The Forgotten "Social Issue"

Politically active Christians are vocal about a certain selection of “social issues,” as they’re commonly called. You know, abortion, homosexuality, keeping devil music and dancing out of Bomont, and such on like that.

But there’s one really, really important, and really common, social issue that activists don’t activate themselves about very much.  Classical Values takes an interesting look at it in a post on freedom and religious tolerance:

The pressing social issues of today of course touch on the First Amendment, and not just because there is a right to debate them and take any position on them. They are also debated on religious grounds, with many opponents of abortion saying that allowing it violates their freedom of conscience, and many opponents of gay rights say that allowing gay rights negates religious freedom too. I think most readers know that I defend the right to oppose abortion and/or gay rights, on both free speech and freedom of religion grounds.

But as I get tired of the debates over abortion and gay rights, I thought I would look at another social issue which is also a religious issue.


It is forbidden to Catholics, and that makes a lot of sense if you consider that Jesus himself condemned divorce repeatedly and very specifically, saying that remarriage after divorce was a form of adultery. Which means that divorce would certainly fall within the rubric of social issues which are religious in nature.

So it would seem to me that divorce is every bit as much of a matter of religious conscience as homosexuality or abortion. (And if we consider that Jesus did not specifically condemn homosexuality or abortion, divorce arguably deserves a higher ranking on the religious conscience scale.)

I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone claim that being forced to hire or rent housing to divorced people or provide their spouses with benefits violated his religious conscience, that he had a religious right not to have his children taught by a divorcee, etc.

In fact, I don’t think I have ever have heard that argument at all.

Perhaps that means times have changed, or perhaps that there has been a sort of consensus that the words of Jesus should not be taken so literally that they must become the basis of law.

But let’s assume you oppose divorce on religious grounds, you run a business, and you have a child who attends public school. Under what theory can it be argued that having to hire or serve divorced people (who are, by your and Jesus’s estimation, living in sin) violates your religious conscience? Or that forcing your child to attend classes taught by a divorced teacher who even goes so far as to claim that divorced people have the same rights as non-divorced people and should not be discriminated against violates your religious conscience?

Don’t you still have the right to believe divorce is sinful and was condemned by Jesus? Don’t you still have the right to teach your kids that? How does the fact that you are forced to serve, hire, and tolerate people who do what you oppose violate your religious conscience?

Why do we not get more worked up about divorce than we do? Should we? And did we stop getting worked up about it because it became so common, or did it become so common because we stopped getting worked up about it?

I’m inclined to think that it we were still making a bigger deal about the social acceptability of divorce, we’d be fighting less over the social acceptability of other things.

One comment

  1. Anonymous

    Because it got too common inside the church, as well.

    An interesting compromise: let’s allow homosexual marriage, but make divorce illegal. How many people would go for that?

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