(no time for a proper edit, sorry if its unreadable)
To all, a blessed Easter Sunday. Resurrection Day. All squabbling about dates and times and lunar cycles and whatnot aside, it is after all our faith’s defining moment. Without it we have a cool self help program and a lifestyle.
What the heck are you blogging about early on an Easter Sunday Empath?
Most of us upright Christian Americans would like to imagine ourselves adhering to some first principle. What set me thinking about this was the tiny bit of exposure I had to the recent rift among some of the participants in our little square dance of a manosphere. Aleman left and dosey do. This one’s in that one’s out, he said she said round we go.
Won’t say I have no interest in the details or that I have no opinion regarding the factions. Doesn’t matter. Because I am not going to go into it. However from a higher view, like satellite photos where the skirmish details are blurred and fail to reveal individual human suffering but the overall troop movements can be discerned, it is disturbing on another level.
I was at The Masters a week or so ago. I watched the crowds moving from hole to hole, the flow controlled by men with vests and rope lines. I imagined what it must look like from the air, all these people shuffling, large groups moving together, but so very many groups moving, and so many directions, that it would look like a microscopic view of some infected tissue and the bacteria swarming. There is a comparison there to the manosphere and ancillary blogs.
There is a more troubling thing revealed in the faces of the individual spectators at The Masters. Folks are sold out and bought in to this life. The wide eyes awe on the faces of the men milling about watching golf, snippets of the conversations, it all points to a people craving a distraction. Sports radio, talk radio, all of it distracting man from first principles. before I dig myself in I am not even trying to make a point about more focus on spiritual things, though one could be made. I am making an analogy.
If you follow the collective “us” around the blogs we visit it would look like a cyber version of The Masters. You’ve got your professionals, the large blogs we read and comment on, you have your plethora of amateurs like me, and you have your niche players who are very focused and sometimes unusual. You have a women’s tour with the same cast of characters.
Someone made a comment on Cane’s blog saying he noted that reading around the sphere was like reading the same things over and over with slightly different cheer leading sections at each location. That is brutal truth, though there are exceptions. I may be the worst offender. I wanted to tell him about first principles, but I struggled to articulate.
Thinking about that, I read UK Fred’s comment here where he said:
To revert to the original purpose of the posting, there are two legitimately held Christian views on divorce, one laid out by John Piper in his personal Position Statement on Divorce and the other best described as a more liberal
Original purpose…..first principles. I read Pipers position statement and its accompanying write up. I got some clarity. Maybe some conviction. Even some pleasant confirmation.
I’ve been writing a great deal from the high view. Though originally motivated by the individual human carnage of divorce, I think I’d drifted away from that and focused on the low hanging fruit of pointing out the proclivities of women. I have no problem with doing that because its just not done outside of our little 9 hole par 3 course we frequent. But consider, is the first principle what women do or the consequences of that and many other things that rain down pain on real people.
Piper frames it like this:
Divorce is painful. It is emotionally more wrenching than the death of a spouse. It is often long years in coming and long years in the settlement and in the adjustment. The upheaval of life is immeasurable. The sense of failure and guilt and fear torture the soul. Like the psalmist, night after night a spouse falls asleep with tears. Work performance is hindered. People draw near or withdraw with uncertain feelings. Loneliness can be overwhelming. A sense of devastated future can be all consuming. Courtroom controversy compounds the personal misery.
And then there is often the agonizing place of children. Parents hope against hope that the scars will not cripple them or ruin their own marriages some day. Tensions over custody and financial support deepen the wounds of years. And then the awkward and artificial visitation rights can lengthen the tragedy over decades.
I remember it like yesterday. When I was almost divorced, when I thought I was to be divorced, when I lived alone with my small dog in an apartment with my family back min our large house on acreage against a lake front, huge pool and just paradise for kids…..I sometimes fell asleep on the floor beside the computer desk. I’d spend time reading alternately family law and Christian opinions.
So I’d sit there until I was so tired I’d lay to the side, on the floor, and wake there at 3AM, start another day. I realized, deeply, profoundly, then exactly why God could easily hate divorce. He must hate divorce. because He hates human cruelty like child abuse and murder and torture and the like. And there I lay like a victim chained in a basement I knew right then that there were men like me all over the country that did not want to be cast out from their families and were clenched in the rigor of excruciating pain…pain so bad one doesn’t scream so much as exhale loudly and moan loudly like an animal that’s been brought down by a pride of lions, alive as it is eaten.
That is where my first principle comes from. And Ive been off it for awhile.
One of the things I had written 11 years ago during those sleepless nights was a letter to a pastor. It was hypothetical. In it I asked, “How would you react if I asked you to drive me to the motel where I’d meet my mistress, so that my car needn’t sit there at risk of being seen?” I pointed out that he would find it absurd. But, then he’d go organize food delivery and child rides for the women who were tossing good men.
That example came to mind when I happily read Piper’s version:
Because of these and many other factors people with sensitive hearts weep with those who weep. They try not to increase the pain. And sometimes this care is confused with compromise. People think that loving care is incompatible with confrontation—that the tenderness of Jesus and the toughness of his demands can’t both be love. But surely this is not right.
