This week in the United Kingdom, MPs backed the first stage of the introduction of a no-fault divorce law. From what I can see , socially it seems to have significant support. After all, who would be against reducing conflict, making a painful time easier for all parties? For all parties that matter, anyway.
We’re told that it will benefit children, who will no longer have to suffer the pain of bickering parents. Now, I know there are certain situations where that may indeed be the case – but there are many where it will not be. When children are left bereft of their security – stripped of a father or mother – tell them that it is better! They know the truth, and have to live the rest of their lives with it. But they are little, unformed and helpless. They don’t get a voice.
Having bought into the lie of ‘happily ever after’, we seem to have devolved further and have now bought into ‘unhappily ever after’ instead. There is this assumption that because a marriage is in a rocky place and that ‘happily ever after’ did not work, that somehow ‘unhappily ever after’ must be the new truth. Since one was shown to be false, why on earth should the second be true?
Both are ridiculous nonsense that we seem to have somehow absorbed without ever really thinking through. I mean, it doesn’t work that way in any other human relationship, right? Sometimes things go well, sometimes we have struggles, and then often we can work through that. Conflict is part of human existence.
I do understand there are some serious cases that require separation and divorce. I am not ignoring the reality of physical and emotional abuse. But it seems to me that for the sake of the great god Me, Myself and I, we often conflate things like ‘s/he is being mean to me’ or ‘I just don’t feel like I love him/her any more’ with these much harder cases.
This is of course entirely congruous with the pagan and dissolute society in which we live, so it should come as no surprise. Marriage is being steadily reduced to what now seems like a social ‘boy/girlfriend+’ status.
So, here’s my thought, something maybe to ponder. For centuries, the state and church has pretty much marched in lockstep regarding marriage. Over maybe the last 100 years, that has slowly and now more rapidly changed. To the point where what the state and society regard as marriage has become a weak imitation of what the Church has traditionally practiced.
At what point do we cut the increasingly frayed link between the two? To state most clearly that what the church calls marriage is no longer reflected in the anemic social contract that the state has substituted?
That if you want to get married – truly married in the eyes of God and His Ekklesia on earth, you marry in the church. And in doing so, you are making a commitment to each other and to the wider community which recaptures something that is increasingly being lost – fidelity, trust, hope, sacrifice, honour, through good times and bad, together, until death us do part.
This form of true marriage could then be severed from the state legal apparatus. This would require the Church standing up, and entering into our authority – to bind and loose on earth and heaven. To regard our duty before God as higher than our duty to the state. To proclaim a marriage that has deep meaning; not one derived from the state, from tax codes or legal systems.
I know that such a separation would require thinking through much more deeply than one post can discuss. It’s part of a tension – how to be in but not of the world? At what point do we as the Church say to the world that what they have redefined marriage to mean is no longer something we can support? Are we there yet?
Postscript – a little more on the essential inequality of marriage.