Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Why We Need To Stop Divorce-Shaming Conservatives (And Everyone Else, Too)

I get it– when we think people are being hypocrites it’s hard to not point it out. I’ve done it. Jesus did it. We’ve all done it.

But honestly, I’ve grown tired of the way the Progressive tribe tends to divorce-shame conservatives, and it’s time to speak up about it.

(And before you skip to the comment section to blast me as some conservative who is taking on progressives, you might want to read some other things I’ve written, or at least google me first.)

Divorce-shaming was a popular tactic during the same-sex-marriage debate, and I’m surprised to see it still happening even though that debate is now over– same sex marriage is the law of the land. However, even if it were not a closed debate, divorce-shaming ideological opponents should never have been part of the process.

There’s nothing okay about divorce-shaming someone, and here’s why:

Divorce is painful, and you’re mocking their pain.

I don’t care who you are, divorce is painful. From situations of hurt and betrayal down to amicable splits, divorce is one of the most painful events a person can go through. Divorce represents the culmination of broken dreams and disappointments, and no one goes through one with out emotional scars– not even that politician you think is somehow less than fully human.

When we drag someone’s divorce into a political MEME, when we make it the butt of a joke, we’re mocking one of the most painful moments of their life. I don’t know how anyone with an ounce of empathy could think it’s okay to mock something so painful and personal.

You don’t actually know their story, and are in no position to judge it.

When you mock someone for being divorced, potential subtle messages you send is that there is something “less than” about them, something in their past that they should be embarrassed and ashamed to have come to light, or a variety of other things– all of which are negative and reinforce shame.

Let me tell you something: you will never, ever, ever be in a position to judge someone else’s marriage, past or present. It doesn’t matter whose side you’ve listened to. It doesn’t matter if you’ve listened to both sides. You will never actually know all of the many details one would need to know in order to sit in judgement over someone else who has gone through a divorce. Ever.

Knowing that marriage is hard, knowing that divorce is common, and that an outsider will never be in a position to judge, means that someone else’s divorce is pretty much none of our business.

It is possible to be divorced AND believe that there is something sacred about marriage.

Here’s a newsflash: people who have been divorced might actually think there was something sacred and beautiful about that relationship. And you know what? They might actually think there’s something beautiful and sacred about their current marriage. Surely, they didn’t start out thinking divorce, especially multiple divorces, would be part of their life story– but some stories have a lot of broken parts to them.

In fact, if one believes there is something sacred about marriage, it makes the divorce part of their story even more painful for them.

When you mock someone for being married 3 or 4 times, you’re doing the very thing the marriage equality movement was trying to end– you’re saying that their marriage is somehow less sacred and less beautiful than your own. And you know what? That’s just as hypocritical. This is no different than the conservative purity movement that made non-virgin teenage girls sit in shame as if they would never have a marriage as good and pure as the rest of the tribe.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a 3rd marriage between a straight couple, or a first marriage with an LGBTQ couple– outsiders don’t get to determine whether or not it’s sacred to the people in the marriage.

When you divorce-shame conservatives, you’re reinforcing shame and stigmatization in everyone else who is divorced.

Sure, you may think you’re just mocking some politicians you don’t like, but have you considered the stigma and shame you’re reinforcing with everyone who is watching?

Especially in the Christian community, many of us who have had our own painful experiences with divorce carry around deep-seeded shame like it’s a scarlet letter. Some fear they’ll never again have a meaningful relationship, because they’ll be judged by the painful parts of their story instead of the content of their character at the present moment. Every time you share MEME’s mocking people who have been married or divorced multiple times, you are reinforcing shame and stigma in the lives of the divorced people around you.

And there’s nothing funny about that.

It’s not a joke.

It’s actually hurtful.

Like I said– I get it. It’s hard to not call out what we think is hypocrisy. However, mocking opponents in the now-settled marriage debate does far more harm than good. At best, mocking an opponent cheapens our position, because ours is one that can be argued on the merits, without mocking anyone.

At worst, using divorce-shaming as a tactic can actually harm a lot of people, because it mocks the most painful parts of their life story, and reinforces the stigma and shame they often have because of it.

