In an article entitled “How divorce went from a devastating life event to a cause for celebration,” Sabrina Maddeaux demonstrates the way that the divorce culture (especially in the United States and Canada) is “progressing.”1 She briefly traces the history of divorce, and shows how society’s thinking about and response to divorce is shifting so that the consequences of divorce are mitigated. Her historical analysis is fascinating and most likely accurate. The conclusion she makes on the basis of her historical analysis is chilling and demonstrates the foolish madness of a sinful society that is determined to embrace divorce.
In her historical summary Maddeaux reaches all the way back to ancient Athens; but we are especially interested in what she calls the “two major divorce revolutions” of the twentieth century. She writes,
The first occurred in the late 1960s. Though divorce laws vary, there are two basic approaches: fault-based and no-fault-based. California Governor Ronald Reagan ushered in the era of “no-fault” divorce in 1969, requiring no proof of fault for either party for a marriage to be dissolved. By the mid-1970s, nine more states would adopt no-fault divorce laws, and by the early 1980s, every state (with the exception of South Dakota and New York) had introduced some form of no-fault divorce. Meanwhile, in Canada, the Divorce Act was amended in 1968 to permit divorce for reasons other than adultery or cruelty, including a separation of at least three years.
The laws reflected general changes in social attitudes at the time and directly led to the divorce boom of the 1970s. Reagan would later call his move to no-fault divorce the biggest mistake of his political career. Between 1960 and 1980, the divorce rate more than doubled, hitting an all-time high of 52 per cent in California. In Canada, the divorce rate doubled in the five years following the 1968 amendment of the Divorce Act. However, it didn’t reach its peak of 41 per cent until 1986, when the Divorce Act was amended once again to reduce the separation period to one year, and removed any requirements to prove “fault” by either spouse.
As a result of the increased number of legal separations, half of the children born in the 1970s saw their parents divorce—more than any other generation in history. This led to the second divorce revolution, one that came at the hands of those scarred by the messy splits of their parents: the Gen-Xers and older Millennials who have been dubbed the “Divorce Generation.”
Maddeaux explains that society has mostly viewed the consequences of divorce since the 1970s unfavorably. She writes,
Since North America’s divorce rate soared above 50 percent in the 1970s, we’ve been inundated with visions of restraining orders, depositions, custody battles, alimony payments and traumatized children. As a result, we’ve been lead to believe that few things inspire as much anxiety, anger, resentment and despair as the end of a marriage.
Divorce has often been viewed as especially traumatic for the “Gen-Xers and older Millennials” who are the “Divorce Generation.” Maddeaux states, “Their greatest life-defining moment can often be discerned by asking, ‘When did your parents get divorced?’” Her analysis of the history is that the first divorce “revolution” led to an increase of the occurrence of divorces, and “the second was more about being conscious of the consequences.” The result of the “acute awareness of the impact a contentious divorce can have, especially on children,” is “a slight decline in the number of splits, but more importantly, it has brought about a change in the adversarial status quo that had previously defined a divorced couple (emphasis added).”
Society is responding to the negative consequences of divorce not by repenting of the evil of divorce but by seeking to soften its consequences. Unhappy divorces are not pleasant, so the solution is to have a “happy divorce.” Maddeaux explains how the divorce culture promotes the so-called “happy divorce” with
an entirely new set of divorce-related terminology and customs. Enter the rise of the divorce doula: women who offer emotional and informational support through the process, and the international DivorceHotel, which claims to seamlessly split couples in just one weekend away at five-star romantic resorts full of red wine, champagne, luxury massages and mediation sessions. For the more tech-inclined, startup Wevorce claims to be the “premier self-guided divorce solution” for those looking for a peaceful and collaborative process.
This change of approach to divorce is supposedly good for all involved and, therefore, also for society in general.
Kids who experience stigma-less break-ups, maintain access to a binuclear family and are part of positive divorce and parenting strategies tend to fare just fine. Unsurprisingly, happy divorces also make for happier exes. Amicable splits routinely save both partners time, anxiety and money.
The discovery of ways to mitigate the negative consequences of divorce lead Maddaeux to “wonder if we had the wrong idea about splitting up all along.” Maddaeux’s timid conjecture gives way to a confident conclusion: divorce is not the problem. Rather, “[t]he stigmas, legal hurdles, outdated financial burdens, lack of support systems and grief over all the above are the real evils giving [divorce] a bad rap.” Divorce is not evil but “has the potential to be a positive development for all involved.” Divorce is good! Divorce is worthy of “champagne toast and beach vacation.” In case you have not heard of it yet, Maddaeux is referring to a “divorce-moon,” which she describes as a “post-divorce honeymoon.” Yes, this is happening. Couples are really responding to their divorces in a way that expresses that divorce and marriage are equally worthy of celebration.
