Stop saying 'broken home'

January 12th, 2017

As a Christian for 48 years and a church member/attender for my whole life, I have one humble request to make. I would like for all Christians and church members/attenders everywhere to banish one phrase from their vocabulary. That phrase is “broken home.”

When my two sons were ages 6 and 9, their father and I divorced. We were active church member/attenders at the time. This essay is not for the purpose of rehashing all that went on 20 years ago when the divorce occurred. And, to be blunt, it’s nobody’s business. And even more importantly, through the love and grace of Jesus, I don’t even recall most of the troubles! Thank you, Lord!

I am writing today to ask folks everywhere to consider my viewpoint. I certainly don’t advocate single parenting. I am quite the expert on that subject and can attest that it is not God’s most perfect way to be a family, and it has long-range effects on all involved, parents, children, grandparents, friends, society, on and on.

My question is: What is “broken”? 

I would propose that “broken” is when two people have reached a point in a relationship where they can’t hold a simple conversation without escalating to high volume in thirty seconds or less. Little kids are in the house, although maybe not in the room, and they are acutely aware of the level of tension.

“Broken” is when a mother or father is at home with little kids late at night and the other parent is…well, who knows where. The parent at home is both angry at being left alone and worried that something dire may have happened to their spouse. So, when the absent parent finally shows up from…wherever… here goes another round of fighting and accusations. The children, safe and snug in their beds, are surely not deaf. Even in their sleep, they are hearing this turmoil and conflict.

“Broken” may be where two people fight like cats and dogs behind closed doors, but on Sunday morning, they put on nice dress clothes and smiling faces and pretend that everything is rosy. Consequently, those little children are getting a firsthand education in lying and hypocrisy.

Finally, one day, the parents decide that this situation is beyond repair and the only way to live in peace is to go separate ways. There’s a better than 50% divorce rate, even among Christians, so let’s not pretend that all of these marriages get redeemed. That’s a different topic.

After hours with attorneys and judges and creditors and counselors, and after more fighting and bitter words and malicious maneuvering, the situation is settled. 

The home is now quiet and maybe lonely, but there is no fighting. There is no mockery of God’s institution of marriage where people pretend to be something they’re not. People learn to live a new way. Children receive care and attention, and they don’t live in an atmosphere of tension. There is peace.

Then, one day, the little single-parent family goes to church. After all, church is where the people who know and love Jesus are gathered. Church folks know about God’s perfect love and his grace and forgiveness. Surely, this is a place where a little family will receive support and acceptance.

Yet people at church, even pastors from the pulpit, want to talk about “broken homes”? Really? Now the single parent family feels freaky just for being there. Wow, we’re not the Cleavers and everybody knows it!

The truth is this: a “single-parent” home is not necessarily a “broken” home. And a home with both parents in occupancy is not necessarily an “unbroken” home.

In the body of believers, let’s never again utter the words “broken home.” Let’s welcome all people and leave the fine details of the situation between them and their Savior. Let’s just embrace people with the love and peace of Christ — and no labels.

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