So, let’s knock it off. There’s really no excuse for divorce-shaming people, even if they’re your political adversary.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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19 Responses

  1. You’re wrong & this is why!

    “Divorce-shaming was a popular tactic during the same-sex-marriage debate, ..”

    Those that you are referring to are, as they continue to remain, bigots. So, it was, & continues to remain, a completely viable tactic.

    “…and I’m surprised to see it still happening even though that debate is now over– same sex marriage is the law of the land.”

    There are, especially in certain parts of certain states, relatively large numbers of ppl who, literally, believe that their preferred version of the invisible sky-god is, literally, offended by `non-straight` marriage. Supposedly, some of them even believe that if a bisexual person & a straight person marry that this is a `non-straight` marriage & should not be allowed…

    They have even gone as far to say that a Constitutional Amendment should be passed to ban `non-straight` marriage. I find that to be good comedy, as it is un-Constitutional!

    And they still hold out hope that such a Constitutional Amendment will be passed at some point during the Trump Presidency, too!

    Hmm! Nice FAIL.

    “Divorce is painful, and you’re mocking their pain.”

    So what?! As if there is, necessarily, anything so sacred, righteous, etc., that it can not be…

    All. Of. It.

    …discussed, criticised & made fun?? Honestly, this is not about the marriage(s), divorce(s), how many, how painful, etc., that they have been through. At all. It is about their holier than thou, self-righteous attitude of, the idea, that they `pimp` endlessly, that they are, a part of, etc., the `moral majority` & know better than anyone else, and/or, at least those that they disagree with.

    “You don’t actually know their story, ..”

    In a very real sense, I am not speaking for anyone else; I am speaking, as I only truly can speak, for me. As if it matters how much, whether or not I know any, of their story?! I’ll read up on what someone else went through, put someone else through, etc., & learn & come to understand as much as I will. And I will make my own point of view observations, logical assertions, reasonable assumptions & sound conclusions that I know that I can, do and should. If I get something wrong and if I come to understand that it is significant enough, then, I will admit that I am wrong. But, just bc I might/could/probably/inevitably will be, in some context, wrong about something does not negate the viability of my ideas and opinions when taking into account the reality that when dishing out that dissertation that what I will state will consist of multiple ideas & opinions and that at least some of them are likely to be very accurate, based on the reality that what ‘I’ say will be based on factual information.

    “…and are in no position to judge it.”

    I have freedom of speech. Just as you do. So, while it is your right to make that statement, reality, itself, proves that this statement is, intentionally or unintentionally, a lie!

    You’re wrong!

    Yep. That’s a helluva nice FAIL.

    “When you divorce-shame conservatives, you’re reinforcing shame and stigmatization in everyone else who is divorced.”

    No. That’s wrong. That’s actually an ad hominem defense straw-man argument logical fallacy for why they should not be criticised for their, truly, bad behavior, wrong-doings, hypocrisy, etc., whether what that person went through was a divorce or anything else that society once, and/or still does, label(ed) a horrible behavior. While I understand that it is possible to do that with the intention being the exact opposite, when I am talking about & concentrating on someone, for their behavior, i.e., hypocrisy, specifically when it has to do with behavior that, at face value, has no shame in it based on reality itself, the basic reality that the person went through a divorce, for example & specifically, I am talking about them. Which I will happily point out, in particularly if someone bothers to bring up that ad hominem straw-man argument logical fallacy, too.

    Yes. You are wrong!

    “(And before you skip to the comment section to blast me as some conservative…)”

    Whether you are a conservative or a liberal isn’t the point. There are liberals who are social conservatives, for cryin’ out loud! Regardless of what you label yourself as, you obviously have this social conservative ideology down pretty well! And it is that social conservatism that is, obviously, what is causing you to view this specific criticism as invalid.

    This is the nature of political incorrectness; it is politically incorrect…to take someones ideas, opinions & beliefs & show it to them, even more so if you really shove it down their throat, in detail about how those things are in, excruciatingly, direct, & the more direct the worse it is for them, conflict with their own personal reality, be they flaws or merely what anyone, themselves and/or others, view as flaws.

