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

“They [Christians] all regard divorce as something like cutting up a body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases. They are all agreed that it is more like having both your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment (p.105).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Why does this part of the divorce discussion seem to get omitted from the conversation? In that sense it is similar to the abortion debate. The vast majority of the conversation focuses exclusively upon the moral/legal nature of the action.

There are many things that are legal (possibly moral) which are so painful or have such long standing negative effects that we would encourage everyone to avoid them. Divorce causes great harm to everyone involved (both spouses, children, grandparents, extended family, and friends). Similarly, the post-traumatic effects of an abortion are rarely discussed in our cultural debates.

In my opinion, there are times when divorce is warranted, but most people whom I counsel that are considering divorce have not given it the same thought that they would if they were considering amputating their legs. The more common logic is, “Doesn’t God want me to be happy? How does being in a miserable marriage teach my children anything good?”

I am merely raising the question: Would these be the decisive questions we would ask if we were considering a life bound to a wheelchair? Would we be as confidant in our assumption that the respective answers would be “Yes, there is more happiness without legs,” and “There is nothing worthwhile your children can learn from your efforts to preserve your legs.”

I recognize that many people will read this reflection and feel defensive or intense guilt. There are many people who think through their decision thoroughly and with godly counsel. My intent is not to add to their emotional turmoil.

But if over 50% of the adult population in America lacked legs, would we not begin to question the criteria by which the decision to amputate was made? The nature of the impairment would necessitate that we raise the question.

I don’t think that most people who have experienced divorce (first hand or that of their parents) would consider C.S. Lewis’ language to be that much of a hyperbole. I regularly talk to divorcees and children of divorce who use equally graphic language. Even those who do not feel “impaired” by their divorce experience most often say it was more painful than they anticipated

So what do we take away from this? I believe we must expand the conversation on divorce. The moral/legal components are very important, but they are not the whole subject. There is the pain and suffering on the other side of divorce.

Culturally, the debate has degenerated into, “You cannot tell me what to do with my life. Who are you to judge me?” But if someone is getting ready to have a major medical procedure, the doctor is required to inform the patient of the potential fall out so the patient can make an informed decision.

I would contend that the tone of the moral debate on divorce (as well as abortion, drugs, and other subjects) has degenerated to the point that autonomy has clouded and polarized the flow of information to the point that it is hard to make an informed decision.