God Hates Divorce!
That’s a rather intolerant statement, especially in light of how much broken marriages permeate our culture, even among those who attend church. However, while the Bible does express God’s disdain for divorce, students of the Scriptures have explained that it is not so much God’s lack of love towards those involved in failed marriages, but rather a startling way to communicate how much harm divorce generates in our lives and the lives of our children. Not the least of these destructive side effects is the damage it does to the picture of marriage as an exhibit of Christ’s love for his bride, the church.
A study published in the December 2007 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (see abstract here) provides another example of the damaging effects of divorce, this one on the environment. Using data from a variety of sources (usually censuses), the authors of this study show a number of consequences coming from the rapid increase of divorces in the past 30 to 40 years.
First, the size (number of people) of divorced households (households with divorced heads) is 36 to 50 percent smaller than married households (households with married heads). This leads to a second effect, namely more households. The authors conclude that if the divorced households represented in the study had combined to reach the size of married households, the total number of households could have been reduced by about 7.4 million, or 3.3 percent. The third effect revealed in the study is that divorced households consume more resources (water, land, and energy) per person than married households. This is due to the greater degree of inefficiency present in smaller households. Combined with the first two effects, we find, in the words of the authors, “that divorce escalates the consumption of increasingly limited resources.” They calculated that these extra households resulted in the additional consumption of 38 million rooms, 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, and 627 billion gallons of water in 2005 alone.
Additionally, the authors show that remarriage increased household size and began to reverse some of these effects. They also note that there are other mechanisms besides divorce that bring about the same adverse effects, including the decline of multigenerational households, delays in marriage, and increases in the number of empty-nesters and separated couples. The wisdom we find in Scripture is often multi-faceted. Sometimes it takes a lot of time and a few hard knocks for us to fully appreciate the practicality and goodness of God’s commands. As Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us, God’s plans for humanity are meant “to prosper [us] and not to harm [us].”