    I consider this to be a source of good comedy as well: At its heart, political incorrectness is not about telling the truth, as bigots like to flagrantly brag that it is so… It is about telling someone something that they don’t want to be told, regardless of whether they don’t want it to be true and/or they just don’t want to be confronted by it, etc. While this is not true about all conservatives, it is true about conservatives in general, social conservatives specifically and the religious social conservatives in particularly, they are the ones that support political correctness much more so than those of any other ideology, liberals, centrists, what have you!

    Perhaps the abolishment of Net Neutrality will make this dream of yours, the death of the politically incorrect argument, ..at least on the internet…a reality…

    That really will be the death of America; one day…ppl may look back through the window of time and reminisce…”Remember when Trump was still President…?”…inevitably, they’ll blame Barack Obama!

  2. You can’t both defend the “sanctity” of marriage and not make yours work. You can make a convincing argument for it, yes, but that’s not what these people are doing. They’re not putting forward arguments, they’re just preaching.

    You’re right, we don’t know the full story and we shouldn’t care. It’s irrelevant in the discussion. People who care about making marriage work, they actually work at it, don’t preach to others what they themselves failed to achieve. If we would get into the details, these people would seem even bigger hypocrites, so it’s why it stays off the table and we stick to the simple facts.

    Look, it’s the same with going to a nutritionist telling you what you need to do to stay healthy, while they’re extermely overweight. The context doesn’t matter, their arguments might be rock solid but they’re not believable and in the wrong line of work. They might even do more harm than good to their own cause by setting a bad example to people who need a role model.

  3. You make good points. It just feels like when people come out with these obnoxious strident opinions about whether someone else has the right to get married, they kind of deserve whatever mocking of their personal life that they get. The hypocrisy is exactly it. If you don’t want your marriage history mocked, maybe don’t fight to take marriage rights away from other people. But you may be right that it doesn’t help. Hypocrites like that probably never see how unfair they are being.

    1. Hypocrites like that probably never see how unfair they are being.

      No, I think that hypocrites like that don’t care about how unfair they are being.

  4. ok let us first get one thing straight..pun intended..we are not mocking their divorces…we are mocking their hypocrisy .Just so we are all on the same page.

  5. Your points are valid. I sometimes think my bloodlust is showing when I want to get back at someone for being mean.
    I think it is a way to be a bully by picking on divorce. I also think it is mean to pick on people who want to get married and try to mar their plans in any way.
    It’s a and so are you thing. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  6. I have no problem with divorce and remarriage. What I do have a problem with is someone who brags of infidelity, who starts ‘dating’ wife #2 (and #3) while still living as married to the current wife. I have a problem with men (because this is our culture) who serially divorce a wife of some years and replace her with a younger version. Especially more than once. I can’t say a word about most people’s marriages. But when serial adulterers with serial trophy wives call out someone else for having an impure relationship, then I get a bit twitchy. Judgmental? Maybe, but then that whole glass houses and stones thing.

  7. I don’t think it’s totally out of bounds to emphasize that the defenders of traditional marriage as the only legitimate expression of that institution are, in many cases, really bad at marriage. Divorce-shaming the local high school football coach is probably a low blow, but if the senator or donor fighting gay marriage in your state has had four wives, I’m not sure that’s off-limits. Context is important.

  8. i can get and agree with where your coming from but with these it seems like mostly joking and pointing out their hypocrisy and aside from these memes i don’t see many people (outside of christianity anyways) looking down on the divorced because most people realize marriages don’t always last sometimes people reveal their true colors after marriage sometimes people grow unhappy or bored and yes broken homes can have an impact on kids but so can abuse or just having parents who are miserable together

  9. It is obvious that this is a deeply personal subject for you, and I empathize. I am a child of divorce, and know from firsthand experience how painful even the second order effects are. I agree that Christians should be cautious of the stones that we choose to throw, no matter how justified it might seem.

