Focus on the Family Keeps Changing their View of Biblical Divorce

—but Not for Abuse Victims

 

Did you know Focus on the Family had held 3 conflicting views of biblical divorce in the past two years?  It's so confusing.

  1. —Two reasons for divorce (but they don't condone divorce for physical or emotional abuse)
  2. —Three reasons for divorce (but they don't condone divorce for physical or emotional abuse)
  3. —The Permanence of Marriage view (which means NO acceptable reasons for divorce)

 

Three Contradictory Statements about Divorce on the Focus on the Family Website

 

1. Two reasons for divorce (July 2019)

Sexual Immorality and Abandonment Only (Not abuse)

Back on July 25, 2019, Focus condoned divorce only for sexual immorality and abandonment by an unbeliever. But later this changed. Did the Bible suddenly change?

 

Notice how they add their own view to the list. They claim sexual immorality is grounds for divorce, but only if the perpetrator is unwilling to repent and live faithfully with their marriage partner. That's not what Scripture says. They are adding to the Bible. Sexual immorality all by itself is grounds for divorce. That breaks the marriage covenant.  Focus claims that "abandonment" has to be "willful and permanent." But that's not what Scripture says either.  How would someone know that the abandonment was permanent until the end of their life?

Here's the screenshot:

This is a screen capture on July 25, 2019 of this webpage: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/should-i-get-a-divorce/how-should-a-christian-view-marriage-and-divorce. However it was later changed.

2.  Three reasons for divorce (January 2021)

Sexual immorality, abandonment, and divorce/remarriage is okay if a person was not a Christian when they divorced. (Abuse is not an accepted reason for divorce.)

 

Sometime between July 25, 2019 and January 1, 2021, Focus on the Family changed their statement to condone divorce and remarriage for people who became Christians after their divorce, even though the Bible doesn't give that loophole.

Here's the exact quote: "There is a third instance in which we believe remarriage is acceptable in Scripture. That instance is when an individual’s divorce occurred prior to salvation."

Really?

Forgive my cynicism, but what board member or big donor got Focus on the Family to approve that change?

If Focus on the Family wants abused wives to sacrifice and suffer for Christ and never divorce (and then tell them if they do, they cannot remarry from a biblical standpoint), then perhaps Focus should demand the same loyalty and dedication from new converts to Christ.

Here's the screenshot:

Focus on the Family January 2021 Divorce Policy

3. Zero Reasons for Divorce

In their official Foundational Values and Vision Page, Focus Claims to Hold the Permanence View

On the Focus on the Family Mission and Values page they claim they hold "The Permanence of Marriage." In Evangelicalism, this phrase has a particular meaning: that there is no divorce for any reason. And the description offers no exception.  https://www.focusonthefamily.com/about/foundational-values/

 

Focus on the Family Permanence View Statement on their "Foundational Values" and Vision Page.

Further, the president, Jim Daly, states in a major 2019 public video for people in desperate marriages that "God hates divorce in every case," which is odd since the Bible commands divorce three times, and only prohibits it once. (See image below.)  Focus on the Family tells abused Christian wives and husbands that God will disapprove, even hate it, if they divorce. No wonder so many of their listeners are suicidal. They feel trapped for life with a cruel tormenter lying next to them at night.

Jim Daly fotf God hates divorce in every case copy

So Focus on the Family is really confused about their own position.

Thousands of abused wives (and husbands) look to Focus on the Family for reliable and godly information. What does Focus believe? What are we to believe? Focus seems to be confused.

 

In 2017, I spoke face to face with president Jim Daly and he said he held only two acceptable reasons for divorce.  A couple months ago Focus re-posted on Facebook a 2018 article from a mega-church pastor suggesting there were no valid reasons for divorce. We readers and donors are getting whiplash.

 

According to their IRS filings, their phone counselors get calls from people who are "Potential suicides, cases of spouse abuse, and child molestation..."   In Aug 2021, they claimed to get about 50,000 phone calls in the prior 12 months. If your daughter were married to a child molester, would you want her to call an organization that say that God "hates divorce in every case"?

 

Many people tell me they've called Focus on the Family with their story. Some were not advised to leave, even in cases of child molestation, like this young mother of three who was married to a batterer and child abuser. Sometimes their phone counselors do tell physically abused wives to "leave," "get to safety," or "separate." But Focus on the Family articles on divorce and abuse make it clear that divorce is not condoned for abuse, when in reality, common sense tells us that divorce is often the best option or only option to get to safety in the long run: legally, financially, and physically.

FOTF 990s 2014 p.84

 

 

Focus on the Family needs to get their doctrine figured out. Thousands of people in desperately troubled marriages call them, but if they cannot ever suggest DIVORCE for physical or emotional abuse, they are trapping people in marriage (or separation) for the rest of their lives, driving them into danger, despair, depression, and suicide—and damaging their children as well.

 

Research has found that when divorce is difficult to obtain, suicide rates, domestic violence rates, and homicide rates are higher.

 

Here are Bible passages that suggest you can divorce for physical abuse, financial abuse, life-altering addictions, and chronic emotional abuse. 

 

I hope that Focus on the Family finally condones divorce for physical and emotional abuse, as so many other Christian leaders do for these reasons. Until they do, they continue to throw abused Christian wives (and husbands) under the bus. Until the day they change their policy and rewrite their articles, they are UNSAFE for married Christian abuse victims.

 


About Me: If you're new to my blog, read this. I'm a committed Evangelical Christian. I attend church, tithe, serve, volunteer, and lead Bible studies. I started leading Christian divorce recovery groups in conservative churches in 1998. I do not wish to make this a criticism of Focus on the Family—other than their "children and divorce" and "divorce doctrine" articles. I have donated thousands of dollars to Focus, have recommended their books to friends, and have listened to hours of Focus radio broadcasts. I have visited their headquarters and have attended Christian conferences there. And I love their bookstore. My purpose is to encourage Focus to change the children-and-divorce articles and divorce doctrine articles on their website because they are misleading to abused parents.

I believe that God gave divorce as protection for women in the Bible. Here's my blog post and video on that.

 


Are you going through a life-saving divorce? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 3 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it.  Also, sign up for my email list below.


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