that have been married over 20 years. If that is not being committed, then I am not certain what would qualify for being committed.

    One note I would like to make. You said, “What if women felt safe confiding in pastors and knew that they would be protected and helped long before things got to the violent stage?” I would like to just say it this way too. What if women felt safe….and protected…and pastors were willing to help women see how the abuse was negatively affecting them emotionally, spiritually and mentally, and step in and point it out, before there was nothing left of the woman, even going so far as to aid the woman in getting out of the marriage. I only say this, because I think that pastors tend to lean toward the side of Imminent death from physical abuse, before they would tell a woman to separate herself from her abuser, and there is a lot of negating the emotional and spiritual damage that happens to women who stay “committed”. There comes a point, I believe, where it seems women are actually serving the abuser and no longer God, but they don’t even know it, because their minds have been so messed with and scarred, and they live in such fear. They think they are pleasing God by giving themselves over to the abuser, because they have been told that is what God wants AND expects them to do.

    • Jeff S

      Anonymous,
      I agree 100%- I actually wrote a post on that very topic that you might like if you haven’t already read it:

      Allowing For Divorce Is Not Enough

      • Anonymous

        Thanks! How did I miss that one?!? Great post!

      • Jeff S

        Thanks!

    • Memphis Rayne

      My relationship with God was completely severed once I got married. My heart was broken. But I know that God was still there –at the time I did not feel he was. From my perspective the abuse annihilated every human aspect of me that could cry out to him, I see now HE carried me through but during the midst I did not feel that anymore.

      I do not believe that even the iminent threat of physical danger would begin to persuade Pastors to give “Permission” to get out. That may however would persuade them to ask you to go find another church.
      As long as ANYBODY can make, or find a REASON or an EXCUSE, that’s enough for them to look the other way and tell you to proceed forward, in JESUS name.

      The half understanding, is more dangerous than none…

      Anon, I have said before and will keep saying this until Im done saying it…lol I guess???

      I thought the same thing, that because of my “VOWS” I was somehow convinced, staying meant getting back to God. Not only until a pastor said “Perhaps it is Gods will for you to go home at the hands of your husband”” did the light bulb go off!!!! Thanks to his gross lack of understanding and wisdom I began to hear Gods clarity again, NOT mans foolish distorted views on marriage. Its so wrong how women generally are the only ones held responsible for the “vows in marriage” to be upheld. The bottom line is they make you feel like a failure OVER somebody elses wickedness!!!

      I was trying not to post on this because it triggers such enormous frustration in me. I just wanna say UUUUUGH!!!!

      • Jeff S

        “Perhaps it is Gods will for you to go home at the hands of your husband”

        This is so gross. What an evil thing to say. Evil, evil, evil!

        I’m so sorry you were treated that way.

        A pastor who tells someone that should go to jail.

    • Amen to everything you said, Anon. This bit especially:

      What if pastors were willing to help women see how the abuse was negatively affecting them emotionally, spiritually and mentally, and step in and point it out, before there was nothing left of the woman, even going so far as to aid the woman in getting out of the marriage.

      Yes and one hundred times yes. That is what is needed. And not only pastors, but other alert and compassionate people in the congregation. But they need to backing of the pastor if they are to be able to step in and help without coming under fire themselves.

      This is the sea change we need.

  8. Jeff Crippen

    JeffS – I agree totally. We have it backwards. I think I have mentioned elsewhere that the next pre-martial counseling I do will definitely include this matter of abuse, of treacherously violating the marriage covenant vows, and the statement: “You must understand. These vows are not unconditional. In fact, they define the conditions and if either of you habitually and hard-heartedly violates these vows, your spouse has the right to divorce you.

    Ha! We may not only have fewer divorces if we take this route. We may have fewer marriages – at least pre-abusers might think twice, that’s for sure. Or hey, maybe there would be more marriages. Maybe people are hesitating on getting married because they know that presently, there just isn’t any way out if the thing goes sour.