    I find that I am in agreement with Stephen, though. The entire time I was reading, I was thinking, “But what about our hurt?” As a bisexual man that is married to a woman, I am not as affected by the SSM decisions as others, but I am just as affected by the rhetoric. And, I don’t think that anyone who vociferously attacks the idea or existence same-sex relationships should then be allowed to hide their relationship history behind a wall of personal pain or Divine grace. That’s a new height of Christian privilege.

    I applaud you for consistently wrestling with these difficult issues. I just don’t agree with you on this one.

  10. If you think same-sex marriage is “settled,” you’re clueless. Maybe you haven’t noticed the nationwide crusade at all levels of government to gut gay rights protections on the pretense of respecting bigots who want to cite our marriages as a rationale for discriminating against us. Or maybe you just don’t care if gay rights protections are gutted.

    For as long as we’re viciously defamed as morally degenerate “abominations” who should be stripped of legal rights and rendered second-class citizens, the legitimacy of our marriages and, indeed, our very existence is under attack. You better believe the divorce hypocrisy of “sanctity-of-marriage” bigots will be called out every time there is any hint of it. The core of your argument is that it’s perfectly consistent to have multiple heterosexual marriages and still bash gays as abominations. That’s *your* prejudiced thinking. Not mine. I won’t be silenced by a gay rights ignoramus.

    The only divorced heterosexuals who have any claim to being hurt by calling out the hypocrisy are those divorced heterosexuals who want to condemn gays and our marriages without having their own purity questioned—that is, hypocritical anti-gay divorced heterosexuals. Sorry, no sympathy for them.

    And, oh, yes, “outsiders” most certainly DO get to criticize those who are viciously condemning us “outsiders” as morally inferior to them. They can believe that their termination of multiple marriages is just fine but that our formation of one is evil. What they aren’t getting is respect from me for that bigoted disparity.

    And spare us the cutesy update where you purport to instruct gays and lesbians what is and is not good for our movement. That’s called “concern trolling.”

  11. If there is anything I would quibble with, it is this: “the now-settled marriage debate.” With some conservative politicians claiming intent to overturn the recent SC ruling on same-sex marriage, and opposition to SSM being a part of the Republican platform, it’s very much still hotly contested by some…some who on the surface are operating from a very hypocritical place.

    But, yes, on a very personal level, I know many who have been divorced, and experienced a lot of pain through their divorces, and we should not publicly shame folks who do divorce — we can never fully well know their reasons. It’s simply very hard to resist calling folks out who want to maintain their marriages are better or more valid, simply for being heterosexual.

  12. I agree that the U.S. needs to focus on issues, not attack persons.

    One needs to be aware of the facts, too.
    You wrote, “Divorce represents the culmination of broken dreams and disappointments…”

    This doesn’t seem to fit at least one of the politicians in the poster. Newt Gingrich, allegedly was conducting an affair when his wife was deathly ill.

    It is my understanding from reading the news, that Gingrich divorced his 2 wives to marry women with whom he was having affairs.

    Correct or incorrect?

    I don’t sense any pain from Gingrich in these divorces. In fact, he seemed to be totally oblivious of the deep harm and hurt he was causing his wives!

  13. I didn’t think I was going to like this article. I was all set with the, “but they’re being such hypocrites!” and you answered that with cogent mercy. (If that’s a thing.) Thank you for the gentle reprimand. It was a necessary one. When I think about it, both sides usually accuse each other of perceived hypocrisy — so that’s basically a stalemate and not an argument either side can win. If we can move past the judging parts, maybe we can then talk about the real issues. Thanks for this, Ben. It was both wise and merciful, and it needed to be said.

  14. Thank you, Ben. This really needs to be said. While the main purpose of my blog is to challenge harmful beliefs and teaching, I do not believe in mocking or disparaging those who believe or teach these harmful beliefs. They are not stupid, foolish, or inferior to me; they just think differently.

    Mocking, ridiculing, or shaming people does not help the conversation at all.

  15. Good post. I too have become uncomfortable with divorce shaming. The problem with Trump is not that he is divorced; the problem is how he is treating people and will treat the country.

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