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THE IMPACT OF DIVORCE


Today, there is a generation of children of divorce that has grown up. Elizabeth Marquardt is author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. This scholar, a child of divorce herself, drew from her own experiences and also surveyed 1500 adult children from divorced and intact families. Then she interviewed 70 of them at length. Her book focuses on college graduates because they could be said to be reasonably successful, and they wanted to know how divorce had affected them.


One of the insights of the book was on marriage. The essential task of marriage is to make one home from two conflicting selves and this struggle is the ideal context for a child to grow spiritually and emotionally. When the family stays together, this struggle goes largely unnoticed by the children. After divorce, the conflict no longer rests on the parents shoulders but takes root in the heart of the child.


Now it makes sense. Every negative factor: alcohol and drug abuse, poor grades, promiscuity and other sexual deviances, suicide, and criminal behavior are two to three times higher in children from broken homes than intact homes. Those kids are acting out their hurt.


In times past, people use to advise a couple, "Stay together for the children’s sake." My generation believed it was better for them to not be raised in a home filled with conflict, and besides life’s most important goal was for us to be happy. Now a generation of adults who were children of divorce is saying grandpa and grandma were right.


She discovered another interesting insight for the church. The church by and large focused on helping the parents but ignored the children. The religious leaders did not reach out to them. The adults that were interviewed said they needed a stable society that faced reality and refused to deal in happy talk--saying things like, "Children are resilient." The church needs to find a way to defend the most vulnerable in our membership. God help us.


Jim and I went to Home Depot in Logan, Utah to get some supplies for the building project on the campgrounds where our mission team was staying. We’d found most everything but one particular size of lumber. A young man, an employee, 21 years old, offered to help. We discovered he was from Alabama. How did he get from Alabama to Utah, we asked. He came by way of a baseball scholarship. That resulted in a great baseball discussion.


I’m assuming a young man from Alabama must be a Baptist or Charismatic. I asked what church he attended. He told us he attended an LDS ward. In his home his father was a Southern Baptist but his mother was a Mormon. The parents decided to not impose one faith or the other on their children. They would let them decide. On Sunday morning, Chris would go to the LDS service. He implied that on Sunday evening and Wednesday he went to his father’s Baptist church.


He began to explain that both faiths were similar and taught good character. I interrupted and said they may appear to be similar but fundamentally they were diametrically opposed to one another. One taught the only way to salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. You cannot earn salvation. The other said you had to be good to earn salvation. They are as different as black and white, night and day, oil and water.


I told him either his Baptist daddy is right and his mother is wrong, or his mother is right and his daddy is wrong. The two could not both be right. Which meant if his daddy is right, his mother is going to go to hell. If his mother is right, she would go to a greater heaven and his dad would be in a lesser heaven. We never got contentious. We maintained a friendly spirit, and he agreed with what I said.


Afterwards, Jim and I were jazzed over that conversation. How was it possible for that Baptist daddy to allow that to happen to his son! How could he be content with his son going to hell, and his wife? Obviously, we don’t know the whole story, but it appears that the one that lived their faith was the mother. The Christian father was to bless his son and persuade him to choose Christ. Instead, he allowed the boy to be damned.


Another point. If we understood his story correctly, the Baptist church had two opportunities to the Mormons one.


I know you love your children. Love them enough to stay put in marriage. Love them enough to live your faith. It powerfully shapes them for God.


A final reason to stay put in marriage is your partner may be saved.


(From a sermon by Ed Sasnett, Reasons to Stay, 6/23/2010)

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