The minister was outraged, and he didn't care who knew it. The question he had for Dr. Laura Schlessinger was this: Was he out of bounds to sue a couple he had recently married -- a couple who had promised never to divorce?
The minister's anger is a sign -- and a good one, in my view -- that the church recognizes it needs to be doing something about high divorce rates.
As this pastor explained to Dr. Laura, the divorcing couple had begged him to marry them; they promised they would never part. But part they did -- just 18 months after the ceremony.
The minister asked: "Do you think taking them to court for some token amount would be a good idea? After all, they made a promise to God, to me, and to the guests at their wedding that they would stay married until death." And he added: "I provided a service on the condition that they were marrying for life. They are breaking the contract, and I want compensation for wasting so many hours on that wedding."
Well, the minister's comments struck a nerve. When Dr. Laura posed this question to her radio audience, the response was overwhelming. One woman said: "I think [everyone] who attended should be able to sue for fraud." She labeled the wedding "a deceitful attempt to extract cash and gifts from unsuspecting friends and family."
Someone else had an even better idea: When one marriage partner dumps the other, she said, the minister should invite all the wedding guests back and "un-perform" the ceremony. The departing spouse would be forced to explain why he or she is leaving, buy presents for the guests, and pay all the expenses of the "un-ceremony."
Well, these ideas may sound humorous -- in a vindictive sort of way -- but they do raise a serious question. Why can't people keep their marriages together?
My friend Mike McManus, the head of the marvelous organization Marriage Savers, suggests that divorce is partly the fault of the church. Many do a poor job of preparing couples for lasting marriages. If churches really wanted to keep marriages from unraveling, Mike maintains, they would introduce the bride and groom to programs with a proven success record.
If your church is unfamiliar with Marriage Savers programs, I recommend that you visit their website, www.marriagesavers.org, to learn about how to prepare for marriage, how to maintain it through rough spots, and how you can help lower the divorce rate in your community through Community Marriage Policies.
Another program for engaged couples is called PREPARE. The couple fills out a questionnaire, which provides an objective snapshot of the state of their relationship. Then, older married couples teach them concrete strategies for tackling weak areas. PREPARE's questionnaire can predict with 90 percent accuracy which marriages will end in divorce.
America's divorce rate is tragic. But as tempting as it would be to sue couples for breach of contract, we, the Church, simply need to get serious and do everything we can to help build unbreakable marriages.
This article published on June 27, 2011.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.