A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for everyone. I do not think that… There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not (p.112).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

This is a very intriguing proposal. I readily admit that I do not know what the political ramifications would be in light of the modern debates on the definition of marriage. But I am interested in what would happen if their was an “opt in” marriage covenant that could only be annulled if biblical criteria for divorce were met and at least one person was willing to sacrifice expulsion from a primary social community for being unrepentant towards his/her spouse.

  • Would there be more Christians “opt out” of this covenant because it was too restrictive or more non-Christians “opt in” because they wanted to declare their love in the most binding way?
  • Would the divorce rate between the two be similar; meaning, once someone in the covenant marriage wanted out of a marriage they would be willing to commit the necessary sin to “qualify” or does convenience play a dominant role in modern divorce statistics?
  • Would the rate of contentment be higher in covenant marriages if divorce were not a viable option?
  • How many churches and which ones would be willing to accept the responsibility of overseeing these covenant marriages in the manner Lewis describes?
  • Would those who chose not to “opt in” to a covenant marriage admire or disdain those couples who did chose a covenant marriage?
  • Would the presence of a covenant marriage affect the level of insecurity in middle school or high school students in those homes (ages chosen to reflect a time when sons and daughters would clearly understand the significance of their parents’ decision)?
  • Would the traumatic effects of divorce be less for those who did not chose a covenant marriage since they chose before marriage not to declare the relationship permanently binding?
  • How would the conversations of dating couples change as they moved towards engagement and had to decide which option their suitor wanted to pursue?

I think we all have our theories about these kinds of questions and could add to the list with a bit more reflection. But what would the data reveal if the questions could be studied empirically? What sort of culture shifts would occur if every couple getting married were faced with this choice?