Backlash against Prop 8 has reignited the old charge that Christians are hypocritical to oppose sodomite marriage given the high divorce rate among Christians. This charge calls for a number of comments:
1.Suppose I’m a recovering drug addict. My younger brother is tempted to begin “experimenting” with drugs. I warn him about the dangers of using drugs.
Am I hypocritical? I don’t see why. Why can’t he learn from my experience? It’s precisely my experience that puts me in a good position to warn him about the dangers of drug use.
2.Suppose I’m still addicted to drugs. I warn my brother about the dangers of drug use, taking myself as an example.
Am I hypocritical? I don’t see why. I am a good example of why my younger brother shouldn’t dabble in drugs. He doesn’t want to end up like me.
Moreover, it’s quite possible to be hooked on something you genuinely disapprove of. You hate the habit. But you can’t kick the habit.
There’s nothing inherently insincere about doing something you disapprove of. Unfortunately, that’s a commonplace of human experience.
3.But suppose, for the sake of argument, that it is hypocritical for me to warn my younger brother? So what? It’s still good advice. The advice is just as good coming from a hypocrite. Drug use isn’t more or less hazardous just because the junkie who issues the warning is a world-class hypocrite.
In fact, this is so obvious that it’s striking how many people think the charge of hypocrisy is a serious objection to a particular practice. While it may be a serious objection to the character of the hypocrite, it’s not a serious objection to the character of the practice.
4.From the most recent study I’ve read on the subject, evangelicals divorce at a lower rate than unbelievers:
5.We’d also have to distinguish between those who divorced before they became evangelicals, and those who divorced only after they became evangelicals.
6.Keep in mind that the marriage rate is far lower among atheists and agnostics than it is among evangelicals. If you never marry, you can never get divorced, so—of course—you don’t contribute to the statistical average.
Likewise, folks who drive are more likely to get into traffic accidents than those who don’t. Amazing how that divvies up.
We don’t know what the divorce rate would be like if atheists or agnostics who are currently living in sin tied the knot.
7.On a related note, critics also complain that divorce does more damage than sodomy. And that’s true.
Since heterosexuals outnumber homosexuals by something like 100-1, heterosexual misconduct does more damage than homosexual misconduct. It’s a tautology.
In the nature of the case, the majority may do more good and more harm than the minority is capable of doing.
At the same time, certain types of behavior or misbehavior may also be overrepresented or underrepresented in a particular demographic niche.
8.By definition, every divorce involves two parties. Yet that doesn’t mean that both parties initiated the divorce—or initiated the misconduct leading to the divorce. So you can’t automatically multiply the “hypocrisy” by two every time a couple divorces.
9.Which evangelicals are guilty of hypocrisy for opposing sodomite marriage? All evangelicals? Evangelicals who’ve been divorced as well as evangelicals who’ve never been divorced? Obviously, you can’t very well combine both groups together in one lump sum and then attribute hypocrisy to the aggregate. At most, it would only be hypocritical for the subset of divorce evangelicals to oppose sodomite marriage.
10.To my knowledge, evangelical leaders are not responsible for liberalizing the divorce laws. In fact, many evangelical leaders would like to repeal no-fault divorce laws. No fault-divorce laws have led to a tremendous rise in the divorce rate. But I don’t see how you can blame that on evangelicals in general. So how are we to blame for the consequences of something we never supported in the first place, and—indeed—something we oppose?
Many of us weren’t voters at the time these laws were enacted. Many of us weren’t even born back then.
10.To the extent that divorce is a problem in the evangelical church, who is to blame? The pastor?
Perhaps some pastors share some of the blame, but a pastor is not a mullah. For whatever reason, a contemporary pastor doesn’t have the same clout as a mullah or Imam.
Suppose 40% of his adult parishioners are divorced. That’s the status quo ante which he inherited from the previous pastor. At that point, what do we reasonably expect him to do? Where’s he supposed to go from there?
I’m not saying he should do nothing. But it’s very easy for outsiders to take cheap shots at the pastor. In general, a congregation can hire or fire the pastor. They pay the bills. They have the final say-so.
As such, a pastor’s authority to enforce Christian ethics is quite limited. He can preach. He can try to excommunicate a flagrant offender. On the other hand, many good pastors have been excommunicated by their own congregations. We’re at the point where the role of a pastor is mainly advisory.
11. In a democracy, we have a system of majority rule. That has practical consequences. That places a realistic limit on what can and can’t be done.
Many evangelicals would like to have stricter divorce laws. But since most folks are heterosexual, it isn’t politically feasible to impose certain restrictions on an unwilling majority. You don’t have the votes to pull it off.
By contrast, it is politically feasible to impose certain restrictions on an unwilling minority. That may be unfair, but that’s the nature of the democratic process.
And that’s not always such a bad thing. If, say, pedophiles were in the majority, they would legalize kiddy porn and abolish the age of consent. Thankfully, the majority has the numerical clout to be unfair to that particular minority group.
To a liberal, anything that’s unfair is also unjust. But that’s a false equation.