The act of terminating marriage is called divorce; this involves the cancellation of all legal obligations that two people would have gotten into. Marriage is not rendered null and void by a divorce; the divorce just reverses the marital status of the individuals involved in the union. In many cases of a divorce, the trial would require sanctions of a legal authority such as a judge to act as a moderator and disband the marriage in a way that both parties are fairly compensated.
In the American Christian denomination alone, it has been found out that 25% of the adults have gone through a divorce. Taking this data and breaking it down into the different Christian denominations, it is ascertained that out of this figure, the percentage of each denomination is as follows:
- 34% of non-denominational church members are usually composed of members of Fundamentalist churches.
- 29% of Baptists churches
- 25% of mainstream Protestants, i.e. Methodists, Presbyterians, etc
- 24% of Mormons churches
- 21% of Roman Catholic followers
- 21% of Lutheran churches
- 17% of Unification Church members
The figures above show the percentage of adults in each denomination who have undergone divorce.
Furthermore, the level of commitment that marriage has been given has reduced drastically. This is as a result of an increase in the number of divorces in the past century which lead to remarriages bringing forth more children who do not share the same parents but live together because of their guardians. The value of children has hence declined to make them be viewed as barriers to personal freedom and dependants who should not be conceived if they cannot be afforded. This factor has largely increased rates of adultery, divorce, and remarriages which do not work out in the long run leading to a repeat in the cycle. (Woods 1959)
These basic changes in the way families are viewed and the value children in the society have tended to be passed on in the education system. This is evident through the arrival of charter schools, the receipt of vouchers, the payment of tuition tax, and the concept of homeschooling. The idea of public schools which were formed to unify the community and neighborhood are slowly fading away and hence is the seriousness in the devotion of people to others.
The main concept being shown by this is that in the past, the people in a community were close due to the fundamentals of the presence of the church, the school, and the home. The connection between humans that gave them a sense of belonging is not there anymore. Slowly these fundamentals are being wiped away there seems to be nothing to be linked to a community except its geographical location.
In addition, the majority of the Protestants do not believe that the bible gives the final say anymore, regarding morals and stands on faith. This is proven by the steady decrease in the percentage of the conservative protestant faithful who live by the word of the bible.
The History of Divorce and Religion
The first-century Christians did not value the family union and preferred freedom and celibacy which made them live their lives separate from the family. Augustine viewed marriage as a sacrament as it was used by Paul to depict the love of Christ towards the church. Regardless of this, the founders of the church detested sex and marriage hence, one of the founders of the church, Jerome once wrote that marriage should not make someone to prefer remaining a virgin all his life. This meant that they did not disapprove of adultery as there can never be a comparison between two things whereby one is evil and the other is good. For this reason, divorce was unheard of in this period, cases were only those of adulterous people who were punished by the laws that were in place at that time.
In that same period, divorce was mostly synonymous with women as the bible specified this. In this view, it was illegal for women to remarry after being divorced while the men would remarry women who have never been married before. This was following divorce that was caused due to adultery especially women. Christianity was distinct about the prohibition of divorce and marriage to divorced women. On the other hand, it was prohibited for adulterous men who left their wives from marrying other women, or from men marrying divorced women as this is considered committing adultery.
The negative perception of marriage by the early church was largely due to the low interest shown by the church leaders. As for marriage ceremonies, there were no special ceremonies were arranged for marriage ceremonies, keeping it in mind that the early church came up with the celebrations for Eucharist and baptism. In that period it was not important for a couple to have their wedding given the blessing of a church leader. People got married through personal agreements in the presence of some witnesses. The system then referred to as “spousals” went on for a long time after the reformation period. In the beginning, Christians got married using old Roman pagan rites which had been slightly changed to suit them. And it was not until the 9th century that some aspects of a detailed wedding were experienced in ancient Rome. This aspect made the cases of divorce very rare and the church did not mention a lot to do with divorce (Brewer 2002).
