Rob Porter, Mormonism, and Religious Never-Divorce Pressure

Last week, Rob Porter resigned his position with the Trump White House.

His two ex-wives had accused him of abusing them during their time married to him. Porter is Mormon, and a recent CNN article talks about the role their religious faith community played in their domestic abuse stories.

***To be clear: I am NOT writing this to bash Mormons!***

The problems raised in the story are all too familiar to me coming from an evangelical Christian subculture. Issues raised regarding divorce and conservative faith commitments are common across many faith cultures, sadly.

Those who counsel abused women against divorcing their abusers are illustrative of the same dynamics present in those who hold a theology teaching divorce as always wrong.

If divorce is always wrong, then it is wrong even in life-threatening situations, which domestic violence situations often can be. I have written about this problematic dynamic before (click here).

One of Porter’s ex-wives says this in the CNN article:

“I don’t want to chalk it up to them [Mormon bishops] just being men and not caring. There were a variety of things in play,” she said. “They are not trained counselors. They are there to help you resolve your marital issues. … They are not supposed to encourage you to split.”
A little before the above quote, the second ex-wife, Willoughby talks about how her religious leaders responded to revelations of the domestic abuse (link here):
“The Mormon clerics urged her [Willoughby] and Porter to seek therapy, Willoughby said, but never raised the prospect of divorce.”

Most evangelical Christian materials I encountered take a similar stance. Some might encourage separation. But they were nearly universally anti-divorce.

In fact, many Christian leaders and counselors go through great lengths saying how the pastor or counselor is “for the marriage” and will NEVER counsel for divorce.
This is the same type of teaching and perspective that keeps abused women (and men) stuck in marriages where their spouses are literally threatening their lives.
Personally, I do not consider such counsel wise or godly.
Next, the article hits the theological problem on its  head. The authors drop this nugget:
“Experts say it’s hard to convey how deeply sacred marriage is to Mormons.”

Mormons are not the only faith group that holds marriage as highly sacred. And those other groups–like evangelicals–encounter similar problems as illustrated in this article.

When marriage is more holy or sacred than the well-being of the those in the marriage, then you prioritize saving the marriage over saving even the lives of those in it.

In other words, you become willing to sacrifice the lives of the husband and wife to your functional god: Marriage.

This website exists to fight this sort of idolatry. And it exists to equip those who are ill-equipped to face these difficult situations (like those bishops per the first ex-wife’s assessment).

Idolatry–even if the idol is marriage–ends badly for all.


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