Most people would still agree that divorces, if not invariably bad, are at least sad. Christians have traditionally thought that the marriage vows are meant to last till death. In recent years they have tolerated more permissive attitudes on divorce, but they continue to consider the breakup of a marriage as something to be avoided if at all possible. Probably most non-Christians, too, would side with the ideal of stability in marriage.

Yet despite such general agreement that divorce is undesirable, the rate continues to climb. Divorces among Americans last year exceeded one million for the first time and rose 6 percent over the previous year’s figure, according to the U. S. Census Bureau. And the number of marriages significantly declined.

The Church is well aware that it should be responding to the increasing number of troubled marriages. One reaction has been the more liberal spirit toward divorce that is evident in both conservative and liberal churches. More constructively, most churches have also begun new focuses upon the home and family life. The things that make marital partners get along with each other and with their children now come up frequently in sermons and Christian educational activities.

But this is not enough. The Church should begin to attack the problem on a much longer-range basis. It should examine some overlooked presuppositions that may be a key to the problem.

One of these, one that may lurk behind much domestic strife, is the assumption that marrying is the normal thing to do. Our children are brought up to believe that they are expected to marry and become parents, and that if they don’t conform to this pattern people will think there is something wrong with them.

It’s time to take a different tack. ...

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