Most philosophers view divorce as going against the laws of nature. The ending of marriage either legally or illegally tends to deny humans the true nature of humans for which they were created for. Therefore, any society which has numerous cases of divorce tends to deviate from the true call and requirements of nature. A group of psychologists, sociologists, and jurists concentrating on the effects of divorce on the morals of those affected. Their studies have shown that divorce leads to the deterioration of spirits of those involved and exposing children to moral degradation while on-setting psychological traumas of which normal family life would have prevented.
Divorce in the Modern Society
In the contemporary period, divorce has been highly politicized, not forgetting the role of marriage. This has made the church also become outspoken about the issue. Due to the dynamism of life in modern society, there have been conflicting views on which laws to follow in order to come up with the most appropriate way to determine the circumstances in which people may obtain a divorce, and when divorce can be recognized globally.
Christians who are Protestants base their belief on the written word and anything goes as long as it is backed up by the scriptures. This can lead to problems as it is difficult to verify the right way as some scriptures contradict others. To the majority of the conservative Protestants, marriage is compared to a contract, which cannot be terminated. Divorce is hence discouraged except a few denominations who allow some circumstances for divorce.
In today’s world, Protestantism has got many faces varying from each other. Their vastness can be seen from the huge evangelical crusaders to those who seek to introduce Christianity to non-Christians. But despite these differences, it has been observed that all Christians work with the aim of spreading Christianity to the whole world.
In addition, despite the differences, all Protestants tend to lean towards the bible as a blueprint on the behavior of all humans and a tool of controlling the faithful. This is the case for many subjects including divorce; whereby the bible is being used by most church leaders in order to maintain a good image to the outside world. This goes to the extent of using some scriptures considered to be too strict for divorce to keep their members married even in troublesome marriages such as abusive, adulterous, and non-committal partners (Wenham et al 2006).
The Protestant view of divorce
In the modern protestant church, the only way of showing sexual expression is marriage, and divorce is allowed, when there is adequate evidence of infidelity by one of the spouses. Liberal Christians, prioritize their cultural values over other views. The western world has increasingly viewed divorce as a norm hence liberal Protestants have become more and more open-minded to it. In the contemporary era, even though liberals do not view divorce as a sin, but consider it a last resort to a failing marriage situation. This group of Christians does not view divorce as a sin but as a result of sin.
In the process of the industrial revolution, cities then were expanding at a very fast rate; rural to urban migration was at its brink citizens selling their farms to move to cities. With this shift in lifestyle, the thinking of marriage and divorce similarly shifted from following the bible’s rules to more of a worldly analysis. This change in environment exerted new pressures on the families hence having children was no longer cherished. This means that as time goes by, there are fewer and fewer reasons for married couples to stay together as opposed to the older days when a family would stay together because of the individuals who kept it together.
The Orthodox Church, one of the remaining examples of conservative Protestants, views marriage as holy matrimony which cannot be broken. This is underscored by their reference to the words of the sacrament. But despite these stringent beliefs, the faithful allow have allowed divorce and remarrying among their followers. This uncomfortable compromise is seemingly reached as a result of two things: the respect for the teachings of the Bible; and the compassion for human weakness.
By this compromise mentioned the Orthodox came up with the principle, they refer to as the economy. This concept has lead to the acceptance of divorce and successive remarriage. This is practiced on the basis where a faithful might give reasons such as endangering of life, adultery, and abandonment, or a partner displaying characteristics of permanent insanity. In the above cases, the church would grant a divorce by canceling the marriage certificate and allowing the possibility of another marriage. This is done to allow members to avoid immoral consequences which would be worse if they did not allow remarriage.
Divorce in the Roman Catholic Church
The term divorce was used by the ancient civilization of Rome in the pagan period to refer to the mutual separation of married people. The catholic stand on divorce is summarized into categories of those in a Christian marriage and those in a non-Christian marriage. The Christian marriage is indissoluble; this is because there doesn’t exist any term as absolute divorce and a marriage cannot be nullified especially after the marriage has been consummated. On the other hand, a Christian marriage can be nullified before consummation and when the marriage is declared illegal e.g. forced marriages. For non-Christians, divorce can be granted by a church leader under a given set of circumstances such as adultery and infidelity, which are in line with the religion (Hégy & Martos, 2006).