Divorce involves sin that is more destructive than many others. The hurtful impact of a broken marriage on the spouses and the children and the web of relationships surrounding the marriage is immense.
Divorce falls into that group of acts which when they are committed are very hard to undo. The words, “I’m sorry,” can make right many sins against another person. But divorce and remarriage cannot be made right like that.
He addresses a major problem that the church is blinded to, that being rooted in the following question asked by those who want to protect their escape hatch:
When divorce begins to be discussed in this way it is common for someone to ask whether divorce is the unforgivable sin.
He has powerful answers:
The only unforgivable sin is the sin that we refuse to confess and forsake. We commit unforgivable sin when we cleave to a sin so long and so tenaciously that we can no longer confess it as sin and turn from it
And gets very specific:
Therefore marital sin is in the same category as lying and killing and stealing when it comes to church discipline and church membership. If someone has lied, killed, stolen, or illegitimately divorced, the issue is not, can they be forgiven? The issue is do they admit that what they did was sin? Do they renounce it? And do they do what they can to make it right?
If a person in the church was known to affirm lying, killing or stealing as appropriate behavior for a Christian, that person would be liable to the discipline of the church. Not because they have lied, killed or stolen in the past and cannot be forgiven, but because they go on affirming NOW that sin is not sin.
Or if a person was openly planning to lie, kill or steal with a view to receiving (cheap!) forgiveness afterward, that person too would be liable to church discipline.
In all these ways illegitimate divorce and remarriage are NOT in a class by themselves. They are not the unforgivable sin. When it comes to church discipline and church membership they should be treated the same way other public sins are treated.
What makes divorce and remarriage seem to be a special matter of concern in the church is that very seldom does someone affirm the rightness of lying, killing, and stealing. But people often affirm the rightness of divorce and remarriage.
In other words what usually causes the conflict is not whether divorce and remarriage are unforgivable sins, but whether they are sins at all —to be confessed (from the past) and to be avoided (in the future).
If a person has stolen things in his past and wants to join the church, no one would say that we are treating stealing as the unforgivable sin if we insist that this person confess his sin and begin to make amends to those he defrauded. A sin is not unforgivable because it must be confessed as sin, renounced as an option, and its effects made right (as far as possible).
So it is with illegitimate divorce or remarriage. It should not keep anyone out of the church nor put anyone out of the church any more than a past life of robbery. But there must be a heartfelt confession of the sin committed and a renouncing of it and an affirming of what is right, just as with all other sins of the past.
He said what I said, or I said what he said because he wrote this in 1989.
How many folks do you imagine are sitting in the pews bursting with compulsion to renounce the sin of their past divorce and boldly claim it was dead wrong to have done it? Why would anyone? After all, reading Pipers words are like being in some fugue state where reality is real and what God said is real and He meant it and the church is not afraid to say it.
Imagine, leaving me personally out of the imagining, a man wallowing in pain for weeks on end, expected by day to be the worker, the father, the man, and by night barely able to hold his head up. he watches from a distance as people line up to take the sting out of the divorce the wife filed. the church goes all mealy mouthed on it. Even all but his most core friends are afraid to render an honest opinion. And the wife sits in the pews on Sundays and holds her head high. The whispers in the hall are “what did he do?”. After all, the wife is righteously lathered up about those textbooks with chapters about two mommies. She volunteers at the divorce recovery group….and those kids….they are so lucky to have a mom praying for them and seeing that God in his mercy will see them through the divorce.
This is disgusting. Sickening. An abomination. Its why I write this little blog. It forms my prayers.
Can you conceive of an offense so grievous, man to women, that would make what happens to that man seem right? If he had an affair….alrighty then? If he yelled, or looked at porn….he had it coming? Sure, there are things bad enough to make the human heart have difficulty finding sympathy for the guy. But are those things the things that define divorce in the church?
Now, imagine that man, after a couple years of suffering, more intensely in the beginning, but suffering all throughout, and imagine his offense was so pitifully insignificant when compared to the pain he endured at her hand. Then try and see a time when she approaches and says, “lets give it another try”.
Its easy to say he’d be a fool to do so. But I did that. I forgave her and I let it go and I reconciled. I will state unequivocally that I did that because God would have me do that. Lest you find me flirting with sanctimony…..not so….that is the single thing of any import in my life where I have taken God’s will and placed it intentionally over my own and followed. I did not want to. I was afraid, I was angry, I wanted revenge. I wanted to pursue more of the sin I’d been tasting too! My faith was rocked badly. But had I not prayed endlessly begging God for reconciliation? Now….he shows up and I say…..nah, just kiddin? So, I took the hand of the one who flogged me and I said OK, lets work this out for once and all.
That’s why I cannot muster instant sympathy at the mention of the single mom or simply the newly divorced woman. I. Just. Can’t.
This is first principles for me. Not what happens in the manosphere and who is popular and who earns a few bucks selling trinkets on a blinking website and so forth. In fact, pox on those who would sew discord into even the most reserved blogger that has as a part of their mission communicating the truth about divorce in the church. i’d like to think that is why we are here.