Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.


Family diversity and its children: the next equality debate

Changes in marriage and family life result in inequality for children.

by Jennifer Johnson  
 
This article was first published March 14, 2017, at Mercatornet.com.

Marriage, family and sexual equality are subjects that have all been extensively aired. Ironically, the discussion is often led by people who are creating another form of inequality, that foisted upon the children of new versions of the family.

In a special report for the Ruth Institute, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality … for Children, Jennifer Johnson describes her own experience of the inequality of a broken home, and challenges society to face the injustice that children suffer when only adult desires are taken into account. The following are slightly edited excerpts from her essay.

* * * *

I was not raised with my own married parents. My parents divorced when I was three and went on to subsequent marriages, divorces, different children, a lot of back and forth between “two homes,” and a lot of chaos.

Reflecting on this experience in the light of the “marriage equality” debate I have come to understand better one of the fundamental flaws in the argument for same-sex marriage, and at the same time the flawed arguments for divorce, donor conception, surrogacy and other departures from natural marriage: the inequality these create for children.

I define “natural marriage” as life-long marriage between one man and one woman who are open to procreating their own children through their lovemaking.

Diagrammatically I represent these relationships as an inverted triangle, with the couple’s child or children at the third point of the triangle. This triad, I argue, in line with social science evidence, is the family structure that best ensures equality for children – equality of love, belonging, identity and security.

That’s a type of equality that people don’t talk about so much, but it is real. And there are other equalities that flow out of that one. When the family breaks down or doesn’t form according to the triad, the inequalities for children multiply. Here are three ways this happens.


Two half-time dads do not equal one full dad

When I was growing up, my parents were divorced, so I spent my entire childhood doing the back-and-forth thing between “two homes.” They also both remarried. So in each of those places, I had a male father figure. So I had two half-time dads, a dad and a step-dad.

I was about twelve when I consciously understood that my two half-time dads did not equal one dad. To a casual observer, it might seem as though me being with each of them for half-time would be the same as having one whole dad.

But it was not.

I am not 100 percent sure how I came to this realization, but I do remember thinking it as I stood in the driveway one day. I also remember feeling terrible about the messed-up nature of my family, how alone I was in it, and how it was never going to change.


Jennifer Johnson's family situation


Perhaps I came to this realization because I was an eye-witness to what an intact family and a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. She lived with both her married parents, my mom and my step-dad. I could see quite clearly that what she had and what I had were two very different things.

In each home, I was required to pretend that my other parent (and that parents’ family) did not exist. So while in my mother’s home, I had to pretend that my father and his family did not exist, and while in my father’s home I had to pretend that my mother and her family did not exist.

Family photos of other people’s whole families were on the walls, but not of my whole family. Group family photos were taken and hung on the walls, but I wasn’t in them.

I was the only one who had divided Christmases, divided birthdays. I’ve seen this referred to as “Two Christmases,” or “Two birthdays” in some divorce literature. These are euphemisms. My dad wasn’t welcome on Christmas morning, and my mom wasn’t welcome on Christmas Eve. I don’t think either of them would have come, had they been invited. They were too busy with their new families. And when I got a little older and my parents lived further apart, I traveled alone during the holidays to see each of them. Nobody else traveled alone during the holidays to see ex-family members.

Just to show the reality of this, recently my dad’s sister met my step-dad’s brother. Quite innocently, he remarked, “I didn’t know Jim (my dad) had a sister.” Of course. How would he know? My dad had three sisters, but I never talked about them. I think my aunt felt a little slighted, but I had to explain to her that we just never talked about them.

While all of this was going on, I acknowledged everybody’s mother AND father and their whole families.

Missing donor dads and moms

I know there will be some who are tempted to think that my experience is unique to me, but it is not. It is the dynamic of what happens when genetic parents reject each other.

Something similar happens in other non-triad arrangements.

Kids who are conceived from anonymous sperm, or anonymous eggs – as in a single-mom-by-choice household or gay household -- have to pretend that half of who they are does not exist.

If the parents were raised inside the intact triad, then there is an inequality between the parents and the children. There are two different standards being applied. The child must pretend that half of himself does not exist, while the child’s parents don’t have to do the same. The child acknowledges those parents, the grandparents, their aunts and uncles, but one half of that child’s genetic family has been discarded, and is not acknowledged by those same people.