Catholics believe that divorce is wrong not only for them but worse consequences are on those who are divorced and are deep spiritual followers of the faith. The church does not recognize civil divorces because it recognizes the validity of marriage as spiritual and not only physical. Even though the religion is against divorce, it allows accepts members both who are divorced and those who have remarried (Hégy & Martos, 2006).
Divorce in Islam
In Islam, divorce is not accepted and granted in special cases only to men while cases of women being granted a divorce are very rare. The reason behind this is to safeguard the interest of the women not letting them fall victim to passion. In addition, religion gives priority to men because it takes into account the various differences between men and women. The differences include the obvious physical differences, the emotional talents, mental talents hence determine the different roles played by the different genders in the family life, and therefore the difference in treatment. (Ali 1987).
Apart from making divorce entirely dependent on the man, the man is given the privilege of having more than one wife depending on the measure of his wealth. Islam has made it easy for a man and a woman to enter into married life while making it harder to divorce. To reduce instances of divorce the religion discourages the existence of hatred between a man and his wife, making it difficult to dwell on petty issues which may make a husband want to separate from his wife. In addition, divorce may only be granted to the man in the most extreme emergencies which do not have any other remedies, and instances such as violence, harassment, and injury may not be granted a divorce.
Divorce in Hinduism
In the Hindu religion from the ancient periods, divorce was not allowable at any given time no matter the reason. Initially, there were very minimal rights allowed for women and at the moment a woman left her parents’ home to live with her husband, she was absolutely at the mercy of her husband. If the husband found her not attractive to him or lacking specific qualities, she would be abandoned without any say in the situation. The religion treated men as superior to women and gave them no right to divorce, to remarry, or to approach outsiders without the approval of her husband. This is depicted by the suffering of Sita who had been abandoned while the husband went for religious tours for years and the community did not take care of her (Virdi 1972).
On the other side, religion grants men all the privileges and rights which were executed in the religion, in the family, and whenever it suited them. Even though nowadays the religion permits divorce on some grounds, the religion still does not openly accept divorce. This is because in the religion marriage is a divine covenant that cannot be dissolved due to personal reasons.
Conservative Christians accept that the bible has some aspects of inconsistency that they think can be harmonized by merging them with worldly rules. They believe that the bible delivers only one message concerning divorce to today’s generation which may not be applicable at the present. In some cases, an agreement may be seen between conservative Christians and other Christian denominations regarding the changes in the contents as specified by the bible, but the level of agreement is also minimal.
On the other hand, it is anticipated by liberal Christians that the stand on divorce will have changed greatly over the next 1000 years which reflects the period the bible has been in existence. Assumptions are that the bible will have brought forth different viewpoints on divorce and remarriage which will make it confusing for Christians, forcing a change in theology and related fields. Hence, situations will be translated depending on the given case, and not everything concerning marriage is given a blanket translation as just being on the right or on the wrong.
A comparison of all these religions shows that their views towards religion, even though they were strict in the beginning, today they are more accommodating to divorce especially for genuine reasons such as adultery. But for a few religions such as Islam who are still strict in their beliefs against divorce especially when it is being granted to women, other religions such as Christianity accept divorce. Conservative Christians may still not be open about divorce but it is a fact that it is a harsh reality with the rates ever increasing.
Different Christian groups: Roman Catholics, conservative Protestants, or liberal Protestants today have an assortment of beliefs towards the legality of divorce. Some do not allow it, some allow it but not remarriage, while some allow both; depending on their interpretation of the bible. Christians of different denominations have the following views concerning divorce: for the conservative Protestants a section believes that both divorce and remarriage are not allowed, while the other would allow divorce but not remarriage; the liberal protestant are also divided, a section believes that divorce is allowable in instances where a person in deserted or cheated on by the partner and remarrying is therefore also allowed, while the other section believes that divorce is can be allowed for many other reasons other than adultery and so is remarrying; while the Roman Catholics remain adamant that divorce is a complete no and remarriage is hence pushed out of existence.
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