Last year I came across an article about a proposed two year marriage contract in Mexico City. There is a fifty percent divorce rate in the city and on average these take place two years after the wedding. By having these two year contracts, couples can choose to either renew the contract or call it quits. Or so the idea goes. When I first read about this I was torn; on one hand it’s really rather practical as it forces couples to confront the practicalities of how, if they were to split, they would deal with finances, a home and any children they might have. On the other hand I could not understand why of earth anyone would get a two year licence if they thought that their marriage wouldn’t last.
A few weeks ago at a Bible Study a lady said that getting married was like a leap of faith. You had faith that the person you were going to marry and live with for the rest of your life, you would be able to live with for the rest of your life. What if you have made the wrong choice? What if you leapt and for whatever reason you found yourself in the middle of the ocean with not a shoreline, a boat or even a buoy in sight? Sometimes things just do not work out. Then what?
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. But I say into you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery (Matthew 5: 31-32).
I have a lot of trouble with this passage. What if it is the man who commits adultery? Does this mean that if there is a divorce, and the wife remarries, the wife and her husband are committing adultery? Then there are any number of reasons for divorce; violence, neglect and other irreconcilable differences to name but a few. Now, I understand that the reason why divorce is so frowned upon by the church and why these laws were imposed. It was far too easy for men to divorce their wives, leaving them destitute. But things have changed since then. While there is still a huge inequality in income between men and women, there is far more equality now, than there used to be even a hundred years ago.
Restricting divorce was a way of protecting women (certainly in the case of Christianity, at first), but it was also a way of binding them to men who were not always good to them. Now, arranged marriages are not the norm, but be that as it may, sometimes we make mistakes in the life partners we choose for ourselves. In India divorce is still quite shocking, even though divorce rates are much higher than they were even a decade ago. It is also a country where Christianity is a minority religion, so surely divorce cannot only be a subject of some difficulty in Christianity, but also in Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism.
In North America and most of Europe divorce is not nearly as scandalous as it is in South Asia. It’s more commonplace, and perfectly acceptable. In communities that practice their religion, it may not be the case, but in general it seems to be. Now, is this acceptance due to an acknowledgement of human failings or something?
I often had it drummed into my head, as a kid, that divorce is wrong. You say your vows in Church, in front of God, your family and your friends, and that’s that! (Of course, swearing an oath in a church and in front of a priest was not practiced in the first two hundred years or so after Christ. But that, I suppose, is neither here nor there.) Jesus was against divorce of any kind, though the Church has given its parishioners some wriggle room. It is something I’m glad of, though it is also the cause of great anxiety; are we being true to the words of Christ? Or do we need to evolve and change with society?
© 2012 Zara Ramaniah, Ropra Ivy