When full family acceptance is a two-way street, that is equality. The parents are treating the kids the same way that the kids treat the parents. Everybody’s full families are acknowledged.

When full family acceptance is a one-way street, that is inequality between the generations. The older generation gets preferential treatment. The younger generation just has to accept whatever acceptance of that other family that the adults “choose” to give, which is zero.

Social bias towards adults’ happiness creates injustice

Not only does the inequality happen on the level of the family, it happens in the wider culture. The child lives under a burden and is not allowed to feel anything negative about the particular family form that was chosen for him. If he feels grief about missing half of himself, it is “disenfranchised grief,” grief that is not acceptable to the wider culture.

Our culture is profoundly concerned about adults and their happiness in their marital, sexual and reproductive choices. But we fail to understand that when we redefine all of those things to expand those choices, the children must live under structural inequalities, double standards and unreciprocated demands.

Adults’ happiness with their family structure choices as adults is more important than their happiness as children regarding those same things.

All of this is going on, even in the face of all the social science data saying that kids fare best with their own married parents.

It is a strange sort of “win-win” for people to be raised with their own married mother and father, then grow up to champion unequal family structures for the next generation, including for their own children.

Our grief about these injustices is not acknowledged, since the injustice itself is not acknowledged. But those of us who experienced it deserve to be healed of our pain, just like everybody else who has pain.

Part of that healing is having the freedom to talk about it without being judged, free to develop language and concepts to understand it better, and free to advocate for policies that will prevent it from happening to others in the future.

That is a kind of equality that we are now denied. While it is true that we can go to therapy for our issues, the entertainment complex, the legal community, and the business community are actually going in the opposite direction. Increasing forms of “family structure diversity,” really means “entrenched disregard for natural marriage and the family founded upon it.”

You can decide who to listen to, but I suggest taking into account those who have actually lived it, as children. Be sure to listen very carefully to what they say.

Jennifer Johnson is Associate Director of the Ruth Institute, a California-based marriage advocacy organization. Marriage and Equality is available in paperback and as a Kindle e-book.
 

A Child of Divorce Speaks Out on the Importance of a Family

A Child of Divorce Speaks Out on the Importance of a Family

“No-fault divorce is like abortion,” says the Ruth Institute's Jennifer Johnson.
 
by Jim Graves 
 
This article was first posted April 10, 2017, at ncregister.com.

 

Jennifer Johnson is Director of the Children of Divorce Project at the Ruth Institute. She is an author, whose interests include homeschooling (she homeschooled her three children), children’s rights and family structure issues. She has worked full time with the Ruth Institute since 2010, an organization founded by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse “dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown.”

Johnson’s most recently published work is “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children.” She recently talked about divorce and its effect on her life.

What is your own personal experience of divorce?

I have a lot of experience with divorce, far too much to ask of any one person in my opinion. My parents divorced when I was three and went on to subsequent marriages, divorces, different children, a lot of back and forth between “two homes,” and a lot of chaos. By the time I was about 22, I had experienced three divorces: my own parents’ divorce and my dad’s two subsequent divorces. I am divorced as an adult and there is quite a bit of divorce in the rest of my family.

How did it affect you, and how have you been able to recover?

That is a whole story that I tell in my Special Report, “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children”. The short version is that I did not have a family; I was the lone member of my family. The family experience that I had was shared by no other person. I include diagrams in the report to show what I mean.


That experience taught me to suppress my true thoughts and feelings about the original divorce and the remarriages. That chaotic situation taught me to ignore my own intuitions, taught me that letting my intuitions bubble to the surface of my mind was dangerous. Had I examined and revealed my intuitions about all that to my parents, it would have jeopardized my already-tenuous relationship with them. Learning to ignore my thoughts, feelings and intuitions about things that bothered me made me extremely vulnerable once I became an adult. I joined a cult at the age of 19, had an arranged marriage there, and participated and endorsed some horrific abuse and exploitation of others so that I could fit in and not be thought of as an outsider. The cult appealed to my deep need for belonging, for being a full-fledged member of a family.

Anthropologists have a concept that applies here. It is called “liminality.” Limin is Latin for the threshold of a doorway. The threshold is not one room or the other. It is the in-between place between two rooms, or between the outside of the house and the inside. Liminality is the condition of being between states or statuses. Sometimes it is referred to as being “betwixt and between.” When somebody is in a liminal state, they are no longer what they were and are not yet what they will be. The old rules no longer apply, and the new rules do not apply yet.

