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Does divorce impact a child’s spirituality?


Is divorce a violent act? Credit: --christophe--/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is divorce a violent act? Credit: –christophe–/Flickr/Creative Commons

One of God’s clearest denunciations of divorce is found in the book of Malachi. Speaking on behalf of God, the Prophet thunders:

“For, I hate divorce.” (Malachi 2:16 NASV)

Then God declares divorce an act of violence.

“and him who covers his garment with wrong, (literally violence)”

When the Lord says that I don’t believe He is describing the acrimony that often occurs between a man and woman when they divorce. The couple divorcing could still be friends, but the act of divorce itself is inherently violent.

In the previous verses we discover the reason:

14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. (Malachi 2:14-15 NIV)

In marriage, a man and woman come together in a covenant. They have become one flesh (Mark 10:8).  So for a divorce to take place that spiritual covenant and physical joining has to be broken — cleaved in half.

God also provides a second reason He hates divorce, because through marriage was to come a “godly seed.”

This is a strange statement, because it implies that marriage aids in the producing of “Godly offspring.” Would this then suggest that divorce could potentially harm the development of  Godly children?

According to a study by the Public Research Institute (PRI), this may well be the case as it found a correlation between divorce and the declining church attendance of millennials — those born between 1982 and 2002.

PRI was looking at why the church is having problems attracting millennials. There were a number of reasons given, but one that stuck out is the insidious impact of divorce.

It discovered for the general population children were less likely to attend church if their parents had divorced during their vulnerable younger years than those who hadn’t.

If the parents divorced, there was a 21% chance the child attended church weekly. If the parents had not divorced, there was a 34% chance.

This becomes significant when we realize divorce reached its highest levels during the 1980s with nearly half of marriages ending. Though Christian marriages were less likely to fail, when it did happen, it had a similar impact on the children’s church attendance.

PRI found that children who came from religious families where their parents attended church – 31% in divorced homes attended church weekly compared to 43% for children from intact families.

It would seem from these numbers that divorce directly impacts a child’s interest in spiritual matters. Unfortunately, this is only addressing what we see on the surface.

Divorce can have a profound impact on children even for those still attending church. Many children often blame themselves for their parent’s divorce.  It can cause emotional damage. They may even blame God for what happened.

I always find it difficult writing about divorce, because I have friends who have gone through it and it seems I am not alone in that feeling.

The Washington Post who reported on PRI’s study quoted college professor and author Andrew Root who has written on the impact of divorce on the spiritual life of children. He said many churches stopped addressing divorce because so many congregational members have been impacted by it:

“Root said churches are not doing enough to speak directly to the concerns of children in those situations, so the kids lose faith in the ability of the church to help them. He said that when the divorce rate climbed in the 1980s, many members of the clergy, especially mainline Protestant pastors, stopped speaking out against divorce so as not to alienate struggling congregants. But by going silent on the subject, they didn’t offer any comfort to the kids.”

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