by Shelby Sharpe
The greatest war ever waged in this country is currently under way against the American family and is increasing in intensity. So far, more families have been destroyed as a result of this war than all of the military conflicts in which this nation has been engaged. All indications are that the casualty rate will increase over the balance of this century. This is a strange war because the number one “battleground” giving rise to the greatest number of casualties is largely uncontested territory.
No-fault divorce is the number one destroyer of families. No-fault divorce statues are present in all fifty states and none is currently being seriously contested within the court system. Tragically, the Church in America is virtually silent concerning this issue. None of the major denominations has targeted this matter with a view to pressuring legislators to remedy it.
Last year in the state of Texas, several Legislative committees investigated the impact of gambling on the family. Yet, there was not one legislative committee in the entire United States which did an investigation of the impact of no-fault divorce on the family. Such an investigation would reveal, among many other things, the cost to the taxpayers in the proliferation of courts and their support personnel to handle these divorces and related matters such as child support and custody issues. A return to the fault-based divorce laws would eliminate perhaps four-fifths of these courts and their personnel.
Economically, divorce is a disaster for the family. One of the spouses, if not both, usually end up facing extremely difficult financial problems. The cost of dealing with the physical and emotional problems arising out of divorce are astronomical. Adults and children involved in a divorce have a greater than 90 percent probability that they will experience medical problems requiring medication or treatment attributable to the stresses of the divorce.
Job performance and educational development are also significantly affected. Recently, a teacher of remedial reading for elementary school students asked her students how many of them had experienced a divorce of their parents. Every hand went up in a class of twenty-six. None of these students has a learning disability necessitating remedial reading help.
Chief Justice Brown, writing for the Supreme Court of Texas, in Grisgby vs. Reib, declared that: “The contract of marriage is the most important of all human transactions. It is the very basis of the whole fabric of civilized society.” These words were written in 1913 and are as true today as they were then. We have seen the consequences of not honoring the wisdom of these words.
In 1948, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas wrote in Sheffield vs. Sheffield one of the most prophetic messages on the importance of protecting marriage. Chief Justice Hemphill noted that the happiness of married life “depends upon its indissolubility” and that government is charged with responsibility that no marriage is dissolved by “mutual consent” or for “light or trivial causes.”
He stated that “the prospect of easy separation foments the most frivolous quarrels and disgusts into deadly animosity.” This is precisely what has happened in the United States. Judge Hemphill made the concluding observation that when husbands and wives know they cannot end their relationship by mutual consent or for light and frivolous reasons, “they become good husbands and wives; for necessity is a powerful master in teaching the duties it imposes.”
The absurdity of a “no-fault” approach to settling marital disputes is clearly demonstrated by considering the results if such reasoning were to be translated to other contractual (covenantal) relationships. What if the civil government, ordained by God to enforce voluntary contracts, simply ceased to do so? What if all questions concerning business contracts were to be resolved on the basis of “no-fault transactions,” in which no party could be held responsible for its actions?
It is precisely this question of responsibility which is at issue here. God holds all people accountable for their behavior before Him (II Corinthians 5:10); the civil government, as the administrator of God’s justice in the public arena, must also view its citizenry as responsible for their actions. If a divorce is to be granted, it must be because the behavior of one (or both) of the spouses is in such clear violation of God’s standard as to warrant the dissolution of the marriage; not because they “want out,” “found somebody else,” or have “irreconcilable differences.”
Will God’s people speak out and take action or will we allow this injustice to continue unchecked? The Bible states clearly in II Chronicles 7:14 that the destiny of our nation and of the families that compose it rests upon the shoulders of believers, not the unbelievers. If we are to see the healing of our families we must give attention to such life-threatening disorders as this. Like it or not, we will be accountable before God in this matter.
Used by permission of Equity, 131 Stony Circle, Suite 750, Santa Rosa, CA 95401.