    • Bethany

      Jeff C- I love this! I think you are right, abusers would think twice and those who are worried about being trapped in a bad marriage may decide to take the leap 🙂 I think at the very least if this was part of pre-martial counseling then if the marriage did go sour it would only be a few years and not decades before they get out!

    • Barnabasintraining

      We may have fewer marriages – at least pre-abusers might think twice, that’s for sure.

      It would certainly disrupt their view that the marriage license is the license to abuse.

    • Anonymous

      As a pastor, how did you resolve the opening of the can of worms? It is easy for us in the pews to say that pastors have to change their minds about the plight of women (and men) in oppressive marriages, but I can understand why pastors are reluctant to support divorce for abuse. What if many more in the congregation begin to “get it”, what if some deacons are found to be abusive, what if some “good” men leave the church in disgust over its acceptance of “feminist” views? I suspect you are going to say you went through all that, but I wonder how you overcame the initial awareness that you may be opening a floodgate of other issues.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Anon – The fact is, I wasn’t that smart! I didn’t know all that was coming. In my case, I had experienced over 25 years of power/control abusers in my churches. That is why when I began to study this subject, I very quickly found myself saying “THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAS BEEN HAPPENING TO ME!” That gave me a real heart for and understanding of abuse victims. The thing really came crashing down on me about 5 years ago when an incident of sexual abuse occurred. Myself and our elders had to deal with it. I knew from the beginning it would tend toward dividing our church, which it did to a degree. I began to study sexual abuse after this and quickly found that domestic abuse was closely related, so I expanded my field of study. Shortly, I gave our elders pages out of what I was reading so they could learn it too. I told them I needed to preach a sermon on abuse because it is the very nature and psychology of sin and it is time all of us wised up to it. There was opposition, but the elders ok’d it and thus, the 21 sermon series that is now on sermonaudio.com/crc People in our church reacted in different ways, but they listened. Some I think still have some reservations because they know that I teach divorce for abuse. Then I was contacted by a publisher who had heard the sermons on sermon audio and then came the book. Abuse victims kept contacting me after they heard the sermon series.

        So, as far as how I opened the can of worms? That is how. You might say that the Lord opened it for me that spring day 5 years ago when my phone rang and the sexual abuse report came to me. None of us knew anything of the journey this started us on.

        As for other people and other pastors? All I can say is that once abuse touches YOU, your whole perspective, and yes, even your theology, is in for some adjustments. The Lord has to bring this conviction upon you. We hope we can be used as instruments to hasten that process along.

      • Wendell G

        Jeff, that is what is happening to me. Now that abuse has touched my family, and I have recentered my views, I get a lot of different reactions from people. Most of the time, I can tell from their body language and tone of voice that they disagree with me, but don’t want to engage the subject. A few outright tell me I’m wrong in a very dogmatic way and a very few actually listen.

        I would love to get back into marriage ministry, but I don’t look forward to having to explain my views and be rejected because I don’t hold to the divorce for any reason viewpoint; however, I think it is so important to inculcate the proper views on abuse and its consequences early on.

      • Anonymous

        Don’t know how to reply to your reply, so I hit reply under my post, so hopefully this appears under your reply, but if it doesn’t, just know that this is a reply to you, Ps Jeff.

        “As for other people and other pastors? All I can say is that once abuse touches YOU, your whole perspective, and yes, even your theology, is in for some adjustments.” I once watched of a pastor whose passion was sparked once his own daughter went through an abusive marriage. It was more than upholding doctrine or doing one’s job as a pastor, it was suddenly something that touched the core of his heart.

        Ironically, my pastor once said to me that he could only support and validate me because of his friendship with me – he said he could not do that if he simply put on his pastor’s hat because of the theological positions he had to uphold. As much as I found him to be empathetic, I think he might have been guilty of siding with perpetrators when it came to other couples whom he didn’t know very well.

  9. joepote01

    Commitment is very important. However, the commitment should be to godliness and the keeping of covenant vows NOT to divorce avoidance.

    Good post!

    • Barnabasintraining

      Hi Joe!

      Where ya been hiding? 🙂

      • joepote01

        Hah! Super busy, lately. Still enjoy stopping by to browse the discussion.

