Bus to Nowhere

When the courthouse in Miami, Florida's Liberty City neighborhood was closed for renovations, Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Joel Brown had an idea. The county was already using a bus to bring other government services into local neighborhoods. Why not use the bus as a rolling divorce court as well? So now, once a month, the brightly painted bus pulls into a Liberty City parking lot, and those who want an uncontested divorce line up outside. On the bus, Judge Brown presides and grants the divorces. Time expended per divorce: two minutes. Now that's efficiency. "I didn't expect something to be so unbelievably convenient," said a twenty-three-year-old woman who had been married three months. A man in his sixties who had been married more than two decades agreed: "It was quicker to get divorced than to get married." For some, that's reason for rejoicing. The Washington Post described many of the men and women as being giddy with their new "freedom" as they stepped off the bus. One woman even invited the people she met at the bus to a big divorce party. Reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia writes, "It's safe to say that bailing on the 'until-death-do-us-part' thing has never been such a hoot." But, of course, the divorce bus isn't "a hoot"; it is deeply disturbing. There's something wrong with using a term like "convenient" (let alone "a hoot") to describe the ending of a covenant made with another person before God. Unfortunately, the bus is an appropriate symbol of a way of thinking that's become all too common. Last year, a book called The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony examined a growing trend of young adults divorcing a few years after marriage. Author Pamela Paul found several factors that were instrumental in the failures of these marriages; for instance, many of the people involved grew up in broken homes with little or no understanding of how marriage works. But there was a deeper reason underneath it all. As Paul writes: "A fundamental shift in public opinion took place [during the 1970s], producing a new truism: 'People should not stay married if they're not happy.'" Viewed in this light, divorce buses, starter marriages, Internet divorces (another hot trend), and no-fault divorce in general are themselves just a small part of a larger social movement: the movement toward self-gratification and self-fulfillment at any cost. According to this philosophy, finding individual happiness takes precedence over honoring the commitments one has made to God and to other people -- hence the popularity of the two-minute divorce in the bus that arrives just minutes away from home. After their minutes in court, some new divorcees were already planning to look for someone new with whom to share their lives. But their addiction to personal freedom makes it doubtful that they will ever find real marital satisfaction. They're still looking for someone to make them happy. They are not considering the hard work and sacrifice it will take to build the kind of marriage they say they want -- which is why, sadly, their first trip to the divorce bus is unlikely to be their last. For further reading: Manuel Roig-Franzia, "In Miami, A Bus Stop For Broken Marriages," Washington Post, 4 May 2003. Nicholas Spangler, "Retired bus serves as divorce court on wheels," Miami Herald, 1 March 2003. Jennifer Roback Morse, "The Laissez-Faire Family," speech delivered at BreakPoint's "Christians in the Marketplace" conference, April 4-6, 2003. Bridget E. Maher, ed., The Family Portrait: A Compilation of Data, Research, and Public Opinion on the Family (Family Research Council, 2002). Gina R. Dalfonzo, "Temporarily Yours," Boundless, April 25, 2002 (review of The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony). See the National Marriage Project's "Top Ten Myths of Divorce" and "Top Ten Myths of Marriage." Marcia Segelstein, "Intentional Marriage," BreakPoint Online, 16 June 2003. Rob Vaughn, "Still in Love," BreakPoint Online, 20 May 2003. Roberto Rivera, "Symbols," BreakPoint Online, 19 July 2002. BreakPoint Commentary No. 030722, "Deceptive Rhetoric: Marriage and the Language of the Market." BreakPoint Commentary No. 020411, "Click to Download Forms: Divorce Becomes a Snap." William J. Doherty, Take Back Your Marriage (Guilford, 2001). Michael McManus, Marriage Savers (Zondervan, 1995). Paul C. Vitz, Psychology as Religion (Eerdmans, 1994).


Chuck Colson


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