When my parents divorced, I ceased to exist as a full-fledged daughter in my family, because my family ceased to exist. I never again entered a full-fledged status with either of them. Their divorce and subsequent remarriages pushed me into a liminal state from which I have never emerged. Joining the cult was my attempt to exit the liminal state, to become initiated as a full-fledged member of a family, even if it was an abusive family.

There have been many studies about the effects of divorce on children. What are some of the findings?

It’s bad. It is worse than the average person wants to realize. Divorce shortens people’s lives. That alone should get people’s attention. Plus it increases the risk factors for addictions, not finishing high school, getting divorced as an adult and losing contact with grandparents. Children of divorce report feeling a lack of empathy from their churches, and don’t go to church as much as kids from intact families.

“No fault” divorce came to California in 1969, and the rest of the country soon after. How do you think divorce has affected society as a whole?

In order to talk about society, we need to talk about the mechanics behind the changes of “no-fault.” No-fault changed an important legal presumption in marriage. A presumption is a starting-point, a place where we say, “Here is where we begin, and we can make adjustments to individual circumstances from this place, but we need a beginning point so we always begin here.” Prior to no-fault, the legal presumption, the legal beginning point, was that marriage is permanent. It was viewed as a truly life-long commitment and the family courts honored this, at least in principle. Of course, there was divorce and separation prior to no-fault, but the presumption of permanence was honored by the courts. In order to get a divorce, that presumption had to be overcome by demonstrating why the marriage had failed. Such circumstances included adultery, addictions and abandonment.

No-fault changed the legal presumption. Now marriage is no longer legally presumed permanent by the family courts. The courts get involved in the minutia of family life at the behest of one spouse. One spouse has the power to harness the family court to destroy the family, like wielding a sledge hammer, and the family courts must comply. They no longer side with the family, giving preference to its legitimate claim on wholeness. They side with the person who wants to destroy the family. If the other spouse wants to keep the family together, that person has no legal remedy. The divorce will be enforced in all cases if one spouse wants it.

In this respect, no-fault divorce is like abortion. That might sound like a dramatic claim, so let me spell it out.

In both cases, the State sides with one person (the pregnant mother, the petitioner in a no-fault divorce action) to uphold or enforce the action that the person wants (the abortion, the no-fault divorce), while simultaneously providing no legal defense for the other person (the unborn child, the respondent in the divorce action). The individual who wants the action (of the abortion or to be divorced) must be “freed” from every restraint that he does not explicitly want. Even if he chose the restraint at a point in the past, if he changes his mind, then the State’s duty is to free him from it if this is what the individual wants.

In February, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput published a book called, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. He makes this same point when he says: “Without the restrains of some higher moral law, democracy instinctively works against natural marriage, traditional families and any other institution that creates bonds and duties among citizens. It insists on the autonomous individual as its ideal.”

Thus, as a society, we believe that the State’s duty to the individual is to annul or at least modify his familial obligations whenever he chooses in order to free him.

I’ve heard it said divorce may be a necessity when “the 3 A’s” are involved: addiction, abuse and adultery. Do you agree?

This is a complex question since it touches on a variety of issues. We can talk about it from the State’s perspective or the perspective of individual families. Taking the State’s perspective, we might ask: what is the State’s role in divorce? Should the State be involved? If so, at what point? I would say that yes, there is a role for the State, but to restore some semblance of justice in divorce we need to restore the legal presumption of permanence. I do not know how that should be done. Should we go back to some sort of fault-based system that relies on “the 3 A’s”? Should we at least eliminate the unilateral aspect of divorce and require both spouses to consent to it? I would say yes to both of those questions.

We can also consider the perspective of individual families. Perhaps somebody reading this article is experiencing one or more of those things right now. It is difficult to give blanket advice since each case is unique. Even so, I have heard many reports about couples who recovered from adultery. For addiction issues, help can be found through groups such as Al-Anon.

The good thing about the old fault-based system is that somebody was legally culpable. This person was then penalized by the courts. This deterred bad behavior. For example, if the child is not living with that person post-divorce, then this makes sense. Children should not be living with addicts or with abuse, especially when their other parent is not there to serve as a buffer.