  10. Barnabasintraining

    Exactly this.

  11. Healinginprocess

    Jeff S, I really enjoyed your post. You made so many wonderful and valid points. So many times when something is not working we just try harder expecting a different result instead of taking a different approach. I wonder how long it will take the church to realize the approach of hammering commitment and forgiveness in marriage is not working to lower the divorce rate before the church realizes another approach is needed….being proactive instead of reactive. Joe’s point that commitment to godliness and keeping the covenant vows is a great approach. Although I think my ex-husband thought he was a godly man and he kept the covenant vows….in his mind he was justified when he was abusive, therefore that did not take away from him being a godly man or keeping the covenant vows.

    • Jeff S

      Thank you Healinginprocess.

      Hopefully the church will learn sooner rather than later.

      And how great a testimony would it be if the church actually had a divorce rate lower than the secular world? And we did it by protecting the oppressed rather than committing them to pain?

      People would want that- they would see they need that.

    • joepote01

      Wow! To think someone could actually believe they are honoring vows to love, honor and cherish, when in fact they take every opportunity to demean, belittle, hurt, and dishonor…that’s blindness!

  12. Anonymous

    Jeff S, if you read the marriage websites, all their focus seems to be in keeping marriages together and lamenting the rising divorce rate. They are all trying so hard to reverse the divorce rate, and coming to conclusions that seem to miss the point.

    Maybe if they were to take into account the fact that one quarter (to one third, maybe?) of spouses are in abusive marriages, and the reality that abusive relationships mostly do break up eventually, they would not be surprised at the divorce rate. OK, so there is a percentage of marriages breaking up due to issues that can be fixed with help and guidance. But these are being addressed by the plethora of books, CDs, DVDs, websites and messages on building good marriages. Does it not occur to them that something else is the issue??

    • Jeff S

      Oh yes- at best they see abuse as a rare occurrence, and people who divorce are selfish in all but the rarest of cases.

      I have no source for the following, by my sister was telling me about how she learned about a culture where the divorce rate was just about 0, yet there wasn’t much of a fundamentalist push against the idea. People weren’t more committed, they just didn’t get divorced. Why? Because they didn’t have the same concept of privacy that we do. If someone hurt their spouse, everyone would know and there would be consequences. So people just don’t abuse one another. Now I don’t want to live without privacy, and I don’t know how true this story is, but it does follow that a large reason abuse occurs within marriages is because abusers can get away with it. If you remove that . . .

    • Barnabasintraining

      if you read the marriage websites, all their focus seems to be in keeping marriages together and lamenting the rising divorce rate. They are all trying so hard to reverse the divorce rate, and coming to conclusions that seem to miss the point.

      Anonymous,

      I think they really do miss the point and ironically they miss it by making the marriage the focus of their salvation attempts. It’s like the marriage must be saved from divorce and it is the role of the two married people to make that happen. So everybody becomes the servant of the marriage and the marriage’s interests. The marriage becomes the patient. The people are almost beside the point. But were the people the focus as people and for their own sakes, there is a better than good chance more marriages (in general, not necessarily abusive ones) could be saved.

      I don’t think we do the abusers any favors by making the marriage more important than them anymore than we do the victims any favors. Feeding the abuse mentality is not going to help them see the error of their ways. Most of them won’t see it anyway, but the few that do do so because someone dealt harshly with them and forced them to look at themselves.

      I can think of one unbeliever whose wife divorced him (she’s not saved either but that is beside the point) because he beat her up. That with some other circumstances life threw at him helped him to figure out he really screwed up. He seems to have straightened out pretty well. I won’t say he’s perfect by any stretch, but he gets the error of what he did and that he deserves what happened to him, and has amended his ways. Being an unbeliever, this guy didn’t have any church doctrine standing in his way telling him how awful his wife was to divorce him for this and how necessary it was that his marriage be saved from divorce at all costs! I wonder how he would have turned out if he did?

      • Jeff S

        This is probably veering off topic, but I remember going into marriage counseling and being told by the referring counselor that “he will place the marriage above either of you”. That was intimidating, but I signed on.

