Do not rob the poor because he is poor,
Or crush the afflicted at the gate;
For the Lord will plead their case
And take the life of those who rob them.
– Proverbs 22:22-23
Do not err, my brethren. Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. And if those that corrupt mere human families are condemned to death, how much more shall those suffer everlasting punishment who endeavor to corrupt the Church of Christ, for which the Lord Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, endured the cross, and submitted to death! Whosoever, ‘being waxen fat,’ and ‘become gross,’ sets at nought His doctrine, shall go into Hell. In like manner, every one that has received from God the power of distinguishing, and yet follows an unskillful shepherd, and receives a false opinion for the truth, shall be punished.”
– St. Ignatius of Antioch, “Epistle To The Ephesians,” c. 105 A.D.
This blogger can still recall reading Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin many years ago, while absolutely sobbing at the scene where two slave families were about to be cruelly pulled apart in a commercial transaction and sent to different plantations, with absolutely no respect for the God-joined holy one-flesh bond of matrimony between the two covenant husband and wife entities, and their God-ordained bond with their covenant children.
” ‘Mas’r aint to blame, Chloe, and he’ll take care of you and the poor’ … Here he turned to the rough trundle bed full of little woolly heads, and broke fairly down. He leaned over the back of the chair, and covered his face with his large hands. Sobs, heavy, hoarse and loud, shook the chair, and great tears fell through his fingers on the floor: just such tears, sir, as you dropped into the coffin where lay your first-born son; such tears, woman, as you shed when you heard the cries of your dying babe. For, sir, he was a man, and you are but another man. And, woman, though dressed in silk and jewels, you are but a woman, and, in life’s great straits and mighty griefs, ye feel but one sorrow!
” ‘And now, ‘ said Eliza, as she stood the door, ‘I saw my husband only this afternoon, and I little knew then what was to come. They have pushed him to the very last standing place, and he told me, to-day, that he was going to run away. Do try, if you can, to get word to him. Tell him how I went, and why I went; and tell him I’m going to try and find Canada. You must give my love to him, and tell him, if I never see him again,’ — she turned away, and stood with her back to them for a moment, and then added, in a husky voice, ‘tell him to be as good as he can, and try and meet me in the kingdom of heaven.’ “
Centuries of this cruelty not only offended God, but had severe consequences on the nations involved, such that the regime eventually confronted God’s hand of long-awaited justice in abolishing that offense against humanity. More importantly, because of a small band of godly saints who were faithful and long-suffering to carry out their Holy Spirit assignments, retaining their resolve and their trust in Him in the face of overwhelming opposition, God’s more severe judgment on at least one nation (and probably two nations) was averted.
And what, exactly, do we mean by “serial polygamy” in this comparison? Quite simply, it is using man’s immoral civil laws to reject the spouse God joined us to, in order to “marry” another while the rejected spouse lives – something that Jesus called ongoing adultery at least five separate times in canonized scripture. There are many excuses offered up for this, and there are even more luminary “men of God” who will tell you it’s okay under “God’s grace” based on some man-contrived excuse. However, God repeatedly said, in Old Testament and in New Testament times. it is not okay, nor is it without horrible consequences for families, church and nation. Those consequences don’t sift through the humanistic excuses in order to selectively apply themselves. Those consequences ultimately come from the hand of God, as thistles and thorns in the Garden; from the One who entertains none of the human excuses. He is the One whose hand individually creates each one-flesh union as an inseverable entity, Who then covenants unconditionally with that individual entity, then declares that they will never be two again in this life. This universal indissolubility of holy matrimony is why Jesus called all non-widowed remarriage adultery — the original parties are still married in God’s eyes, and anyone else subsequently posing as “married to” either of the two original covenant spouses are bearing false witness to the world and they are defiling their vessels. Pastors who perform weddings where there is an estranged, living spouse on either side are violating the second commandment by misusing the name of the Lord to attribute to Him a vain act.
Though only one spouse wants out of the holy matrimony covenant of their youth, a scene similar to the slave sale in Uncle Tom’s Cabin is played out in “family courts” across the land on a daily basis, forcibly pulling covenant spouses from each other, and children from one of their parents while attempting also to tear and sever the God-joined one-flesh entity created by His hand. Both are literally reduced to being treated as the chattel property of the prevailing legal regime, with an inexcusable motive to illicitly profit various parties who are external to the victimized families.
Near the start of SIFC’s post-decree journey through the constitutional appeals case, amidst outreach efforts to others in the marriage permanence movement, the establishment of social media pages to advocate for the full repeal of unilateral divorce and to urge profound moral reform in the church, there was also the very influential opportunity to read another book, Amazing Grace by author Eric Metaxas. This is the story of British Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, who became an unusually strong, spirit-led Christ-follower in the days shortly after being elected to the House of Commons. Thanks to the author’s vivid capture of the details of Wilberforce’s spiritual awakening, we see the arduous journey which followed, to build a movement in the name of the Lord which ran counter to both the entrenched church and equally-entrenched legal system interests, and, like today, this threatened some extremely powerful, wealthy economic interests in both institutions.