Maddaeux’s conclusion that a “happy divorce” is positive for all the individuals involved and for society so that divorce ought to continue to be embraced by society (she even expresses that it is no concern to her whatsoever “whether divorce rates sink to 10 per cent or rise to 75 percent”) is foolish madness for especially two reasons. In the first place, while it is conceivable that studies show children (and others involved) fair better in some ways (better performance in school perhaps) when the divorce process is less contentious, this does not mean that divorce is without serious negative consequences. Even Maddeaux is not able to say that in a “happy divorce” children thrive and are spared all suffering. The best she is able to say is that they “tend to fare just fine.” What does “fare just fine” mean? Does it mean that, after all, even in a “happy divorce” the children still go through various kinds and degrees of turmoil? Who judges that this turmoil is fine (probably the stubborn parents who are determined to divorce, regardless of the consequences for the children)? Why is the conclusion that, despite this turmoil, divorce is still “good”? Why isn’t the conclusion that divorce causes problems, which means that divorce is an evil that should be avoided? The word “tend” is also important. This is an admission that some children do not fare fine even in the midst of a “happy divorce.” Why is divorce’s responsibility for causing these children serious spiritual and emotional grief so casually dismissed? Despite the best efforts of sinful men and women to the contrary, they cannot escape the evil of divorce and its detrimental consequences.
In the second place, it is folly to address the evil of divorce by attempting to deal only with its negative consequences. This is a common reaction of man to sin. He refuses to see his sin as sin. Without the grace of God, he will not deal with the sin itself by repenting. The judgments of God against him for sin are unpleasant. So he goes to work to avoid the judgments of God while continuing in his sin. If the consequences of sin can be mitigated, then the sin itself (though it is not thought of as sin) must be justifiable. In the case of divorce, then, it is only evil as long as it results in suffering. But in an “evolving culture” the results of divorce are not so bad, so divorce is not so bad. So what if dad has abandoned mom for another woman? It is better for junior if all amicably embrace the divorce so that junior will more likely graduate from high school. So what if dad and mom break their marriage vows simply because they want to (a “no-fault” divorce)? It is better for junior (and the ex-spouses) if they act like nothing happened. Less money will go to lawyers. Less time will be spent yelling and screaming. Less damage will be done to the children.
The folly of such thinking is easily illustrated by applying such logic to other sins. What if society was able to demonstrate that in some ways children are better off if they have the influence of a father in the home even if he is a murderer or a thief? Think of the potential emotional trauma caused by the child losing the input of a father because he is put in prison. If instead of responding to such crimes in a “contentious” way, we responded to them by easing the consequences, maybe we could conclude that murder and theft are not so bad after all. Maybe we could conclude that murder and theft are good! Of course, this logic is a stretch. No one would think this way. Such is the folly of trying to justify divorce because some of its negative results can be somewhat alleviated.
That society believes it is possible to have a “happy divorce” is not an indication of societal improvement. It is a sign of increasing rebellion against the Word of God in which God declares that He hates divorce (). Society is becoming more sophisticated in its ability to argue that the evil of divorce is good. The result will be more divorce, more trauma to all involved in divorces, and more harm will be done to society in general. Society’s embrace of the “happy divorce” is more evidence of society’s moral decline.
An even sadder development, that Maddeaux’s article does not address, is that many in the church world have also embraced the idea of a “happy divorce.” Churches (their officebearers and members) embrace divorce as a good solution, and encourage all involved to put the best face on the divorce. Divorcees are counseled to do what they can to save money, avoid stress, and make things “normal” for the children. Many in the church have the attitude that “a good divorce is better than a bad marriage” (a saying Maddeaux also uses), and believe that the children “tend to fair just fine” if the divorce is done amicably. In my own experience, which I suspect many others share, I have run across Christians who do not understand why the immediate and extended families cannot simply act like divorce is a normal and healthy part of life. Though I have not heard of this yet, it would hardly be surprising to learn churches are already or in the future will promote “divorce-moons.” The church is on her way to embracing and celebrating divorce as if it is as good and holy as marriage. Ideas about divorce are changing in the church. This is not a sign of progress but of apostasy.
1 http://nationalpost.com/entertainment/how-divorce-went-from-a-devastating-life-event-to-a-cause-for-celebration, January 11, 2018 (updated January 12).