        But the actual marriage counselor didn’t do that at all. In fact, he straight up told me right in front of my ex that if I divorced her that Jesus would still love me. After he stopped counseling (because he saw it wasn’t helping), he privately told me that there was a theological position some held that 1 Corinthians 7 supported divorce for emotional abandonment. This is the view that Barbara shares in her book (if you include emotional abandonment as a form of abuse), and it was this counsel by him that encouraged me to question what my church was teaching.

        Our counselor was in over his head, but I’m grateful that he was able to recognize it and not make it worse. He actually apologized to me at the end.

        I shudder to think what would have happened with a marriage counselor that actually did what the referring counselor suggested . . .

      • I do include emotional abandonment as a form of abuse, and therefore as a form of desertion. The only thing I might add to qualify that is there must be intentionality on the part of the emotional abandoner/abuser.

        If a previously caring and loving spouse has a brain injury, with the result that their emotional functioning is impaired and they can no longer be emotionally caring and involved with their partner, the end result could be their partner felt emotionally abandoned. However, in such cases there was no intention to withhold affection, it happened because of the Acquired Brain Injury.

        In contrast, the situation that people like Jeff S has been through is one where his spouse intentionally and deliberately abandoned and neglected him emotionally. In such cases, the abuser is usually practising various kinds of deceit as well. Deceit to their partner (and perhaps also to themself) about their motives and intentions, deceit about the consequences of their behaviour, re-writing of history, etc… which are all characteristic features of abuse.

  13. anewfreelife

    Tersia, those are great points! I’ve heard that so many times! “What God has joined together…” But, I always wondered that, too. Did God put us together? My husband claimed to be a new believer (after we started dating he claimed to have gotten saved the month before we started dating), but his testimony didn’t make any sense, and his life certainly showed ZERO fruit. No one every questioned him on it though. There was no consideration to whether or not we were equally yoked and whether or not the marriage should have even occurred in the first place. There was no biblical counseling because the pastor had worked nights with my husband so knew him and allowed him to get out of the counseling requirement. I confronted my husband on it after years of marriage and he responded, “I had to lie. You never would have married me if you’d known the truth.” When he got baptized he openly told the congregation that he was only doing it to prove he was a good husband. They all smiled and said how sweet that was! Where is God in any of that?! Really? God joined us together? I don’t think so. I think R manipulated me and played on my abusive family and used his pastor friend to get away with an evil and fraudulent marriage, so if anyone put it together it was the enemy, not the Lord.

    Those classes and counseling are actually dangerous. As my DV advocate often says, “They only teach abusers how to be better abusers.” They take the classes and go to counseling to learn how to behave in order to fool everyone. Even after counseling ends they still have a plethora of language to use and behavior to display to make everyone think that the classes and counseling really worked. The whole time the fam is still getting kicked around behind closed doors.

    • Barnabasintraining

      When he got baptized he openly told the congregation that he was only doing it to prove he was a good husband. They all smiled and said how sweet that was!

      That is absolutely ridiculous. I’m sorry but that is just sheer idolatry right there. Entering the waters of baptism for the sake of ANYONE else but Christ, whose death and resurrection it pictures, is blasphemous idolatry. We are identified with Christ in baptism, not our spouses or anyone else. He should have been told to exit the baptismal immediately and the baptism refused.

      Oh that really makes me angry.

      • anewfreelife

        I was so naive back then. I actually sat there expecting the pastor to do just that! I thought, “Uh-oh, that was a dumb thing to say! He’s going to be asked to leave the baptismal.” But, they all smiled blank, dumb smiles at me and congratulated me on his sweetness toward me! And, he got dunked! I was kind of dumb founded by it all because it didn’t align with my expectations at all, it didn’t align with biblical truth at all! That seems to be irrelevant in our modern American evangelical church though.

    • Memphis Rayne

      The cooperative word being what GOD has joined together. Im not inclined to think God blessed the intent of the deciever, the one playing the part to achieve his own motives.