Metaxas makes it possible to see the strong parallels of the story of this journey to abolish the slave trade with the struggle we are currently in, to abolish all the church and legal system trappings, along with the special economic interests that are adverse to the kingdom of God, and adverse to the God-established “kingdom” and constitutional rights of covenant families. This book not only deeply inspired this blogger, but in a very real sense, it provided strong insight into the nature of the battle that lay ahead. This book is a really good read for everyone in the marriage permanence movement, and our blog post about it will hopefully be a interesting, thought-provoking introduction.
( SIFC note: At the present time, author Eric Metaxas adheres to his Eastern Orthodox upbringing which teaches that holy matrimony is dissoluble under some circumstances including adultery. He aligned strongly with Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and with the political forces of social conservatives who consider unilateral divorce to be an undesirable thing, but not necessarily the central moral issue of the day, nor an intrinsic religious freedom violation. He most likely would be surprised to read of his contribution to the movement through the book he has written. He is in a covenant marriage himself, by true biblical standards. )
There were many prevailing obstacles to justice in America and England in the late 18th century that are remarkably similar to roadblocks the “stander” community and others who advocate the abolition of the vile practice of serial polygamy must successfully confront today, and must skillfully navigate through. As with Wilberforce and the broad coalition he helped to form, skill wasn’t everything, because he “battled not against flesh and blood, but powers and principalities and dark forces in the spiritual realm“, just as the apostle Paul warned in Ephesians 6. God’s hand and awaiting God’s timing were also necessary, so this abomination was very much “prayed down” and “fasted down”, while the visible events were unfolding by God’s hand in the circumstantial realm over a long period of time. The encouragement that SIFC would like to leave with readers is the historical evidence that evil, seemingly impossible “mountains” are indeed picked up and thrown into the sea by the hand of God, in response to the faithful prayers, and advocacy efforts of His saints, efforts taking many forms but working together in key ways orchestrated by Him.
So, what all was going on back then to misappropriate the word of God so as to prop up the immoral slave trade? How did it resemble the backdrop to the moral slide of the church and society so that it broadly institutionalized the sin of marrying another while having a living, estranged true spouse following man’s divorce (that which Jesus clearly and consistently called ongoing adultery)? Let’s take a look:
- Entrenched religious beliefs prevailed that had no true scriptural basis. England had been a mix of Druid and Catholic rituals for centuries before the Reformation, with Catholicism gaining the upper hand by medieval times. By the time Wilberforce came of age, it had been about 250 years since Henry VIII had established the Church of England, which retained many characteristics of the Roman Catholic church, despite key doctrinal differences, coming to be known as “High Church” because elaborate liturgy was retained from Roman Catholic liturgy, where the congregation was able to continue worshiping rather passively rather than pursue true discipleship. One of the key doctrinal differences between the Church of England and the Rome Church, of course, was the profound disagreement over marriage, both its indissolubility as a sacrament (or not) and the propriety of civil jurisdiction rather than church jurisdiction over it. Born, as the new Protestant doctrine was, out of a mix of the lusts of Henry and the humanism of Erasmus, in this particular instance, rightly-divided scripture was still on the side of the Catholics. However, it was the Anglicans who happened to be and remain in power by 1648 and beyond.
That said, adherence to Catholicism was still strong in Britain, including belief that priests can absolve sin without the actual cessation of that sin. Salvation is believed to be imparted by repeated communion rather than a taking up of one’s cross to follow Christ. Because of the belief that only nuptials between two baptized partners are to be considered “sacramental”, and hence indissoluble, it is likely that slave marriages were considered dissoluble as best benefitted the trade.
Meanwhile the Westminster Confession of Faith was drafted and ratified in the British Parliament in 1648 just a little more than 100 years after Henry formed the Church of England. Many aspects of the WCOF were an extrabiblical overreaction to various heresies of Roman Catholicism, while other aspects were appropriate responses to genuine errors in RCC doctrine or to abusive practices that arose in the 300 years just prior, resulting in biblically-supported truth mixed with biblically-unsupported heresy in the total doctrines of the WCOF.
For example, Chapter 3 affirms the Reformed doctrine of predestination: that God foreordained who would be among the elect (and therefore saved), while he passed by those who would be damned for their sins. The confession states that from eternity God did “freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass”. By God’s decree, “some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” As with the Catholics, this doctrine did not promote much soul-care for the Negro slaves, and is biblically unsupported, since there is a distinction between God’s fore-knowledge and fore-ordination.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9
Chapter 17 presents the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints”, which holds that it is impossible for those effectually called to “fall away” from the state of grace or, in other words, lose their salvation. This doctrine, in effect, allowed for the powerful to oppress the helpless, without concern that God would ever hold them accountable, since Jesus was claimed to have died for their future sins. As has become the case today, it is popular “wisdom” to claim that people have no hope of living a holy life, so the purpose of grace is to attribute Christ’s righteousness to a passive worshiper who may continue on in their transgressions. In proper context, the term “perseverance of the saints” (referred to several times in the book of Revelation), actually means quite the opposite of what is declared in the WCOF. Scripture repeatedly shows that this perseverance means bearing up under persecution without becoming apostate in response. Just as the WCOF has the effect of deadening the conscience to proclaiming Christ’s standards for lifelong marital faithfulness as being “too high” to realistically attain in the 21st century, the Confession had the effect of deadening the conscience of those involved in the slave trade to the sanctity of all human families.
