Divorce culture

A congregational challenge

It’s not easy for churches to address what sociologist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has termed the “divorce culture.” For one thing, the changes in laws and attitudes that have made divorce easier to obtain in the past half century represent an advance for women. Having freed themselves from economic and legal dependency on men, women are able to leave relationships involving emotional abuse and violence. No one wants to jeopardize that hard-won freedom.

Furthermore, divorced people are well represented in the churches’ pews and pulpits. No wonder, then, that church leaders are reluctant to speak out on divorce, or hesitate to speak forcefully about the benefits of marriage. The reluctance is further enforced by the fact that congregations and denominations have worked hard to minister to divorced people and to overcome previously entrenched prejudices. No one wants to return to a time when the “stigma of divorce” kept divorced people away from church.

 

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