The Tragedy of Divorce

By Jerry C. Ray

Part I

Authorities are concerned over the rising divorce rate. In 1890 there was one divorce to 16.9 marriages. In 1945 there was one to 3.2 marriages. Today the rate is about one in four. In 1919 there were 141,000 divorces in the United States, and in 1946 there were 550,000. From 1900 to 1941 the population of the United States increased 90 percent, and during this period the divorce rate increased 100 percent, but the divorce rate increased by 450 percent.

According to Howard Whitman (Reader’s Digest, October, 1954), “For the last five years we have been solemnizing approximately 1,600,000 marriages and granting close to 400,000 divorce decrees per year. The divorce rate has increased nearly 800 percent since the Civil War. This gives the United States the dubious distinction of leading all Europe and the Americas in divorces, with a rate of six times that of Canada, three and a half times that of England, three times that of France. It is estimated on the basis of current trends, that of all U. S. marriages between 1941 and 1951 approximately one third will eventually end in divorce. “

And the problem is not just in the U.S.A. Glenn Wallace (A. C. C. Lectures, 1951) stated that, “Divorce is not just a problem in Hollywood and Reno alone. Thirty-five years ago, England and Wales had a divorce rate 1/5 as large as ours. Today, the divorce rate is one-half as large as ours. There was a fifty per cent increase in divorces after the second world war in every nation of the world, except Sweden and Switzerland, the only nations that were neutral in that conflict.”

The Basic Causes of Divorce

I am told that there are eight basic causes of divorce, and they are listed here in the order in which they are the primary difficulties leading to divorce: money, alcohol, sex, marrying too young, religious differences, jealousy, the trial and error concept, and in-laws.

Much could be said about each of these, but I want to mention some thoughts about only two of these. The first is marrying too young. Reader’s Digest, March, 1962, had an article entitled “Marriage Is Not For Children,” in which emphasis is given to the fact that many, many high school age marriages are ending in divorce. These young people are not ready for marriage. And why the marriages then? The parents are many times forcing them into wedlock! And the “Little League” romance, or dating in the pre-teens is a significant factor. Children are dating, kissing and petting younger than ever before. Dr. Winston Ehrmann of Colorado State University, in interviews with 1157 depth interviews with teen-agers discovered that one out of every four girls began regular dating before she was 13 years of age! After having engaged in the things common to much older young people, it is little wonder that having enjoyed the “thrills” of courtship, they go the next step and marry?

The author of the Reader’s Digest article lists the reason why mothers (especially) encourage early dating. (1) Parents seek social status through their children. There is prestige in having a daughter much in demand. (2) The parents want their children to have “All the fun and advantages” they missed, never realizing they are doing irreparable harm to their own children by such well-meant indulgence. (3) The parents want to relive the carefree days of their youth through their children. “Many women, unwilling to face the harsh reality that their own youth is behind them, look for fun once again in dates–this time their daughters’.”

Another important factor mentioned by the author is the greater emphasis at a younger age put upon sex: “Mothers are making young girls conscious of the trappings of feminity years before they should be concerned with them,” and years before they are mature enough to properly use such.

May I suggest to you parents, let your children be children. In fact, make your children be children. Don’t give in to this mad craze for “Little League Romance.” I’m not trying to set the age at when your children should begin wearing lipstick, begin dating, and get married, but use your good sense and pray to God for guidance, and let’s stop these tragedies to our homes and children

The second of the basic causes of divorce I wish to mention is the trial and error concept of marriage. We must teach our children that marriage is a permanent union. We must educate them to realize that marriages are made in heaven by God, that God intends for marriage to be for as long as “you both shall live.” There is no honorable way to dissolve a marriage relationship and re-marry. God’s law is that fornication is the only cause for divorce and re-marriage. (Mt. 19:9.)

Too many of our young people have ruined their lives and the lives of others by hasty marriages, in which they did not consider the sacredness of marriage, nor the permanency of the marriage covenant. The modern idea is “we’ll get married and if it doesn’t work, we’ll get a divorce in a year, and then try again.”

The late Dr. James H. S. Bossard said, “The trouble with American marriage is American courtship.” Our highly romanticized ideas of “falling in love” and “love at first sight” have reaped a tremendous harvest of woe. Young people should take a careful look at the person they consider marrying, for this is the person you are going to have to live with for the rest of your life. It won’t matter in a few years if he was the star football player, or she was the campus queen. What will matter is: Is he a good, energetic, thoughtful, honest husband, or is she a good wife, good homemaker, good mother to our children?

In the words of Ernest Havemann (“Modern Courtship: The Great Illusion?,” Reader’s Digest, December, 1961):

Courtship calls, ideally, for a good, hard, realistic look at the other person.

Mere glamour, charm and physical attractiveness are a poor basis for a marriage which, if all goes well, may last 50 years or more. It is a good idea to see a prospective mate in as many situations as possible particularly difficult and unglamorous ones, and to study family and friends, which often tell more about a person than he ever reveals himself.

“This advice may sound callous, but it produces far better results than any romantic illusion that the mate created by fate can be recognized in one explosive glance.”