“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, SO THAT THEY WILL NOT BELIEVE AND BE SAVED. Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; THEY BELIEVE FOR A LITTLE WHILE, AND IN TIME OF TEMPTATION THEY FALL AWAY. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” – Luke 8:11-15
Finally, the pivotal Chapter 24 covers Reformed teaching on marriage and divorce. Marriage is to be heterosexual and monogamous (if consecutively so). The purpose of marriage is to provide for the mutual help of husband and wife, the birth of legitimate children, the growth of the church, and preventing “uncleanness”, according to the confession. The confession discourages interfaith marriage with non-Christians, Roman Catholics, or “other idolaters”. In addition, godly persons should not be “unequally yoked” in marriage to “notoriously wicked” persons. Incestuous marriage, defined according to biblical guidelines, is also prohibited. (Heretical parts V and VI hold that the only grounds for divorce are “adultery or willful abandonment by a spouse.” ) Jesus and the prophet Malachi, however, held that men are delegated NO authority to dissolve an unconditional covenant to which God remains a party, nor to sever the one-flesh entity God’s hand created. Only physical death does that, according to the apostle, Paul. Hence, any discussion about “grounds” in the WCOF becomes utterly moot before the unchanging marriage law of God, and Henry, self-proclaimed as the first Head of the Church of England, is exposed as the wicked serial polygamist he actually was all along when measured against the biblical standard.
While great atrocities were involved in capturing slaves and transporting them across the ocean, after which they were often cruelly warehoused and their diseases masked until sold, it is clear that slave traders who forced apart one-flesh spouses, and “family court” judges who do so have much in common. This is true both morally, and in the consequences to society, as well as to the eventual fate of the whole nation due to the resulting corruption of the progeny of those impacted.
The 2007 film version of Amazing Grace opens with a narrative graphic which reads, “by the late 18th century over eleven million African men, women and children had been taken from Africa to be used as slaves in the West Indies and American colonies … The slave trade was considered acceptable by all but a few. Of these, even fewer were brave enough to speak against it.”
By comparison, between 1970 and 2015 (roughly one-tenth of the elapsed time since the commencement of that trade up to Wilberforce’s day), more than three times as many U.S. families had been forcibly “dissolved” in the “family courts” of the 50 states. Likewise, all but a few of the Christian citizens of these states considered this practice morally acceptable (and fully effectual in God’s eyes despite much scripture to the contrary). A small but increasing number of these few began to develop the courage of conviction to suffer the immense social and economic costs of speaking against it.
2. The church was profoundly corrupt and slowly dying. A church that is founded on heresy, expressly in order to facilitate (and propagate forward) sexual sin, as the Church of England indeed was, is doomed and dying from the outset, unless true revival comes along to rescue it. So is today’s “mega-church” established for much the same purpose, to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those living in open defiance of God’s laws which they disagree with, while having a cover of what in those days was called piety, and in our day would be called “evangelicalism”. In far too many of these mega-churches, “church discipline” is called out on the wrong party, such as the repenting prodigal who would leave an adulterous, legalized union to return to his or her covenant family, and far too many churches are led by men and women who are themselves living in legalized adultery with someone else’s God-joined, one-flesh partner rather than with their own. The scriptures forbidding even this are re-interpreted to “permit” the abomination of consecutive polygamy in the clergy, rendering any protest against LGBTQ(xyz) excesses, instantly hypocritical. Hence, the literal “husband of one [living] wife”, understood perfectly and consistently practiced by “less-sophisticated” saints for centuries, of late becomes “one-woman man” (until tomorrow, at least) in our contemporary bibles. God’s amazing sense of humor used adultery matchmaker Ashley Madison to debunk that notion a couple of years ago. How many of those “one woman man” pastors were removed as a result?
But as it turns out, revival did come and rescue the corrupt Church of England during Wilberforce’s life, and as it happened, God through various circumstances brought several key people into his life while he was still a boy. Though he was born and raised in the northern province of York, family hardship brought him to live by the age of ten with a wealthy, aristocratic aunt and uncle in Wimbledon, near London, who were close to George Whitefield and other figures of the first Great Awakening. Author Metaxas describes the conditions in the English church of Wilberforce’s young manhood thusly:
“One’s ‘spirituality’ was confined to one’s rented pew. One attended one’s church and one stood and one kneeled and one sat at the proper times and did what was required of one, but to scratch beneath this highly lacquered surface was to venture well beyond the pale and invite stares and whispers and certain banishment. Wilberforce was from the beginning as serious as he was charming and fun-loving, and his sensitive and intellectual nature was now, at Wimbledon, for the first time fed something far more satisfying than the niceties – the thin gruel and weak tea of High Church Anglicanism.”
