Breach of Contract

The minister was outraged, and he didn't care who knew it. The question he had for Dr. Laura Schlessinger was this: Was he out of bounds to sue a couple he had recently married—a couple who had promised never to divorce? The minister's anger is a sign—and a good one, in my view—that the church recognizes it needs to be doing something about high divorce rates. As this pastor explained to Dr. Laura, the divorcing couple had begged him to marry them; they promised they would never part. But part they did—just 18 months after the ceremony. The minister asked: "Do you think taking them to court for some token amount would be a good idea? After all, they made a promise to God, to me, and to the guests at their wedding that they would stay married until death." And he added: "I provided a service on the condition that they were marrying for life. They are breaking the contract, and I want compensation for wasting so many hours on that wedding." Well, the minister's comments struck a nerve. When Dr. Laura posed this question to her radio audience, the response was overwhelming. One woman said: "I think [everyone] who attended should be able to sue for fraud." She labeled the wedding "a deceitful attempt to extract cash and gifts from unsuspecting friends and family." Another had an even better idea: When one marriage partner dumps the other, she said, the minister should invite all the wedding guests back and "un-perform" the ceremony. The departing spouse would be forced to explain why he or she is leaving, buy presents for the guests, and pay all the expenses of the "un-ceremony." Well, these ideas may sound humorous—in a vindictive sort of way—but they do raise a serious question. Why can't people keep their marriages together? My friend Mike McManus, who wrote a book called Marriage Savers, suggests that divorce is partly the fault of the church. Many do a poor job of preparing couples for lasting marriages. Mike maintains that if churches really wanted to keep marriages from unraveling, they would introduce the bride and groom to programs with a proven success record. For example, for engaged couples, there's a program called PREPARE. The couple fills out a questionnaire, which provides an objective snapshot of the state of their relationship. Then, older married couples teach them concrete strategies for tackling weak areas. PREPARE's questionnaire can predict with 80 percent accuracy which marriages will end in divorce. For struggling newlyweds, there's a program called ENRICH. In this one, newlyweds work with older couples who act as mentors. By candidly sharing their own problems and solutions, the mentors offer practical examples of how to save a marriage. The church ought to be a force for preserving the institution God has ordained as the basis of the social order. America's divorce rate is a tragedy. But instead of getting angry and suing couples for breach of contract, we ought to do everything we can to help build unbreakable marriages.


Chuck Colson


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