Saturday, January 3, 2009

You'll want to divorce me from your favorites list

Several entries ago I mentioned a doctrinal disagreement I have with my church. Actually, it is with most churches and most Christians, or for that matter, society in general.

I declined to name it because all discussion of the issue ever does is create enemies, but one reader said I should talk about it, and after much thought, here it is: divorce and remarriage.

My position is that divorce and remarriage constitute adultery. I take this position from a literal reading for the gospels of Matthew and Mark and from First Corinthians.

In Matthew 5:31-33 and Mark 10:2-12, Jesus says that whoever divorces his wife for any reason other than that she has had sex outside the marriage causes her to commit adultery. And, he adds, a man who marries a divorced woman is committing adultery.

When some members of his audience ask why Moses, then, had given permission for a man to write his wife a bill of divorcement, Jesus responds that it was because their forefathers' hearts were so hardened that he allowed it, but that this plan had not been God's intention from the time of creation. Instead, God had meant for a man and woman to marry for life. It was only after one of the spouses had died that it was permissible to remarry.

In the First Corinthians passage, the Apostle Paul says that a Christian should not divorce a non-Christian, but should allow the non-Christian to leave if he or she refuses to stay. However, he adds, the Christian should remain unmarried or be reconciled to his or her spouse. This appears to be a reference to Jesus' command that divorce and remarriage constitutes adultery.

Objections to my arguments include the fact that the Bible does include guidelines for a "biblical divorce." And that it does, including adultery and/or abandonment by one's partner. While I agree that the Bible condones both these reasons for divorce, it does not condone remarriage even then. First Corinthians clearly states that one must remain unmarried or be reconciled to his spouse.

Another objection is this arugument: "What do you expect a person to do -- never be married again and remain celebate for the rest of their lives?"

My answer to this question is "Yes." It is a difficult answer, but Jesus himself says in these passages that it is a hard thing for most to accept.

Another question: "What are people who are remarried supposed to do, especially if they have children by the second marriage?"

I admit that this is a difficult situation. If there are no children, I'd say they should probably separate. If there are children, they should stay together but refrain from sexual relations.

Now you can see my dilemma. You perceive that I'm calling you or your family members or your best friends adulterers. And for that you have lost any warm feelings you might have had for me.

So why is this such a burning issue with me? Because First Corinthians 6:7-10 lists a group of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God. Among those people: adulterers.

I'm not trying to be judgmental or critical. But my religion requires me to warn people against eternal damnation. You may disagree with me, and that's your right. But that doesn't require me to accept a view of relative morality. My exclusivist views push me to state my case, which you are then free to accept or reject. That notwithstanding, state them I must.

If only I'd been born 50 years earlier.

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