So then, what historical forces reduced Christ’s English bride to such a debased state, some 200 years after the Reformation? Unfortunately, the sad answer seems to be — the Reformation itself. We’ve already visited the heretical elements of this church’s creed adopted in that same Parliament 100 years earlier than Wilberforce’s day, which formed a rotten foundation upon which those “rented pews” actually sat.
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
– James 2:1-7
While today’s spiritual deadness is clearly driven by the pursuit of sexual immorality that has gained the near-universal complicity of contemporary church leadership, the spiritual deadness of that day was driven by the bloody, mutual, church leader-led violence between Protestants and Catholics which had given Jesus a truly bad name, and had turned people off to religion altogether, creating this ritualistic veneer that was not allowed to go too deep. The violence, in turn, was driven by the clergy’s thirst for retaining (or gaining) power over the population, causing religious opponents on both sides to be martyred, and causing a series of wars between the “saints”. (In “standerinfamilycourt’s” happier days with evangelical friends and intact covenant family, the oft-played board game “Risk” was jokingly dubbed “Evangel” due to the conflict between Christ’s way of building the kingdom of God versus the counterfeit that had taken hold as an evil fruit of the Reformation where Protestants returned Catholic violence and persecution in-kind. ) Of course, all sinful departure from Christ’s methods, be it sexual or be it violent power-grabs “in the name of Jesus”, leads to a hardening of hearts, we are warned, and this leads to falling away (apostasy), notwithstanding Chapter 17 of the WCOF. Certainly, Christian-on-Christian violence must have had a devastating and dehumanizing effect on British society in Wilberforce’s day. Are there not “rented pews” today in the evangelical church? Is a fee not paid today by the legalized adulterers in the post-unilateral divorce world to occupy seats as an illicit pair or “blended family” that faithful 1 Corinthians 5 church governance would have otherwise denied them unless they severed those faux ties? Paul, after all, said “do not even eat with such….I have decided to turn [him / them] over to satan, that [his / their] soul(s) may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
Britain formally sat under a false state religion, as she still does today. By failing to maintain her sexual purity, hence her sovereign biblical family structure, America and other western nations today also sit under a state religion that is not formally acknowledged but is nevertheless very real in asserting its antichrist power over all of society. That state religion is secular humanism. And secular humanism just loves to play “dress up” these days in Baptist, Pentecostal and mainline “Christian” garb–and even Catholic frocks, of late, in the form of Chapter 8 of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia.
3. A tiny (deemed) “cult” slowly became instrumental in moving the culture. The evangelical aunt and uncle who took Wilberforce in as a boy was (providentially) childless, which made the young man the sole heir to their homes and fortune when they “graduated to heaven”. This put great financial assets into his hands, as well as influential and powerful friends of godly character into his life. He was best friends from university days with William Pitt, his agnostic contemporary who eventually became Prime Minister. Wilberforce came to faith, and received Spirit-led discipleship as a young MP under the direct influence of Whitefield, the Wesleys, and ex-slave trader, the Rev. John Newton. All true disciples of Jesus come to understand that every scrap of time, treasure and talent that God pours into a life ultimately belongs to Him, loaned, as it were, for the purpose of building up the kingdom of God. As did the three biblical slaves with the varying number of “talents” given by their master, we will one day give an account for our stewardship of these resources. Instead of suppressing truth to those under our care for ill-gotten gain, and appeasing the ungodly resource-holders to build our own vast empire (without the slightest regard for these souls), we are expected to invest what we already have been given into helping deliver as many souls as possible safely into the doors of the great banquet hall where the wedding supper of the Lamb is to be held. Wilberforce understood this, as did the other Spirit-led instigators of the First Great Awakening and the abolition movement.
It wasn’t long before Wilberforce felt led to sell his inherited properties and use the proceeds to establish a highly visible home church community, known as the Clapham fellowship, on his friends’ adjoining properties, where true discipleship under the ministry of a community chaplain was fostered in the suburbs of London. It also wasn’t long before the entrenched interests were derisively labeling the community of believers Wilberforce led, a “cult”. Why was Wiberforce’s physical community of believers so influential ? “Standerinfamilycourt” believes it is because he established a very visible spiritual organism within that compound-based community, much like the 1st – 4th century church, where everyone could see the Christ-centered life walked out again. Some 300 years before the internet could make the same sort of thing visible online, and draw like-minded but geographically dispersed people together for conferences, this visibility from such a community was very important to influencing culture, by example.
