All of it, when you get down to it.
The Genesis, if you will, of this column was a conversation I recently had with a woman who would like to get married again, and in fact that's her "gating factor" to dating someone -- that the other person want that too, in the Christian definition of marriage.
Ok, as far as it goes.
Except you can't have that in America today. Indeed, odds are she didn't qualify in the first place given that she'd been married before (I didn't pry sufficiently to discover whether this was true -- but I bet it was.)
"Yes you can!" you may protest -- and she certainly did.
There is no faith community that calls itself "Christian" that actually adheres to the Biblical standard of marriage and all of them are directly involved in false swearing before God at the time of the marriage. That includes hers, incidentally, which means she is acting adverse to her own claimed desire yet she believes she can have what she's personally has a hand, every Sunday by being a part of that faith community, in destroying!
When I went through confirmation as an adult Catholic I challenged the church on this. The pastor got rather annoyed with me for doing so too, since I was the only one going through RCIA that was not in the room because I wanted to marry a Catholic and the Church refuses if both are not Catholic.
Given what everyone else was doing there (I was doing it to take the sacrament, not because I needed a chit for something else, in this case marriage to a Catholic) I thought it was both a timely and in fact necessary conversation to have in that context.
Perhaps I should have paid better attention to the pastor's response to that as the same dynamic is why the Church didn't stomp on priests that abused kids over the decades prior to it blowing up in public where everyone could see it (and sue them over it.)
Contemplate how this works. The current "social and government" structure of marriage is that you head down to the courthouse and apply for a license. You ask permission of the Government to get married, in short. This is claimed to be about record-keeping but that's a lie; the historical record is that the reason it was imposed was to place a "poll tax" on marriage and to prevent miscegenation, that is, to block marriage between white and black people and, before America, to keep other "undesirable" combinations from taking place. Prior to that marriages among Christians were recorded in the family's bible, and in the Church's registry. There was nothing wrong with this and may I remind you that the Christian churches predate and continue beyond the lifetime of most modern governments, so it is not possible to argue the "record-keeping" function of government is superior to that of faith communities. Objectively it is not.
Yes, I know, the "protection" against miscegenation is longer effective as such was struck by the Supreme Court in America but that is in fact why it was instituted. I could leave that alone but not what came with it and which none of the faiths will stand up and address.
By applying for said license and voluntarily executing it you submit to the statement of what marriage is by the State, all of which claim that "you're married until one of you doesn't want to be and, if one of you doesn't want to be then you agree that the process to dissolve that marriage will be whatever the State says now or in the future and you have no control over, or even an idea, what that process might be in the future."
Picture the person who was married in the 1950s and 30 years later his or her spouse wanted a divorce. Do you think they had any reasonable expectation that the process of the 1980s would be what they'd have to undergo? Not a prayer in Hell. How many people married just a few years ago would consider "I believe my son is actually a girl!" to be valid reason for divorce if the other party disagreed and that such would be used to force the disagreeing party to pay support costs to undertake direct medical acts that, in the other party's view, are both immoral and unsupportable never mind being outrageously and permanently harmful to the child.
There is no contract of any sort ever that contains such a demand other than this one. If you contract to borrow money for 30 years to buy a house the terms are entirely on the pages of the contract. They cannot be changed unilaterally without your consent. The same is true if you contract to buy a car or do any other thing, from the most-mundane (e.g. buying a hamburger at the local eatery) to the most-complex.
But your Church says otherwise and in fact explicitly endorses the actions of a State that it claims to disagree with. Now some faith communities truly don't treat "marriage" as a lifetime commitment with no "outs" except for outrageous misbehavior. And to be fair not even the most-stringent of evangelical Christian faiths demand continued cohabitation with a monster.
Many Christian churches do indeed enforce the premise that one cannot simply leave a spouse and then remarry. But all of them will sign a formal government document that states that indeed you can do exactly that and in fact they will demand you go do that and bring it to them to execute if you want them to marry you even though they factually know that over the last decades there has been no actual "contract" in that the terms have been unilaterally changed and forced down their adherent's throats as soon as one party to said "sacrament" changes their mind.
Everything that is wrong with our society is encompassed right there. It is the exact same premise that you find in so-called "college debt forgiveness" that so many scream about today. You signed a contract that says you will pay the money back in exchange for its use to be paid to the college. You then go to the college and, after having done so, you want to void the part that says you must pay the money back after receiving what they agreed to provide to you. The demand you issue for "forgiveness" is a second sin in that it is a lie; nothing is being "forgiven" it is being shoved on someone else to pay, specifically the taxpayers of the country, and it is shoved upon them by force. There is no charity -- that is, "forgiveness" -- involved.
Notice that nowhere in such demands is the claim made and litigated that you got screwed -- that is, that the college did not uphold their end of the bargain. I have no quarrel with someone suing over that and, if successful, forcing the college to eat the debt. They got paid originally so if they didn't deliver as promised the correct place for that to land is on them. We have an adversarial process for such disputes and its perfectly fine to enable its use in such a case.
How is this different than what you see all around you with marriage and divorce?
It isn't; both instances occurred because one or both parties demanded the right to retroactively screw the other; that is neither actually intended to follow through on their commitment when it became difficult. As long as it was easy all was good, but as soon as it wasn't easy then there had to be a way out even though the agreement did not include this provision.
What prevents a congregation from standing up as a group and insisting that their faith community not do that?
In fact The Constitution prohibits government interference with free exercise of religion in the First Amendment, so a faith community that performs religious marriages and refuses to execute government marriage licenses is entirely in the right and would win any such challenge. Yes, you would not be "married" in the eyes of the State but that's irrelevant to the sacramental element of the rite; you are married before God and they can keep said records independently of the State, making them public so that if someone attempted to (for example) commit bigamy in the secular sense that could be trivially prosecuted. Further, the Church could insist (as the Catholics currently do) that should either party want to end that in order to actually break that commitment in the sacramental sense the criteria they set forward as they see it in Scripture would have be met and proved. If you don't then while they certainly can't stop you from going outside the faith (e.g. to a JP or other church) they have every right to refuse to marry you again. Again, the Catholics already do that and as such there is no argument that they "couldn't"; that debate is settled.
Indeed in 2012 I penned a column on the rank hypocrisy of the Catholic Church on this exact point -- but it is not simply a function of marriage -- its everywhere in our society today and it is all equally wrong, foolhardy and a negative sum game that has a very high probability of eventually screwing you.
So why hasn't this happened in, for example, Baptist and other evangelical churches?
For the same reason it hasn't happened when it comes to student loans. Indeed Barack Obama explicitly took all student lending onto the Federal Balance Sheet for the explicit purpose of destroying the contractual obligations of the borrowers when it came to private enforcement, rendering all of it under federal control where it could be changed and abrogated unilaterally and by force in an adverse way to uninvolved persons upon the mere protest of those who would be given the capacity to steal from the public. Students, their parents and universities could have said "NO!" to all of this when Obama federalized the system but they all did not because every one of them wanted and in fact loves the idea of the capacity to abrogate said contract down the road AND STEAL FROM EVERYONE ELSE.
I was one of the few people I know who refused to participate in that garbage.
This is the precise same sin folks in that the sin was committed in contemplation in advance of its execution and the mess we have with college costs has been directly created by parents and students alike doing so. Said cost issues were in the process of blowing up and being corrected by the marketplace on its own when Obama took this action. Private lenders will not intentionally lend at a loss because they can't force someone else to cover the bill. Government can and does but everyone who gave consent to and acted in consent beyond that point is a co-conspirator and committed the exact same sin by their participation.