Parents, let’s teach our children to have the proper regard for the law of God regarding marriage, and the proper perspective in choosing a life-mate. By this we’ll save ourselves, our children, and possibly their children, much heartache and sorrow. “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Part II

A woman in Milwaukee was granted a divorce because her husband painted a mustache and spectacles on her wedding photograph. A Los Angeles woman received her divorce because her husband sold her engagement ring for money to buy a racehorse, then insisted that she go to work to support the horse. In Wisconsin a woman won a divorce on the grounds that her husband blew tobacco smoke through the keyhole of his mother-in-law’s bedroom. In Baltimore a woman claimed a divorce when she reached into her husband’s pocket searching for money and a steel trap shut on her fingers.

Funny? Yes, but tragically pathetic also. For the divorce problem has far reaching consequences.

Affects the Eternal Destiny of Many

In most cases of divorce there will be remarriage of both parties. This is especially so among those who know not the teachings of God’s Word on this subject. In these new marriage relationships, there will be sin when God’s law has not been observed. God’s Word teaches only one cause for which a person can put away a mate and marry again. That cause is fornication. (Mt.-19:9.) Notice the dire consequences when marriages are consummated contrary to this:

1. The man who wrongfully puts away his wife and re-marries is guilty of sin. (Mt. 19:9.)

2. The person whom she marries when she has not a scriptural cause for divorce is guilty of sin, even though she had been treated wrongfully by her husband is ignorant of circumstances and/or God’s law. (Mt. 5: 32, 19:9.)

3. The woman who was wrongfully put away by her husband, when she remarries, involves herself in sin. (Mt. 5:32.)

4. The woman married by the husband who put away his wife wrongfully, is guilty of sin. (By necessary inference from Mt. 5:32 and Mt. 19:9.)

From one divorce then it is possible for four persons to become involved in adulterous marriage unions which will damn their souls. The tragedy is four lost souls.

Affects Children

There is also the tragedy to the children involved. In this case, even though the divorce may be for. a scriptural cause, it still has serious consequences upon the children. Judson T. Landis, a University of California sociologist, after a study of 330 college students from divorced homes, concluded that all of them felt themselves handicapped in some way. (Houston Post, Jan. 7, 1958.)

A British Royal Commission that spent over a year studying this question gave the following testimony from the British Medical Association: “It is now fully established that disharmony between the parents of a broken home causes the greatest possible suffering and psychological damage to the children.” (Richard Wells, New York Times, March 8, 1953.) Jerome M. Kolander, judge of Potter County Domestic Relations Court, Amarillo, Texas, spoke before an institute preceding the convention of the State Bar of Texas and said that 90 per cent of all cases of serious juvenile delinquency reaching his court came from broken homes–divorced, separated or deserting parents.

In an article in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, Mrs. Maxine Burlingham, superintendent of the Gainesville State School for girls stated that 80 to 90 per cent of the inmates came from broken homes, and of the 220 inmates at least 30 per cent are the mothers of illegitimate children.

Statistics of recent years from the Indiana Reformatory reveal that of the 20,000 men between 18 and 25 admitted in the past 20 years that 85 per cent were from broken homes.

When all these statistics are placed together, there is no room for doubting. There is a marked correlation between our juvenile crime problem (which will, by the passage of time, become our adult crime problem) and the divorce problem. The broken home is a fertile breeding ground for juvenile delinquency.

Affects the Nation and the World

One of the five major causes of the fall of the Roman Empire, according to the noted authority, Edward Gibbon, was the destruction of the sanctity of the home, with the rise of divorce. Dr. Carle C. Zimmerman of Harvard states: “The western family is rapidly approaching its third violent crisis. This crisis will be the third manifestation of mass disregard for the family in western society. The first occurred in Greece, the second in Rome, and facing these crises neither Greek nor Roman civilization was able to survive.”

Carl Michalson, in Faith for Personal Crisis, says, “The most dramatic crisis of our day is taking place in the institution of marriage. Gradually the frequency of divorce is transforming the structure of marriage into a polygamous form. To be sure, it is only a ‘one-at-a-time polygamy’ and it rarely adds up to more than deuterogamy. It is a social crisis nonetheless, in which the character of a major institution is on trial.”

With the destruction of the permanency of marriage comes the destruction of sanctity of the home. With the destruction of the sanctity of the home comes the downfall of the nation, for truly, “the home is the foundation of the nation.”

Affects the Church

With the rise in divorce in our nation has come a laxness on the part of many to ,enforce God’s marriage law. Many and; ingenious have been the attempts to explain away the Scriptures, and to devise systems by which to justify adulterous marriage unions.

Others are advocating “caution” in not disciplining those in the church who are in such unions. It is an explosive issue, but it is one which must be met head-on. Brethren, if divorce will ruin a nation, destroy children and cause souls to be lost, can we be so naive as to think that it will not corrupt and destroy churches of Christ? “A little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump.”

Sin cannot be tolerated in the Lord’s church; ingenious interpretation cannot explain away plain statements of Scripture.


Much tragedy comes from breaking God’s law, for “the way of the transgressor is hard.” Multiplied is the sorrow of those who have ignorantly violated God’s law and have discovered the Truth too late to prevent the attendant problems of second marriages and children. But for those who love and believe the Word of (,od the course is definite. Let’s all work at teaching these vital truths concerning divorce and re-marriage in order to lessen the tragedies of divorce.

Truth Magazine VI: 9 & 10, pp. 18-22
June & July