( SIFC note:The tiny Spirit-led wing of the body of Christ in that day was dubbed “Methodism”, which was an ecclesiastical slur. We all know what eventually happened to “Methodism” in our day, following the Second Great Awakening, and what in our day has even happened to Pentecostalism, as it followed “Methodism” in becoming the “Church of Thyratira” in the late 20th century, who today labels the interfaith community of covenant marriage standers–which is largely virtual due to the commonplace shunning of outspoken members by conventional church bodies, having its own pastors and lay leaders therefore, a “cult”.)
4. The oppressed victims of the system were utterly dehumanized. In the book, pages 96-100 detailed the inhumane conditions in which hundreds of captured slaves were chained together and packed into the lower airless holds of a slave ship with inadequate sanitary provisions, little food and no potable water. These conditions culminated in the deplorable tale of the insurance fraud that was carried out on the high sea in 1781 aboard a Jamaica-bound slave ship named the Zong. It was routine for any human dying aboard a ship to be buried in the ocean, whether a slave or not. However, in this instance so many slaves were becoming ill that more than 100 live slaves were thrown overboard in order that insurance proceeds would replace the lost revenue from the slaves that had expired due to inhumane conditions. The public exposure from the foiling of that fraud in English court the next year turned out to be a small amount of good out of a massively tragic crime against humanity. A Cambridge protégé of Wilberforce’s, a young man named Thomas Clarkson, served as the “cub reporter” in documenting facts and evidence against the slave trade:
“He climbed aboard slave ships and measured the spaces allotted for the slaves; he purchased the ghastliest instruments of restraint and torture, from manacles and shackles to thumbscrews and branding irons. There was a device to pry open the mouths of slaves who refused to eat. ”
It is unfortunate that the opportunities to expose in great detail the atrocities that routinely go on in “family courts” across the land are few and extremely costly. Nevertheless, there are a few of us with either the financial means or time and pro se determination to resist the system, allowing our case to go to trial for that very purpose. Most county courthouses will not allow non-lawyers to take cell phones past a security checkpoint, yet in trial we will use the time (sometimes days) sitting in court to take notes on other cases we may observe, and some of us will go to the expense of obtaining the electronic transcript from our own case. In the book, “Stolen Vows” by Judy Parejko (2001), the author chronicles the abuses she observed as a court-appointed mediator. Other authors such as Stephen Baskerville have written powerful books and articles exposing details of the corruption under which families are legally shredded. In two blog pieces we shared in 2014 from The Public Discourse, a mother relates how she was stripped of her children for the noxious purpose of awarding custody to her homosexual husband and his same-sex partner. Similarly, another article in the publication tracked the commonly-occurring instances of children being stripped from a blameless father who didn’t want the divorce and custody given to the mother whose live-in boyfriend committed violence and molestation of the children, in a cruel mockery of their “best interest”. The dehumanization is well-captured in this crass excerpt from an appellate opinion handed down in an early constitutional challenge of the “no-fault” law:
“The state’s inherent sovereign power includes the so called ‘police power’ right to interfere with vested property rights whenever reasonably necessary to the protection of the health, safety, morals, and general well being of the people. The constitutional question, on principle, therefore, would seem to be, not whether a vested right is impaired by a marital law change, but whether such a change reasonably could be believed to be sufficiently necessary to the public welfare as to justify the impairment.”
Walton v Walton, California (1970-1972) 28 Cal. App.3d 108
5. Massive economic interests were also deeply entrenched. Although King George III was a devout Christian and had genuine concerns about the slave trade, the Crown had substantial revenue interests in the sugar plantations of the British West Indies, as did the Church of England herself. Powerful members of Parliament had personal revenue interests either in the plantations or in profits from the slave trade or related maritime industries. Port towns like Liverpool and Bristol were heavily dependent on the trade, much like some of the state capitol cities that would suffer economically today from a likely much-smaller government complex that would result from ceasing the societally-corrosive practice of forcing families apart without provable just cause. In addition to this, it should sound quite familiar that the atrocities, as soon as documentation of horrifying details began to be publicly exposed, would be propped up (as an argument against doing the right thing and abolishing them) by playing one jurisdiction off against a neighboring jurisdiction. It was argued that abolishing the slave trade in Britain would be a boon to the slave trade in France. Ignored was the fact that a powerful moral example would be advanced (with accompanying publicity) by repeal in one or two states to start, and that societal, as well as fiscal benefits– in the contemporary instance, would be reaped by the repenting jurisdiction(s). The difficult but successful solution for Wilberforce’s allies was to relentlessly work the issue in both Britain and France.
Similarly, the unilateral divorce industry amounts to more than $100 billion a year, directly benefitting members of the Bar, and a vast army of court mediators, social workers, mental health professionals, book-sellers, and even ministries. This financial boon for a few, at the expense of society as a whole, comes at a cost of $200+ billion a year in transferred social costs to all taxpayers, state and Federal. These well-heeled political interests virtually own the press and have the means to easily flood the media with emotional pleas for “abuse victims” whom, they moan, will be “trapped in abusive marriages” if they should ever be forced to prove with tangible evidence that their marriage is abusive. These misleading articles largely go unrebutted, due to entrenched interests even within the “faith, family and freedom” ministries and family policy councils in various states across the land. The vast majority of these ministries decline to become involved in the repeal of unilateral divorce or the defense of its religious free exercise victims, either in prioritization of funding or in their public media output, even when there is a repeal bill active in their state legislature. For example, the family policy group, Texas Values (affiliated with James Dobson’s organization, Family Policy Alliance) sent their president to testify before a 2017 legislative committee that they supported repeal, but not one written word was publicly released to refute the barrage of negative press against HB93 in that state. All of the financial resources instead went toward battling issues like transgender bathroom bills, remarkably seen as more of a threat than the laws that directly order the literal shredding of families. Although this reluctance to publicly advocate for the repeal of unilateral divorce laws may have varying factors based on the political climate and carefully-built political relationships in each state, the common issue seems to be a fear that large donors could be offended by marriage permanence efforts meaningfully impacting heterosexual family policy, as well as the false belief that there is likely not enough funding available through millions of small, passionate donors to offset such feared losses–despite the million or so new families decimated each year by forced divorce who would love to donate regularly to an organization showing true commitment to engaging their cause in a meaningful way.
Just imagine if the abolitionist movement had consisted of donation-based provincial councils tasked primarily with all the issues of managing the evil fallouts of the slave trade on society, who deemed abolition too unreachable a goal, so that they busied themselves with promoting legislation to increase the size of the slave berths aboard the ships, install more porta-potties, only allow slave traders to take people who didn’t have minor children in the hut, et cetera— and doing so while reporting in to a Church of England board (who at the end of the day was financially-invested in preserving the trade). If one can imagine this, our description seems quite analogous to the apparent relationship between some of these state FPC’s and Dobson’s Focus on the Family organization.
( SIFC note: As of the date of this writing, “standerinfamilycourt” has met two of the executive directors of state family policy councils face-to-face, and has hopes of meeting several more in the coming months and years to learn as much as possible about their constraints, to be of service where mutually beneficial, and to encourage them to diversify their donor base to include those in our movement so that they can act more boldly in the marriage permanence realm.)
6. God put together quite a colorful and diversely-tasked team.
When the Most High hears the cry of the afflicted and establishes His timeline for deliverance, everyone involved can count on divine appointments taking place. He started assembling the abolition team when its most visible “champion” was just a small boy. He began by tapping famous figures of the first Great Awakening in Britain, leading some slave traders to repentance and restitution, and surrounding those with born-again relatives in Wilberforce’s extended family. To these, He added Christian attorneys, writers, artisans, poets, former slaves and doctors. Wives of aristocrats opened their homes to bring these co-laborers together and make strategic introductions across an overseas network and even across social classes. Each of these called individuals providentially contributed their gifts to the overall effort, some prominently and some in the background. Much like some in the marriage permanence movement who today create striking memes that drive home a point in social media, even the famous potter Josiah Wedgwood was tapped into service to create the iconic badge-like image “Am I Not A Man and a Brother?” that found its way onto all sorts of popular items that were sold at the time.
In a very similar way, the Lord has been bringing together 21st century artists, writers, bible scholars, linguists, in-place and displaced pastors, seminary professors, legal students, researchers, meeting organizers, videographers, conservative thought leaders and lecturers, courthouse monitors, conference hosts, legislators, constitutional attorneys and family policy directors to carry out a diverse range of divine assignments, coordinated by the hand of God to one day topple the “Jericho Wall” of unilateral divorce. Many of these groups of the like-minded would not interact with or even be aware of other groups if He also didn’t divinely provide individuals to form a bridge between them, yet He’s using some individuals to facilitate that very necessary function as well. Instead of stately mansions where figures are invited and introductions are made, He is using technology and alternative media platforms to bring diverse co-laborers together.
7. Reeking, shameless hypocrisy was the order of the day in the established church. We have already described above, the profound moral decay in the Church of England, and the reasons behind it. Here we will focus on some of what it took to break through that in the famous scene from the movie that was based on the book. The majority of the power holders in the British Parliament were at least nominal members of the Church of England, while the handful of actual Christ followers who were influenced by the leadership of John Newton, the Wesley brothers, and George Whitefield formed house churches such as the community at Clapham, which also had some wealthy and influential members in addition to Wilberforce. They lived by godly example, using large amounts of their wealth for the public good, and maintaining sexual purity in their relationships, which really stood out in society, while they maintained warm friendships with the “lukewarm”, those who derisively called them “Methodists” and accused them of being a “cult”. At an opportune time, Wilberforce and his Clapham peers arranged the famous boat tour of the harbor, complete with stringed quartet, wine and appetizers and full ballroom regalia. This grand party was soon assaulted with the pungency of that which they would have preferred remain insulated from, as the party barge Reliant suddenly pulled up beside a slave ship called the Madagascar that evening. No longer could the British ruling class and their consorts feign ignorance of the dehumanization and shipboard death that was taking place, literally under their noses. This event, occurring in the middle of the 20-year abolition battle, required the development of quite a few well-networked allies of the cause in high and low rank in order to pull such a scene off.