The exact same thing is true when it comes to Obamacare and the health system. Your refusal, as citizens, to put a stop to it is precisely why, three years ago, that was weaponized and then used to steal trillions of dollars of purchasing power across the entire economy by almost-literally everyone and today we're paying for precisely that in the form of a foldback in our economy and high, persistent inflation.
Now contemplate the couple that is married, remains married (they actually like each other), the kids are grown and gone and they blow through all of their savings, start ramping the credit cards and then whining that they're owed something more! Some go even further and intentionally take actions that ruin their health then expect "someone else" to cover it. Who and where is this "someone else" and why does that other person owe them this?
I have another example of this from yesterday among people I know but if I include it I'll have to put this article on the other side of the site. So I'll leave it out because its just another example and not necessary to make my point.
An even more extreme example can be found with most of the "homeless" and "immigrants." First they demand that you pay for their lodging in NYC, for example and then they trash the place and harass the citizens already there who go to work and pay taxes. Exactly why are they "owed" lodging, food and clothing at all when they've not done a single minute of productive work in return for it and why is it that once you let them take that you're surprised when the next demand is that they have a right to have sex with anyone they think looks cute and, if refused, will take that too. What do you think "A Girl in Iowa" was about? A person who had no respect for the law deciding that he was going to take what he wanted -- and we all know what the result was.
Why are all these "migrants" coming to the United States? It is precisely because they believe they are entitled to have housing, clothing and food without earning exactly as you believe you're entitled to a "marriage" that allegedly "complies" with God's commandments when you know damn well it does not because at the time you allegedly contracted it you agreed it does not. Likewise you're "entitled" to all the "health care" you wish to consume without paying for it even if the reason you require it is that you ate yourself into a diabetic 500lb blob over the preceding 20 years -- or just had bad luck. You're entitled to a college degree without being able to pay for it. The bum on the street is entitled to break into a vacant hotel and crap all over the sidewalk, despoiling the property of others and the community at-large. The migrant that raped and murdered A Girl in Iowa, and the other one who recently did the same thing to a much younger girl in Texas were both entitled to all the sex they wanted whether said girl was willing (or even of legal age) or not, weren't they?
All of this, when you boil it down, is the same thing folks.
And before you say "oh none of this would ever work" in America in the context of marriage alone..... may I present to you the Amish?
Can't be done eh? Well then how come they do?
Yeah, I get it that some of those who are born there decide they don't like it and leave. That's fine; its voluntary to be Amish. So is choosing to be involved in a faith community that commits the sin of intentionally falsely representing things before God and allowing a government to continue to operate that will steal from you simply because someone stuck out their hand and said "gimme!" Just as a church that loses all of its congregation's support will collapse so will a government.
People say that we should turn back to faith -- whether its "come back to Jesus", "come back to God" or similar. Indeed I've often heard the quote from John Adams: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
True, however you are neither a moral or religious person if you permit your "House of Worship" to commit apostasy and remain in the building, never mind filling the tithe plate with your hard-earned funds. Never mind that the very premise of voting for a lesser of two evils is to explicitly give license to evil through personal and intentional sin as you are committing an actual and explicit affirmative act. If you do that you are not a moral or religious person and that is an irrefutable fact.
Indeed while you might escape judgment (I'm not qualified to speak for God of course) for turning one's head that which you formally and voluntarily participate in is another matter. If you claim to be Christian then please explain how giving license to Beelzebub is different in form and character than giving license to Satan.
It is precisely because we as a people permit this and even explicitly act to further it that all of the above have and continue to occur.
Resolving the problem begins right here and until I see a faith community in the "mainstream" United States that will do so all of you who engage in that rhetoric are lying. You personally want that escape route for yourself that allows you to "put" your issues, whether through your own hand or simply bad luck on others by force and sacramental marriage, as claimed by Christians, is just a small part of it.
And while fixing it in the context of marriage would be good, fixing it everywhere would be much better -- and, in fact, if we intend to avoid the collapse of our modern society it is the only rational set of actions that has a reasonable expectation of success.