Presumption of Causation With Divorce


How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

-Matthew 7:4-5, NLT

When a divorce happens in a church, it seems like it is a signal to leadership too often that they are entitled to dig into the most intimate details of that relationship’s demise. The excuse given for such invasive treatment is “pastoral care” for the divorcee. They want to make sure the divorcee “learned their lessons” from what they did in their now defunct marriage.

To be clear:

I have no problem of encouraging people to grow and learn from mistakes.

My problem with this sort of religious entitlement is how it assumes shared responsibility for the marriage’s end.* It is a reinforcement of “The Shared Responsibility Lie.” It is not godly.

In the Old Testament, God assigned ZERO blame to the faithful spouse when He commanded a marriage ended by the death of the adulterous spouse (e.g. Deuteronomy 22:22). Zero. Zilch.

A faithful spouse has just had his or her life turned upside down by the greatest treachery known to human relationships. Their spiritual and emotional boundaries have been violated.** To insist–i.e. without their explicit invitation–on further infringing with those boundaries after the trauma of adultery is to cause further harm.

It is not care.

You are serving yourself.

It is not a service to the faithful spouse. You need to listen and respect their boundaries and voice. That is care.

How might this be serving a pastor or Christian leader? 

It allows them to further the lie that this would never happen to themselves. If the faithful spouse “brought this onto herself,” then they can continue to live in fantasy land that they can prevent this happening to themselves. Fear is a powerful motivator.

It also is a power trip and ego boost:See, I am better than that divorcee!” they may think. Or they may simply enjoy having power over another person and pointing out their “faults.”

 *The idea I find especially offensive is the assumption that the pastor contributed less sin to his own marriage than the divorcee did. This is not necessarily the case. A presumption of marital and moral superiority is pride, and it is blinding.

**This approach is ludicrous if we reframe it. Do you think it is pastoral care to insist a rape survivor sit down and go through what things she did wrong that brought on her rape? An adultery survivor has been soul raped. It is just as inappropriate to probe this way into their life as well.