Two events occurred in 2017 that could prove significant, and might be somewhat analogous to that unsavory boat party. Repeal bills to redefine “no-fault” divorce back to its originally-intended (or at least, publicly-advertised) contours were introduced in two southwest states. Partial repeal attempts had occurred in Michigan in 2006 and Iowa in 2013 but without much publicity that wasn’t rabidly oppositional. What made the 2017 effort a bit different is that instead of a family policy ministry sponsoring the bills, one was introduced by an actual constitutional attorney-turned-legislator, and he brought a parade of constitutional attorneys to the committee podium who testified to the constitutional violations that riddle current law, which suitably-framed the testimony of the family victims of unilateral divorce who also testified. This time, the hours of this testimony have been captured and posted to you-tube, through the efforts of local marriage permanence activists. This is a bit remarkable because the family-shredding industry has been accustomed to a thick shroud of darkness whenever their empire is threatened. Also remarkable is that every one of the churches in both states were so occupied with “rebuilding a culture of marriage” in their congregations, that none of them saw any worthwhile involvement in seeing that either bill to end the forced divorces of their members might come to an embarrassing Republican-dominated floor vote, letting them both die for this session.
Then in August, the Southern Baptist-allied Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood introduced The Nashville Statement, a manifesto taking dead aim at all the incarnations of homosexual practice, while odiferously looking the other way at prevalence of clergy-condoned (and clergy-practiced) serial polygamy that has destroyed the family structure in the evangelical church, hiding the destruction behind an adulterous thin veneer through which mass shootings, child-trafficking and transsexualism is all-too-prone to puncture. There have been earlier manifesto campaigns in recent years, but this one was quite ill-timed, driven primarily by visceral reaction to the bathroom bills, but while unresolved memories were still fresh before the American public of the infamous serial polygamist, Kim Davis’ tone-deaf declaration in 2015 that she would “lose her soul” if she dared insult the holiness of God by issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals. That had been an event which had suddenly reduced the Leftist press to quoting scripture on major network newscasts. Though the Who’s Who of the evangelical and Catholic worlds vigorously endorsed and signed the 2017 manifesto (which brazenly declared condoning homosexual practice as profoundly inconsistent with following Christ), the CBMW has received scathing and voluminous public criticism as well as negative press coverage from both the scornful Left and the God-fearing Right. (From this blogger, “standerinfamilycourt”, the celebrated and learned seminarians on the board of CBMW received a book called “One Flesh” by Joe Fogel, and a frank, admonishing letter.)
Meanwhile, in the Roman Catholic Church, which has been so historically important to all moral reform of family laws, the release of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia was causing deep despair and bewilderment among Christ-following Catholics over the Pope’s bid to liberalize clergy practices toward remarriage adulterers in those congregations, by liberalizing even further the vile practice of “annulment” and to allow those civilly “married” to the covenant spouses of others to take communion — a direct affront to Paul’s admonition about receiving the body and blood of Christ in an unworthy manner, and of his further admonition that no unrepentant adulterer will inherit the kingdom of God. The hypocrisy involved with Amoris was the preposterous chorus of Vatican “assurance” that changing church “practice” was not tantamount to changing church “doctrine”. Since the only ministry with a national voice to publicly support the two unilateral divorce repeal bills was the Catholic-founded Ruth Institute, we can only hope that this unfortunate and significant turn of events cements the desire for close alliance with the like-minded “cult” of evangelicals in the marriage permanence movement.
8. Prayer and fasting was just as important as activism, if not more so. The great John Wesley wrote Wilberforce twice, the first time near the start of his abolition journey, and also a few days before Wesley passed away. Wesley wanted to be certain that Wilberforce understood that he battled not against flesh and blood, but powers and principalities; dark forces in the heavenly realm. He put Wilberforce on prophetic notice that there will be demonic opposition at every turn, but urged him to persevere. Much of the reason that abolition took as long as it did once the organized campaign was underway can be attributed to intervening events and demonic distractions, but still the battle was the Lord’s.
The current battle seems to boil down to an unrelenting conflict between the choice to surgically-excise the disease itself or manage the symptoms to reduce human suffering and impacts on society. There is a widespread assumption that the disease itself is inoperable, and an almost irresistable temptation to hold to a form of godliness but deny His power. These are strongholds that the Lord will use the fasters and the faithful prayers in our movement to pull down supernaturally.
