Saturday, September 17, 2011

Just Divorced

Sorry for the confusing title, but I am not just divorced; it has more to do with the picture I posted which a friend of mine took. Heck, I am still in that zone of "just married."

It is still one of those "traditional" things that married couples, having immediately taken their nuptial vows, immediately speed away in a car with the motto "Just married." People are supposed to see that and honk with approval or give the newly weds a thumbs up or something. I'm grateful that my wife and I decided not to go for that tradition. However, the people who opt to do such a thing probably only do so because they are happy and want everyone to share in their happiness. There is nothing wrong with that but that wasn't for me.

The picture, which a friend of mine posted on her facebook page, shows a car with a "just divorced" slogan painted with various decorations. Now, I do not know the person who put this up on the car (it may well not have been one of the divorcees, but maybe a friend who thought it funny), but why would one exult in something which is not a good thing? Divorce may be necessary, but necessary does not always equal good. I'm thankful the Orthodox Church has not gone the way of the legalistic Roman Catholic Church and prohibited divorce for any reason. But, even in the Orthodox Church, a divorced man or woman is excommunicated for a brief time and repents because even if one party was not really "at fault" for what happened, marriage is a two way street and, hence, both are responsible.

This form of exultation in divorce may be novel but the fact is many celebrate divorce with "divorce showers" and parties. Many consider it to be the "best thing that ever happened to them." I remember when I was a pawn broker for a brief time. If a woman or a man wanted to sell engagement rings and/or wedding bands, I would always ask why. The point of the question wasn't to be nosy or get into their personal business, but if I was taking stolen merchandise, both the store and I could be in big trouble. My probing questions would almost always ascertain the reason for selling was due to divorce and they didn't need the rings anymore. As a form of habit, I would always say "I'm sorry." And they would almost always reply the same way that it was "the best thing that happened to them." After hearing that so many times, I asked myself if they also thought of their marriages as "the best thing that ever happened to them."

We live in a society that is increasingly celebrating bad things. We have contests to see who can eat the much and reward them. We have records for how long your fingernails are. This is not news, but promoting and celebrating divorce in the same way we promote marriage is a far cry from celebrating who can eat the most pies in 10 minutes! Everyone has their own scheme for hitting the snooze button on their 15 minutes of fame.

I have no brilliant insights as to how to curb these trends. And I don't think that if other confessions of Christianity start to regard and treat marriage as a a sacrament will the epidemic of divorce cease. I don't know the statistics but I don't believe that the rate of divorce among Orthodox Christians is any higher or lower than that of Evangelicals, mainline Protestants or Roman Catholics or even among Americans as a whole, regardless of religious conviction or confession.

I do know this though. Marriage is sacrifice of a spouse to the other for the sake of Christ. It is a martyrdom of sorts, which is why the Orthodox sing hymns of the martyrs and why St. Stephen the Protomartyr is invoked at the dismissal. Though divorce may be necessary for abuse, infidelity, and other breaches of trust, divorce is turning inward towards oneself. I-thou is replaced with I, me, mine (apologies to George Harrison). Love is replaced with indifference. But, of course, there is remedy for such inward turning--repentance through Christ our Lord.

Let us rejoice in only what is good. Marriage is right and honorable and blessed and good. Christ Himself was a celebrant of marriage during his earthly travails. It was at the Marriage of Simon the Zealot at Cana where Christ performed His first sign or miracle, the changing of the water into wine. Divorce may be necessary, but never good and never worthy to be praised as such.

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