Divorce, Remarriage, and the Vow of God

Robert Farrar Capon’s A Second Day and Electronic Arts’ It Takes Two

Blake Nail / 1.20.22

Divorce seems to be exceedingly common not only among the vast majority of our country but within the church. The diabolical “D” word is seemingly no longer the scarlet letter it used to be. Although, as much as some protest that the world has grown in its depravity (another devious “D” word), divorce has been with us ever since the beginning of marriage. So common even in the biblical times that Jesus had to remind his questioners that God allowed divorce in the Old Testament law because of their hardness of hearts and proclivity to it. As times have evolved, we aren’t so fearful of God’s thoughts on it so much as we are about the social stigmas and costs of such a catastrophe. Divorce isn’t railed against in the church culture like we might see on other issues. It’s more like one of those things whispered after service, something you’d find under a rug.

If Christians may not be all that interested in talking about divorce, the video game It Takes Two shows no such reticence. This award-winning game understands the frequency and reality of the situation numerous kids and adults find themselves in. In the game, a couple is falling apart — not from any major incident but rather “it’s just daily life has been catching up”, as the director, Josef Fares puts it. Real life is like that. It’s not in the movies where some affair with the babysitter causes the divorce, although, surely that happens. In real life, it’s ten, twenty years of just too much. The game centers around a couple with a daughter who finds out they are getting separated. This naturally leads her to shed tears: tears that turn her parents into two ragdolls (it is a video game, remember). The divorcing couple then begins on a journey together following the guidance of an obnoxious talking Book of Love.

While their rag-doll versions traverse the relics of their marriage in the home, their human bodies lay in a zombie, dead-like state in the house. One on the couch, the other in the office. Dead, like the marriage. Which is precisely how they should be. At least, that’s how Robert Farrar Capon sees it. According to him, death is the exact thing needed.

“As I see it, death is not an incident that ends relationships; rather, it is the constant condition of their existence. It is the fundamental requirement, not only for sustaining and restoring them, but even for bringing them into being in the first place.” (from A Second Day, italics added).

As the couple comes across things like, an unfinished treehouse promised to a child or a garden unkept which serves as a visual metaphor, they each are forced to recognize their glaring faults. Every area of the house is covered as they practice resurrecting from their past faults — of which the repercussions are still presently active.

Capon himself has first-hand experience with the trinity of marriage, divorce and remarriage. The Mockingbird favorite, finds himself wearing the scarlet “D” on his chest and was even let go from his position at his church for the said crime.

…the church paid me for teaching and preaching the Gospel. This pleasant, if medieval arrangement, however, came to an abrupt end three years ago when, on the occasion of my divorce and remarriage, I made the mistake of placing for myself an order of what they had been asking me to sell. The firm did indeed deal in forgiveness, they assured me, but my order was for a size they unfortunately did not have in stock.

Capon discusses his experience further in his book, A Second Day, which seems, to me, to be one of his more personal books. Throughout Capon’s works you’ll find beneficial, life-giving theological rants and playful banter. But within the pages of A Second Day, there is the accompanying personal experience that ties itself to the words written, proving the power of them. While the church may have thought one was disqualified to preach good news, A Second Day is evidence that the scarlet “D” is in fact, the qualifier for one to write a book packed with such grace for the broken.

But before Capon gets to grace (and the joy of love and re-marriage), he guides the reader through a diagnosis. Recognizing that widows never speak of their deceased “ex” but instead acknowledge two spouses, Capon argues that the “ex” prefix is used “not simply to identify a partner in a previous relationship, but to deny the relationship.” He even goes so far as to claim the label of “ex-spouse” is a “deliberate substitution of exculpation for forgiveness.” In reality, we are a culmination of our histories, each and every relationship is a piece of the grand puzzle that is us. But we tend to lean toward modifying our histories. Whether it be by justifying our actions within a past marriage or painting the other as the villain (which sometimes might be the case, though I would bet it’s in the minority).

Our memories — whether intentional or unintentional — grow foggy, clouded by the vindications of our own making. This route is common and well travelled, for understandable reasons. When you are the judge over your own history, declaring a softer sentence for yourself is almost unavoidable. Honest assessments are rare. It’s easier to call it quits when the faults of another are so plainly visible. Whether it be the trash overflowing when they said they’d take it out the night before or staying late at the office for another night of overtime, coming home smelling like Christian Dior. Or it’s you. And you enjoy hurling insults at your spouse until their eyes well up. We can only take an allotted amount of annoyances and abuses or, on the other hand, perpetrate them before the slow creep of death takes its toll. But there is no escaping this history with a two-letter prefix.

It may be assumed by those outside of the church and a majority within it that divorce is a sin, a rule that’s broken. God said no and you said yes. Sure, that might be partially true. Since the Pharisee’s questioning of Jesus (and way before then) we’ve been trying to justify our yes’s to God’s no’s — it’s no argument worth making when the case is clear. But when it comes to divorce, we err in our destruction of a broken image. The image of the bride and his bridegroom. Christ and his church. The ultimate marriage and union which will never be severed — even with our laundry list of faults, broken vows and “daily life that is catching up.”

The true picture of marriage, Christ and his church, has no limits. No amount of trespass will bring an angel to Earth with divorce papers to be signed. No divorce will send God packing his bags in the middle of the night. He sees the trail of our relationships and plants his feet firmly at the altar. When one attempts to grasp such a faithful love, they can honestly assess their history with the promise they won’t be abandoned upon acceptance of said history. And thus this acknowledgment of the mess behind us only serves to further the truth of that good news.

And good news it is for troubled ears, but sometimes — around 60 percent of divorced evangelicals don’t attend church according to Christianity Today — those ears aren’t around to hear. That’s not a knock on church attendance but an insight into the feelings of divorcees. If the topic of divorce or remarriage is often avoided or skimmed over, you’re still likely to hear sermons on family life, marital issues and how to find a solid husband or wife if you’re single. Hope isn’t always dished out specifically to those divorced or remarried. Sometimes, they can even be mocked and ridiculed.

When it comes to marriage, it can work out for the It Takes Two ride when you die and resurrect over and over again. But no one is free from the possibility or proclivity to divorce. Marriages crumble and fall apart, leaving you lonely in wonderment about your identity. Or, for those like Capon, you could make a gigantic mess and fumble the ball: only to be so lucky for another opportunity with another fool madly in love. But when all is said and done — whether vows have been kept or broken — there is still a greater matrimony and covenant. A marriage not bound by the fluctuation of the human heart which is full of lust, jealousy, resentment and the other ugly words which lead us to our relationship spats. It’s a marriage bound by blood, wrapped firmly and securely around humanity’s ring finger. Oh, and don’t forget the best part of it all — you don’t even have to bring a gift to the wedding.

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