When I logged into WordPress yesterday, I decided to click on one of their “Freshly Pressed” blog posts, entitled “Divorce of the Decade.” It was, more or less, a short, casual post announcing the news story that Elin Nordegren had finalized her divorce with Tiger Woods, and cheering her on for it. It concluded, “By not being with Tiger, peace (and dignity) is what you will get. Now, that’s priceless.” Sixty-two comments followed, almost all of them some variant on “Absolutely! Way to go for her!” This struck me as a trifle surprising, but then I remembered a poll I had seen some months ago, shortly after the story of Tiger’s infidelity had first broken, in which an overwhelming number of respondents had voted that Elin ought to get a divorce, overruling a small minority that said she ought to at least give him a chance to make things right. And I recalled similar comments last summer about Mark Sanford, the Argentiniaphile governor of South Carolina. Back when he had publicly promised to try and make things right with his wife, and she had initially said she was open to reconciliation, a prominent Washington Post columnist had written an article all but rebuking her for saying so, and suggesting that she ought to divorce him. A chorus of women commented on the story with loud “Amen!”s.
Is this what our culture has come to? Of course, it may well be that both Mark Sanford and Tiger Woods’s later actions showed that they were not serious about reform and reconciliation, and so perhaps (depending on your theological position on marriage) divorce was a legitimate and commendable option in the end. But as a first response to the revelation of infidelity–even serious infidelity? I suppose I had naively thought that in a majority Christian culture, there were still a great many people who viewed divorce as a last resort, and who thought that forgiveness and a valiant attempt at reconciliation was the right response to infidelity, at least, so long as there was an apparently genuine penitence. Apparently not; the comments I read on both these stories revealed that we have become a culture of vengeance and strict justice rather than forgiveness: the only relevant question is “Did he do it?” and if the answer is “Yes,” then you are absolved of all duties except the duty to look out for yourself and make the guilty one suffer. (It’s the same mindset, unsurprisingly, as we have revealed in foreign policy since 9/11.)
I can, however, end on a positive note. At their general convention this past summer, the Southern Baptist Convention unabashedly owned up to the problem of a divorce culture within their own ranks, and vowed to take serious steps to tackle the problem. It’s well worth reading about here and here and here.