      What Brian was mentioning about the financial abuses of his sisters husband. The sheer desperation you feel when somebody is controling your finances, using every wish list you have for the future of yourself and children against you, dangling the carrot. So familiar with that. When you are a stay at home Mom you tie everything up in your family, your home…I had been promised so many time these things only to have them repeadetly pulled out from under me and my kids. It was all an intentional part of him toying with my security and my hope. He knew that, that is why he used it control my emotions, give a little hope, take every ounce of it back smile while he scraped the bottom for anything that may be left.

      ANF yes you are absolutely right, any class my MIW took did the opposite of what it was suppose to. Therapy, Anger management, court order DV mumbo jumbo, he enjoyed everything he learned to use to further his own purposes to manipulate more people. Even with perscription meds the doctore gave him, he used those against us too. It all just aligned with making him an even better more well adjusted abuser.

      I had very long bad dreams last night he showed up here. So Im feeling very off today and a little scared in my heart, which in return makes me question Gods justice in our situation. Weird right? Why do I question God? I remember Barbara saying to me that the MIW rages because he knows where he is going!!!! So with that obviously I should be comforted because God stands with my kids and I NOT the MIW.

      • I’m praying against whatever is causing those bad dreams, Memphis. We are all one in Christ – since we are in Him and He is in us, we are one in Him. So the miles between us matter not. Spiritually, we are as close as two peas in a pod. 🙂 except closer…. because when you are one in Christ, it is not logical to talk about being ‘close’ because you are one already…. sorry if that is theologically tripping over my bootlaces, but I think you get what I mean.

  14. anewfreelife

    PS I did hear a pastor preach once that the Lord puts all marriages together. He even puts the nonbelievers with other nonbelievers into marriages, so ALL marriages are orchestrated by God.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Solomon’s, what, 700 foreign wives?? Orchestrated by God? God expressly forbade Solomon from such unions. Then you have the returned exiles in Ezra-Nehemiah days who started intermarrying with pagan idolaters and God Himself told them to separate from them. None of those marriages were orchestrated by God.

      • Anonymous

        Good point, Jeff. If God hated divorce, then why did he command them to divorce their wives in the book of Ezra?

      • anewfreelife

        Exactly! I find it just incredulous that so many of our local pastors preach lies from the pulpit that are found nowhere in the Bible and proclaim to be the end all, know all experts on scripture–lies told merely to justify a lie of a doctrine! Boy, it sure gets deep sometimes!

      • Memphis Rayne

        I would think God hates injustice, not divorce. So if an abuser’s vows to God mean ZILCH, then honoring our personal commitment to God can be done inside or outside of the marriage realm. My God is my husband and my kids Father, the way it should be.

  15. Tersia

    I totally agree with the idea that if divorce was allowed in these abuse cases that there might just be a lot happier marriages around knowing that you have to behave. We teach our kids to behave in public and with their peers and siblings. Where did the rules change that once you get married all those decent behavior rules go away. Yes the common disagreements are not abuse at all but when it comes to verbal, emotional, psychological, mental, economical, financial, physical, or whatever other terms can be added, there needs to be a stop put to it. I do believe that pre-marital counseling is a very good thing and the couple needs to understand that if they become abusive there are consequences such as separation and divorce. There should never be a “i had to get married” reason for getting married. This will be a good way to have fewer divorces. After my first divorce, many of our mutual friends came to me and told me how my ex husband only married me for the money. He actually went to my dad when I filed for divorce and asked for half of my share in all that I was going to inherit from my parents. My dad told him flat out, NO! I was married for 7 years until I could no longer take the verbal and economical abuse. I went overseas to visit family and while gone my dad realized what I was living with and finally told me that I was right and that I no longer had to stay in that marriage. I was always the one blamed by his friends for our marital problems as I was the “wife that caused all the problems”. My second marriage of 16 years is almost over. I was told by my 2nd husband that “what God put together let no man separate”. So here is my question? How do we know that God put us together to be married? I cannot see where this was God putting together but humans demanding that the proper action be taken. I know it in my heart that God did not put me together with this man, let me explain. I was 32 when I started going out with him. Once I realized what he was about, I broke up with him and told him over and over to leave me alone, but he was persistent and manipulating and eventually got me pregnant. Then I was told by our parents, that I had to get married, or I was going to ruin my family’s reputation. Everyone else told me that he was trouble and to leave him alone. After 7 months of pregnancy I finally decided that I better get married, against my better judgement. At first he was a good dad and husband but as time went by he became very abusive, verbally, mentally, emotionally, economically and spiritually. I have posted my experiences on these blogs so I won’t repeat myself. In the past 2 years he drained me financially to the point that all my resources were depleted in order to pay the bills and put food on the table, and with the financial help of others. One of his former co-workers told me a few months ago how he planned on getting married to me so that when he reached 50 he no longer had to work. He turned 51 his last birthday. But that being said, I just want to say that when 2 people get married, there has to be a common decency and that God did not necessarily put them together. Churches do need to be there for the abused and not the abusers. Jeff C had said in earlier post that these abusers just hide in the church and they do not get reprimanded. Also we need to be wary of the abuser’s tactics, such as going to classes and counseling in attempting to show everyone that they are doing everything right, but behind the scenes, nothing ever really changes…just the same old manipulative and abusive behaviors we have been seeing and experiencing for years.

    • Tersia, thanks for sharing that.
      Here is an excerpt from my book [*Affiliate link] (p. 83)

      What God has joined together, let not man separate
      Some people read what God has joined together, let not man separate and think, “Maybe God hasn’t blessed some marriages, or been involved in their formation. Maybe it is all right to separate those marriages.” We have no indication that Jesus meant to distinguish “spiritual” marriages, where God united the couple, from merely human marriages where God was not involved in the union. There is no indication in the creation ordinance, or in Matthew 19 or Mark 10, that we may treat marriages differently, depending on whether or not God was involved in uniting the couple.
      So what is the meaning of “what God has joined together”? God created male and female intending them to fit and complement each other in the committed relationship of marriage. Every marriage between a man and a woman is a divinely made union — it is “joined by God” in the sense that it has taken place as part of his providence and it follows the basic pattern created and ordained by him. (This is why homosexual relations should not be called “marriage” if the term is to be used biblically.) The fact that a couple may or may not invite God’s blessing and involvement in their marriage does not change the fact that they are joined according to the design God used for Adam and Eve.
      The instruction “what God has joined together let not man separate” does not mean that it is metaphysically impossible to disjoin two people once they have been joined together in marriage. God prohibits stealing, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to steal. “Let not” is not the same as “can not”. The marriage bond can indeed be broken — by sin — hence the command let not man separate.

      I too have had two abusive marriages, you are not alone Tersia. There are so many sharks out there cruising for their next feed and they know all the tricks in the book to rope in women who they think will fill the bill and meet their entitled needs. [Not needs:– lusts, greed, selfishness and evil agendas.] My first husband was a pretty typical proud and sardonic abuser with the body language you would expect to see in someone who had a high opinion of himself. My second was a ‘Mr Sensitive’. That’s how he hooked me in. He seemed so unlike my first husband. . . But Lundy Bancroft talks about different types of abusers. I should have re-read Bancroft’s book before I remarried. 😦

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
    • Tersia, I am so sorry you felt you had to marry that second husband just because he had made you pregnant.
      If you haven’t yet read our post called The Bible’s view on premarital sex – is the remedy always “get married”?, you might like to do so.

