Divorce, Why It Sucks
#DivorceWhyItSucks is the podcast for October 7, 2018. Those who have gone through a divorce know why Jesus guards against it. Yet, what he says changes the whole game about divorce, sex, and everything. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark10 #Mark #Divorce #NeilSedaka #BreakingUpIsHardToDo #1962 #1975 #Hillel #Shamai #Sex #Marriage #Genesis2
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/7/2018 The 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 10:2-16.
In 1962 and 1975, Neil Sedaka released what is considered to be a pop music classic: “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” The first one was done in a 1950s style. In 2011, an online magazine referred to the 1962 version as “2 minutes and 16 seconds of pure pop magic.” It was complete with the do whoppy “Comma comma, down dooby do, down down.” The fast paced tempo and the high pitched voice of Sedaka, belied the seriousness of the words. It gave them an almost trite, simplistic meaning. Sort of like, “Hey, change your mind so we can make out.” This is the version that my daughter knew.
The version that came out on the pop charts when I was 10, in 1975, was much more serious in tone. In a stroke of brilliance, Sedaka slowed the tempo way down, added the richness of a blues ballad orchestration, with him at the piano, and changed the whole complexion of the song. There is one verse that I want to draw attention to that goes like this:
Remember when you held me tight
And you kissed me all through the night
Think of all that we’ve been through
And breaking up is hard to do
I point out this verse because the jilted partner in Sedaka’s 1975 version of the song is able to show through the passion in his voice that there is a lot at stake in this relationship. There is nothing trite about love, relationships, and marriage at all, as ten more years of life have revealed to the singer in contrast to the 1962 version. When I played this version for my daughter, she was doing something else at the time and stopped, looked up and said, “Wait. What? OMG! This is SO much better! Where have you been all my life?” She was 18 at the time.
The connection between man and woman is at the center of a debate that tries to make Jesus look like a fool in our Gospel Lesson from Mark 10 today. The Pharisees, we are told, came to Jesus to test him, yet again. They came with the curious case of the Law and divorce. In confronting them, Jesus asks what does the Law of Moses “command.” The Pharisees answer by telling Jesus what the Law of Moses “allowed.”
There were two schools of thought in Jesus’ day. The Shamai school said that a man may divorce his wife if “he has found indecency in anything.” The Hillel school said that a man may divorce his wife if “he has found indecency in anything.” The Shamai would stress the scarcity of the indecency in a woman of God. She would really have to do something extreme, like commit adultery, which the Gospel of Matthew allows as grounds for divorce, but the Gospel of Mark does not. The Hillel stressed the possibility of indecency in serving a meal that did not please the husband. The certificate of divorce was for the purpose of protecting the woman from being accused of polygamy.
Here Jesus addresses those gnat counting knuckle heads, the Pharisees, with the heart of the matter: God does not want divorce. Rather He wants a marriage to be part of an amazing mystery where the two are not two, competing for their needs to be met, but are one. The Hillel school is like the first version of Sedaka’s hit single: trite, marriage is for the purpose of pleasing a spouse. We often, early in life, treat marriage as if it is just something to make us happy or fulfill our urges.
Yet, Jesus says that marriage is something much more serious than just pleasing each other. It is a mystery that goes back to the beginning. “The two become one flesh.” The coupling of two bodies in sex is the consummation of this mystery that spills forth into God like creation. In our understanding of life, it is the culmination of a relationship because it is a return to our original condition.
If you recall, in Genesis 2, in the second creation story, Adam and God were naming all the animals. Adam was humanity in whole. He was a single person who had no needs. It was God who decided that it wasn’t right for Adam to be alone. So, he put Adam into a deep sleep, removed one of Adam’s ribs, and made woman. The point is not that women are only a rib. Only human beings focused on power, like the disciples have been over the last few weeks, and the Pharisees are at this moment in the Gospel, would come up with the idea that this story is about power and subservience.
Quite the contrary! The taking of the rib from Adam is a sign that men and women were at one time one. We were of equal standing before God. To drive this point home, Jesus says in the private teaching with the disciples in Mark verses 11 and 12 that if a man divorces and remarries he commits adultery against the woman. The Pharisees interpreted that only a woman could commit adultery. Jesus is saying two things: man and woman are equal and they are equal because men and women started as one. Therefore we long for each other as one. This is a core belief of ours regarding women, men, relationships, marriage, etc.
That is why the connection of a man and woman in sexual/conjugal union is the greatest symbol of what it means to be human. It is meant to be as beautiful and innocent as when Adam stood before Eve and was astounded, relieved, and overjoyed. It caused him to say, “At last! This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” It is this mystery that Jesus quotes. He is referring to this incredible fact that we long to share our lives, our very being, our souls, with each other because we are truly complete with each other.
What Jesus is pointing to, as well, is that the movement of God is always toward union. We are the ones who seek division for the purposes of proving that we are better than the other. The conversion we undergo when we become Christians is that we reject the family systems of division with their shaming, blaming, and scapegoating of a family member. Our conversion rejects the idea that the people of one nation are better than the people of another nation, but we are one people under God. Our conversion rejects the idea that women or men are secondary, stupid, emotional, unemotional, toxically masculine, feminazish, because in Jesus Christ there is, “no Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free.” The movement of God is toward each other, so we say, “Peace be with you,” and respond to the spiritual mystery, “And with your spirit.”
This terribly disappointing, gut wrenching moment when we realize that our marriage is not embodying what God intended is traumatic. It is traumatic because we understand hormonally, chemically, spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically, that we began as one. We began as one, were separated to be given back to each other as a gift of one, and to separate that is excruciatingly painful. Just ask those who are divorced. They know what marriage is supposed to be because they have experienced what marriage is not supposed to be. If marriage wasn’t something special, then it would not hurt so much when it fails.
We do not believe in divorce as a principle. We want and should do everything in our power to save our marriages because of these facts. The point is that breaking up is hard to do because we are dealing with spiritual mysteries of union, oneness. So, on another day, at another time, I will unpack for us the forgiveness of God that heals the divorced, but for today we need to understand the foundation of marriage. We need to revel in its specialness as the emblem of the oneness we crave for one another because we were born that way. Like the 1975 release of Sedaka’s hit single, it is much more serious than we thought. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian