I read an article last week in the Christianity magazine that both saddened me and frustrated me at the same time. It was an article called “Marriage is good for society”. That of course, I agree with. However, under the headline it read ‘A report says that children whose parents are married are less likely to be excluded from school, become addicted to alcohol or drugs, or end up in jail’! What!!!! Now I know that articles often use click bait in order for us to want to find out more, but that one statement just made me very mad indeed.
Below is an open letter that I have written to the author and magazine stating my horrors at such an inflamed article. I think that marriage is something that we should be advocating in the Church. However, we need to advocate for SAFE and NUTURING marriages and not simply making broad sweeping statements that have the ability to shame and force people to stay in an abusive marriage. Here is the letter.
I was so saddened to read your article in the August edition of Christianity. Whilst I completely agree that marriage is good, not only is it not in God's plan for us all to be married, but it can also be a very unhealthy message.
Your article refers to a report written by the Centre for Social Justice but it slightly misrepresents the facts in my opinion. The issues relating to later adolescent and adult trauma are linked to the number of ACEs that a child has experienced in their life, of which separation of parents is just one causal link. Evidence shows that a person is not as adversely affected in life if they have a low ACE score. So if the only trauma a child witnesses is the separation of parents, this would not lead to exclusion from school, addiction, gang culture or incarceration as the article insinuates. However, if a child witnessed violence in the home, substance abuse or were subjected to abuse and neglect themselves, this would lead to a higher ACE score which could have the effect of the above traumas.
Too often the church has turned its back on domestic abuse within marriages and have advocated for people to stay in a marriage a) because it's God's will for us to be married b) God hates divorce c) we are British and don't want to get into the private dealings of a marriage d) we 'the church' don't believe that x is capable of violence because of the position that they hold in society/church.
Please help change the narrative. You have such a powerful voice to help church leaders really think through domestic abuse and stand up for those victims. The 'something more' that you talk about in your article is true. But the' something more' is the way that many churches ignore domestic violence in marriages and are ill-equipped to help pastorally care. Another way to fight for social justice is to support those who are in domestic violent marriages, support and nurture children through this and to make sure that we (the church) are more aware of its existence and God's word against it.
I completely agree in marriage, but I don't agree in a violent one, nor do I agree that parent separation on its own leads to later life traumas such as cited in the article.
I am also very disappointed about your throw away comment that the government is incentivising single parenting over marriage. If you think that incentivisation means receiving Universal Tax Credits which aren't enough to support a family so you have to work three jobs to make ends meet and then still use a food bank, whilst fighting for child maintenance payments, as opposed to two working wages, then please I apologise. But please don't write throw away paragraphs without walking in the shoes of a single parent or at least sitting down and talking to a few!
Finally, if you are in an abusive marriage you do not have to stay. God fights for the oppressed and victimised and will shelter you in this season. Please seek help and support. If you are a survivor, use your voice to fight for those who are currently suffering. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. So the chances are that if we have not directly been affected, we will know someone who is. So please, use your voice to help those around you.