Southern Baptist hypocrisy on divorce, God’s truth

Deceit is a major weapon Satan uses against the Kingdom of God’s citizenry. God warned us by laying bare Satan’s masterful subtleties in Genesis 3 as he deceptively convinces first Eve, then Adam, to disobey God and eat from the Tree of Life. Christians, particularly in America who are deeply concerned about the attacks on religious liberty, the sanctity of life and traditional marriage between a man and a woman, must recognize that Satan has been at work on these issues from the first.

Take for example, divorce. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in his usual erudite way calls our attention to an important essay written by Mark A. Smith of the University of Washington titled, “Religion, Divorce, and the Missing Culture War in America,” which was published in the Spring edition of Political Science Quarterly. Smith, an associate professor of political science who is writing a book on the subject, points out that in the 1960s theological conservatives accepted the reality of divorce like much of secular and liberal America. Then came no-fault divorce laws, in which conservative evangelicals offered little to no resistance. Public policy proposals to reduce divorce, such as the covenant marriage movement designed to pass laws mandating pre-marital counseling and make it more difficult for couples to divorce, got little or no support, Smith writes, adding that conservative Christians like Southern Baptists “looked the other way” on the divorce issue for fear of alienating too many Religious Right constituents, including those in our pews.

“That logic is an indictment of evangelical failure and a monumental scandal of the evangelical conscience,” Mohler writes in agreement with Smith in a Sept. 29 essay titled “Divorce – The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience” at AlbertMohler.com. Smith also notes despite the rise of the Religious Right in the 1970s and its political victories in the 1980s, divorce was prevalent among conservative Christians. It was virtually ignored as the battle raged against abortion, school prayer and other issues. More recently, his findings show that 43 percent of evangelical Protestants divorce, higher than almost any other religious group and above the national average of 38 percent. Smith adds that “divorce seems to carry a more direct connection to the daily realities of families than do the bellwether culture war issues of abortion and homosexuality.”

The articles by Mohler and Smith are gaining considerable attention in the news media and were the subject of an Oct. 4 article by AOL.com religion reporter David Gibson, one that soared across the Internet – and rightly so for two reasons: first, because Mohler and Smith are correct and second, because it draws attention to what is hopefully a significant course correction underway by evangelicals on the issue of divorce. Addressing the inattentiveness of Southern Baptists on this issue is long overdue. How can we stand before the world and say we believe in the traditional family and marriage between a man and woman while behaving in a way that contradicts what we say we believe? We stand in disobedience to God. Our cavalier attitude toward divorce damages our testimony and perpetrates the lies of Satan as he continues to rage against what God has ordained: marriage – for life – between a man and a woman.

It is hard to believe how Southern Baptists, many of whom have been touched directly or indirectly by the devastatingly cruel consequences of divorce, could be so inactive in preventing such destructive behavior. But this is how Satan works. He deceives, even believers, into thinking that God really didn’t say, “Ye shall not eat of it (the tree), neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” But, of course, God did.

I fear the battle for traditional marriage has been lost. Christians disobeyed God decades ago by not defending marriage against the onslaught of divorce and now, as homosexual “marriage” inexorably works its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and a climactic decision that will change America forever, we are sadly coming to realize just how monumental a failure we have been in our disobedience to God on the marriage and divorce issue.

I am dismayed at the mere thought of a lawyer arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that America’s embrace of divorce cheapens marriage to the point that there is no reason to deny such a legal privilege to homosexuals. They may argue that public opinion on marriage has shifted to one of indifference, so there is no reason to deny homosexuals the same privilege as heterosexuals. Of course this will pave the way for polygamy, pedophilia and even incest.

It will be a temporary victory for Satan, but one that will devastate lives and surely bring God’s judgment upon our nation. For example, Supreme Court Judge Anthony Kennedy will likely be the pivotal vote on homosexual marriage and he has already sided with homosexuals in the dreadful Lawrence v. Texas ruling in which the Texas law prohibiting sodomy was struck down. Kennedy was the deciding vote in a 5-4 decision.

The dishonest appeals of Satan have been an alluring sound to itchy American ears for decades, causing too many to suppose that “rights” trump God’s law. The “right” to divorce trumps working to save a marriage ordained by God. The “right” for homosexual marriage to have equal legal standing with heterosexual marriage trumps what God says about homosexual behavior. Preferences have replaced virtue and God’s truth is mocked.

Of course many in our younger generations, along with the liberal news media, have called us on our hypocrisy on the divorce issue – and rightly so. “We cannot very well argue for the sanctity of marriage as a crucial social institution while we blithely go about divorcing and approving of remarriage at a rate that destabilizes marriage,” Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, wrote after the court ruling overturning Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative banning homosexual marriage. “In short, we have been perfect hypocrites on this issue. Until we admit that, and take steps to amend our ways, our cries of alarm about gay marriage will echo off into oblivion.” Galli is right about our hypocrisy and need for repentance, but I am reminded that a hypocrite is closer to God than an unbeliever, thanks to God’s boundless grace. Nor does our sin absolve us from sharing and living God’s truth as we confess our sin and repent.

Of course Satan is laughing at all of this. We bought his lie hook, line and sinker. And now, I fear, he is utilizing his influence in the highest reaches of our government to use our sin against us. Conservative pundits like Ann Coulter and possible presidential candidates like Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour are joining libertarians like Glenn Beck in calling on candidates to downplay social issues like homosexual marriage, abortion, euthanasia, cloning and yes, even still divorce. This is straight from the pit of hell.

Christians should vote Nov. 2 in accordance with God’s Word, electing public officials who best fit that mold. Christians can no more disengage from politics than we can from any other realm of reality in God’s creation.

Liberals often yell that conservatives like most Southern Baptists desire a theocracy. This is a giant “straw man.” Southern Baptists would not support a theocracy, but we are called to be “salt and light.” We must be obedient to God. God does not change, nor does His truth. God does not say something because it is true. It is true because God says so in His inerrant, infallible Word called the Bible.

Southern Baptists sat on the sideline while divorce wreaked havoc on American families throughout the 20th century. We did the same when Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. We turned our heads when God was thrown out of public schools in the 1970s. This must stop.

We must repent when it comes to divorce. The resolution passed by Southern Baptists at our annual meeting in June in Orlando, Fla., was a first step, but it is only a first step. We must support and encourage our pastors to faithfully preach the truth about divorce, that it is being disobedient to God and carries with it destructive consequences, while assuring those repenting of God’s love and forgiveness. We also must promote public policies that discourage divorce and help those ravaged by it, whether a physically beaten wife, a mentally abused husband or terrorized children.

Our lack of commitment in fighting divorce in America is wrong and must change. But our hypocrisy does not invalidate God’s truth. As we repent from our grievous error on divorce, let us also resist any urge to disengage from unresolved public policy issues like homosexual marriage, stewardship, abortion, euthanasia, and cloning – lest we leave the seats of government to unbelievers who would impose their secular society on us all, an outcome entirely predictable for a people living in disastrous disobedience to the loving Creator we are called to honor and glorify.

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2 Responses to Southern Baptist hypocrisy on divorce, God’s truth

  1. carrlanebaptist1988 says:

    Bro. Hinkle, When our churches allow men who have been divorced to be pastors; is it any wonder.
    Tim A. Blankenship
    Pastor Carr Lane Baptist Church.

    • Don says:

      Bro Tim,

      You are absolutely correct. Let’s pray Southern Baptists repent from such destructive behavior as divorce. Thanks for reading and writing.

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