9. Bringing (and keeping) a diverse coalition together was a key role that Wilberforce played as a leader in the movement. As described earlier, God Himself started the process of bringing the abolitionist movement figures together two or three decades ahead of Wilberforce signing on, but He appointed key individuals (including Wilberforce) to build it to “critical mass” and keep it together over the arduous period of time needed to sustain a successful effort. He seemed to provide a clear focal point to the various constituencies (which included Quakers, Anglicans, “Methodists”, just to use the diverse religious interests as an example) to what God wanted, and this took a lot of integrity, often unpopular integrity. At the end of the day, he had the humility to overcome his own discouragement at setbacks to pull it off without backing down. He had a thick skin, which is a quality almost as rare as focus and integrity, but indispensable because of the need to also manage the criticism or reluctance of insiders.
At the present time, if there is a Wilberforce-like individual to galvanize the factions and constituencies in the movement, it’s likely that this person is still developing and emerging. Those who presently have the insight to visualize how the like-minded groups can and should be working together are obscure and seem not well-placed at this time. There are bridges to build between the traditional Catholic leaders, who have a national voice but presently insufficient political power, and the small body of enlightened evangelicals in the movement who part company with the “reformed” evangelicals on the moral validity of non-widowed remarriage. There are traditional differences to manage over side issues like the authority of the Pope and the validity or morality of “annulment” versus the evangelical principle of sola scriptura where scripture plainly forbids both doctrines. Many of the national voices for divorce reform would prefer to focus on households with minor children, while setting aside the issue of ongoing 1st and 14th amendment violations against grandparent marriages which full repeal would rectify, and they have differences with those in the movement who consider divorce-remarriages immoral (as Jesus plainly did) due to concern for the children born of legalized adultery.
State legislators are emerging with a courageous vision for repeal, but perhaps are not yet well-enough connected with those who can lend them effective support, especially in the area of getting churches onboard with outright repeal efforts. Far too few churches of any type are involved on the state level, and a great many erroneously believe that God “instituted” or “provided for” divorce. The majority of “standers” and those who have repented of adulterous “marriages” are estranged from their churches, either by their own choice not to sit under deceived leadership, or because they’ve been formally or informally shunned for being perceived as a
“sower of disunity”. In response, many such individuals in the movement do not consider contemporary church structure (what they derisively call the “pulpit / pew hireling model”) to be biblically or morally valid.
Many in the movement also do not think political activity of any type is of God. State family policy groups tend to be underfunded and perhaps in need of diversifying their support. The politically-connected national voices are sympathetic to repeal, but constantly get distracted by the symptoms of the disease, particularly each new emerging horror from rabid, militant homosexualism. Other allied groups are the Parents’ Rights groups who want legal relief from these onerous laws, but aren’t necessarily in the repeal camp, and the divorced-and-remarried activists sympathetic to repeal efforts who are somehow finding the grace to work with the celibate “standers” who do not consider those subsequent civil-only unions biblically valid. We each need to faithfully keep doing our perceived, assigned roles and keep praying to God for the break-through that pulls all of it together effectively. Even a celibate, faithful stander who is not engaged in any other activity at all, except to serve others, makes a very loud statement to this culture, if they are consistent and are doing it out of a godly motivation.
10. It took decades of unrelenting effort and dedication to prevail. As witnessed by a quote from the book,
“The line between courageous faith and foolish idealism is, almost by definition, on angstrom wide. Wilberforce was quite right that a flame had been kindled and would not go out until it had done its work, but he had no idea that it would be twenty torturous years in the burning before its work was done. And if the ‘work’ in question was not the abolition of the slave trade but the abolition of slavery itself, the flame would continue burning for another forty-five years.”
abolition of such a profoundly immoral institution was carried out on many battlefronts and required decades to bring about.
By comparison, the dastardly and covert political events that stripped U.S. families of their most basic rights to liberty, property, free religious exercise, free association, right to jury trial when civilly accused, both procedural and substantive due process, and equal protection under the law, occurred less than 50 years ago. The hope is that technology and God’s hand will accelerate the formidable process of overthrowing the regime, and that incremental reform efforts will fall by the wayside as time-wasters. In the past ten years, there have been full or partial repeal efforts in at least four states, including Michigan, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma. The early efforts were abandoned, but hopefully the latter efforts will persist and gain support as various groups gain insight in how best to work together. Only God could pull off the task of full repeal in all 50 states, but that’s no excuse not to work toward it in faith with our eyes firmly fixed on the Almighty. If a few states repeal, momentum can certainly be gained, but opposition can be expected to grow more fiercely as well. As with ending the slave trade, the renewed moral authority of a chastened and repented collective church is going to be crucial, and there are many tactical steps the organized church could take to hasten the political process. (This last topic will be covered in a future post.)
Recalling the wicked false analogy drawn by the LGBT movement to justify their immoral, totalitarian political aims by comparing their vision to the U.S. civil rights movement, “standerinfamilycourt” has made these parallels with much fear and trembling before the Lord, trusting that this particular analogy is utterly valid, and is actually like-for-like. May God’s will be done for our covenant families and for our ravaged nation.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
– Matthew 6:10
7 Times Around the Jericho Wall | Let’s Repeal Unilateral Divorce!