  16. Brian

    My oldest sister is in her 3rd marriage. This last guy is a christian in name and makes the family go to church, which just happens to be a fundamental, independent, Baptist church every time they move. After they got married, he literally told her, “I got you now!” That is when he became less supportive of the family financially, yet started making them all go to this type of church. I think I figured out a few years ago now why he did this. It all became clear as my sister began to tell me how fed up she was with his broken promise to quit smoking, along with his relentless internet “research” (browsing) which was fast becoming a total neglect of her and the kids, including their one son together. When she and the kids left for several weeks (while he stayed to work) to go visit our ailing father a couple years ago, she found out that her husband did not attend any church services the whole time they were out of town. She had asked me why does he go to church and make the family go to church, yet his heart is not in it himself? It has no effect on his life. He still smokes and ignores his wife and family and will barely help with anything other than go to work. I told her then that the reason he makes her and the kids go to church is because they teach that divorce is not allowed and that wives must submit to husbands. If he can keep her believing these two things, then he has a free pass and can keep her locked into his grip as his housemaid, servant, and caretaker of household and children. They have no love life she said, and she has no reason to believe that he really loves her. So far she is still hanging in there. There is some level of abuse going on as well. Blaming, lying about his intentions. Dangle a carrot, then pull it away (bait and switch). She was so determined to go see Papa one more time before he died. I told her it would be one last chance because he was getting worse, yet he told her they did not have the money for the trip (he was building a boat and using all spare money for that) because they needed the money for “downpayment on a house”, which he has been promising for years. He dangled the carrot of finally getting her a house and out of the rental house. I told her I would buy the plane tickets for her to go, and when he found out about my offer, he said to tell me no, he was going to take time off work and drive the whole family up from south Florida to Ohio. Papa died last March and she never made it up one last time to be with him alive. I think it was his whole plan from the beginning to wait until Papa died and then drive up, like he did with his own 94 year old mom in New Jersey. My sister has been beside herself because of all his crap and mad as can be at him for his manipulation and lies. Oh yeah, now that she has the inheritance money, he is mowing through that now with all his endless ocean fishing $ boat dreams and she still has no house. Plus he has COPD and health issues with no life insurance. He doesn’t care. This is her 3rd and best husband so far! A real standup church man.

    • Oh Brian, can you help her come out of the fog and get away from that guy before he drains every last penny from her? It sounds terrible. Would she read a book if you gave it to her? Maybe Jeff Crippen’s book would be the place to start; or Lundy Bancroft’s book (see our Resources page). Would she be able to read, without her husband seeing it and punishing her more for what she was reading? Would she be open to looking at our blog? Would she perhaps be willing to read a definition and description of abuse that might switch on some light bulbs for her? (you can find one here, in chapter one of my book that you can read online at my solo site for free – look for chapter one and find the subheading ‘What Is Abuse?’)

      [The link to Chapter 1 of Not Under Bondage is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.]

      Also, you might like to have a thorough look at our Resources page. There are quite a few things on it that are good for family and friends of victims.

    • Barnabasintraining

      After they got married, he literally told her, “I got you now!”

      I told her then that the reason he makes her and the kids go to church is because they teach that divorce is not allowed and that wives must submit to husbands. If he can keep her believing these two things, then he has a free pass and can keep her locked into his grip as his housemaid, servant, and caretaker of household and children.

      If that’s not “the license is the license” I don’t know what is!

      • Anonymous

        I am amazed as I now recall what a pastor’s wife once told me when I approached her for help. She said that her husband once told her, in a moment of transparency and candidness, that the reason why Christian men, even good men, could be insensitive and mean is that they know that there was no way out for their wives. He apparently said to her, “After all, whatever I do to you, what can you do? It’s not like you’re going to leave.” This wife however told her husband that she WOULD leave if he was going to be dismissive of her!

      • What a peek behind the veil!

  17. lorenhaas

    Many of the participants in our DivorceCare groups grew up in the church, married Christians and ministered together with them. Their dream was to serve God with their Godly marriage. Now that their spouse has wandered off that path it makes them question whether they had really heard from God about their marriages in the beginning, I ask them, “which do they think is more important to God, your marriage or you?” I get quizzical looks, as if that question had just dropped down from outer space. Fortunately, part of the final lesson in DivorceCare is that marriage is God ordained and blessed, but it is just incidental to your relationship to Him and what he has for you to do for Him with your life.
    This point is frequently missed. If Paul wished we could all be single and celibate like him, so that we could give all our attention to God, then marriage cannot be treated as sacrosanct. Preserving it at all costs is creating a false idol. This idolatry has caused no small amount of shame that prevents people from finding the full expression of God’s love in their lives.

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