Monday, October 7, 2013

Marriage, change and Christ?

Today we have a question from DG. He asks Billy Graham if there is hope for him marriage. All he and his wife do are fight and try to get the other to change. That's bad news. Just about as bad as Graham's advice...
With Christ at it's center, your marriage can thrive.

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I don’t know why my wife and I ever got married because we’re so different. All we do is pull and tug at each other, trying to get the other person to change. But I know now that it’s not going to happen. Is there any hope for our marriage? — D.G.
DEAR D.G.: Yes, there is hope for your marriage — and not just for its survival, but for its happiness and joy. And with God’s help it can happen. God’s original reason for marriage is still valid: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Your marriage probably won’t survive, however, if it remains a constant tug of war, with each of you spending all your energy trying to get your spouse to change. The harder you try to make that happen, the less likely it becomes, because it only gets the other person upset and more determined to get you to change. The Bible wisely says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

But what if you spent the same amount of energy trying to please your spouse? What if you gave up trying to make her conform to your will, and learned instead to compromise? That’s the way of true love — love that seeks what is best for the other person, instead of seeking to gain an advantage over them. The Bible says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not proud. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4 — 5).

Is this possible? Yes, when you make Christ the center of your marriage and your life. Together ask him to come into your lives, and then ask him to fill you with his love.

Read more here:
 Billy, Billy, Billy... Just like always, you assume that the person writing you isn't religious... You write a religious advice column. If people are reading your replies and value your opinion, they are already religious. So you're asking him do something that he's likely already done. Remember, he's coming to a religious figure about his marriage, rather than a marriage counselor. That should tell you something about his priorities.

The simple fact is, that from the information provided it's tough to derive any useful advice. We can give some general feedback though. DG mentions that he and his wife are constantly trying to get each other to change. But how exactly? Without knowing this, we can't give meaningful advice. I can tell you that wanting each other to change (especially if it's a big change) can doom any marriage. But again, we don't know what they are asking each other to change. And that knowledge really is the most important needed to help DG and his wife deal with their issues. 

Graham says that they need more Jesus in their marriage.; But what if one of the problems is that he or she is demanding the other to change to their religion, or leave their church for the others. They could be a interfaith marriage (like mine) or they could be a Catholic and a Protestant. If this is one of the problems they are facing, Graham's advice would actually drive this family apart, rather than bring it together. That's why it's so dangerous to make the assumptions that he does. 

But like I said before... trying to change each other is a huge problem. In an interfaith marriage, or any marriage really, mutual respect is very important. My wife and I share that respect for each other. She is a Wiccan, and I am an atheist. But that doesn't get in the way of our marriage because we respect each other, and each others beliefs. If religion is at the center of their dispute, what is needed is that mutual respect. Respect that will not be possible if religion is made even more central to their marriage.

DG also states that he doesn't even remember why they got married. That could also be very relevant. They did get married, so why the sudden desire to change their partners? Presumably they once loved each other, and now they don't. One possibility is that one or both of them changed. But that seems unlikely, since DG claims he can't even remember why they got married. If there were good times that led to the marriage, then they should still be there to remember. Perhaps clouded, but still there.

He says they are just so different and doesn't remember why they were married. That actually makes it sound like they rushed into marriage. They didn't get to know each other enough, and rushed into marriage before they should have been making such a call. In my experience, these rushed marriages often occur for religious reasons. Sometimes its because they are dating and accidentally get pregnant and get married right away to meet religious expectations. Or sometimes young religious people get married because they truly believe in not having sex prior to marriage and blindly rush into the commitment on the back of a rush of overactive hormones. So while Graham is telling them they need more religion, it may be religion that started the whole problem.

Finally, religion and marriage are not the happy bedfellows that so many believers think that they are. Christianity didn't invent marriage, and believers are actually statistically more likely to divorce than non-believers are. Also, the Bible is A-okay with divorce if the husband is the one who wants out:
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
-Deuteronomy 24:1-4
So, I really wouldn't be relying on the Bible as a guide for my marriage. Especially given what that Bible actually has to say about marriage,  and how misogynistic the 'good book' really is.

I truly hope that DG doesn't blindly follow Graham's advice. Especially considering that the given advice could actually exacerbate the problem. Hopefully he and his wife seek the help of a professional that is actually interested in hearing all the details in order to try and solve the problem. Rather than Graham, who only gives dangerous advice with the motivation sole motivation of growing his ministry rather than actually trying to help.

-Brain Hulk

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