What might you say to couples with children considering divorce when less serious issues are involved?

That triad of your family matters a great deal. It matters to your children, to all of the people around you, and to your grandchildren and the rest of your posterity. So try harder to work things out. I know you’re tired and you probably want to go find somebody else. But your kids need you there, at home. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your situation will beat the odds for your kids. Are you willing to implicitly tell them that you don’t want to live with them for half of their remaining childhood? Because that is what you will be communicating to them if you split up. Do you want to throw away their sense of being your full-fledged child?

You will continue to have a relationship with your spouse even after the divorce, and you will have less say-so in the lives of your children than you do now. Your ex-spouse might bring undesirable people into your children’s lives, and your children will feel pressure to accept and love those people. Some spouses resort to parental alienation tactics, which means that you run the risk of losing all contact with your children for a very long time.

Please do not make the child live in “two homes.” Do not break up their daily life like that. Consider keeping the family home, letting the children live there full time, and getting a small place nearby that you share with your ex-spouse. Each of you takes turns going back and forth between the family home and the other place. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then please reconsider making your kids do the same. Apply the same standard to your children that you want applied to you.

What help/advice would you offer children of divorced parents to help them recover?

I don’t have any magic words here. Healing is an ongoing process. The first steps were the hardest for me:

  • to acknowledge just how damaging my parents’ divorce was to my sense of self. Their one-flesh union was supposed to be a mirror for me to see myself in a holistic way. Shattering that mirror shattered my ability to see myself and to orient myself within my family and later into society as a young adult.
  • that I was not resilient like the experts said I would be, even though I tried very hard to be.
  • that I really did love that family and miss it terribly to this day.
  • that their divorce and remarriages taught me to lie to myself about how I really felt about it all. Out of fear, and wanting to be accepted, I showed approval even though I did not approve.
  • that learning to lie to myself hamstrung me as a young adult, since by the time I was grown I was totally comfortable with ignoring and distrusting my intuitions. Without my intuitions to help me, this led me into situations that were further damaging.
  • that as an older adult I have had to learn how to trust my intuitions and it is an ongoing process, scary at times.

I recommend my reading my book for more details about all of these concepts, plus many diagrams that make it easy enough for a child to understand.


HEY, LIBERALS: Here’s A Pro-Family Argument Even YOU Might Like

by Jennifer Johnson

Published on March 2, 2017, at clashdaily.com.

This is an image of the Holy Family that I used to keep in my office.

holy-family

I would look at this image from time to time and pray to Jesus for wisdom for defending marriage and the family. One day I was looking at this image and saw a triangle between the head of Jesus, His mother Mary, her husband Joseph, then back to Jesus. I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s the family structure! It’s a triangle! It is not only a reflection of the Holy Family, it is a reflection of the Trinity!”


This excited me for a couple reasons. For one thing, I’ve discovered that the average person doesn’t understand what “family structure” or “structural issues” mean. Policy wonks, like me, tend to take for granted what we mean when we use phrases like that. To be able to show the family as a triangle means that the average person now has a simple way to understand what those phrases mean.

I was also excited because I wondered how it would apply to my own childhood.

I had not been raised with my own married parents. My parents divorced when I was three and went on to subsequent marriages, divorces, different children, a lot of back and forth between “two homes,” and a lot of chaos.

So I went home that night and applied the family triangle to my situation.

I carefully drew it all out, using several pieces of paper. It took me several tries to get everybody to fit onto the page in a way that made sense and was proportional.

As I worked on it, I could tell that it was going to be far more complex than I had ever imagined.

This is what I saw:

chart-1

That’s me, in the bottom center circle.

What do you think? What is your gut response to this?

The first few hours after I finished the drawing were surreal, and I was in a daze.

Seriously, what is this? How was I supposed to navigate this as a child, alone?

In fact, I didn’t navigate it at all. I blocked parts out as time went on, out of necessity. That’s why it was such a shock to see it all there in a two-dimensional way.

One of the first things that stuck out at me was how ugly it is. It looked like a malformed spider’s web.

It was not pretty like the simple triangle I had seen.

I had a flood of emotions come over me, as it brought back memories of people that left my life due to divorce, so I was supposed to have forgotten them when that happened.

My initial excitement had turned to tears of sadness.

And so I cried, a lot at first.

As time went on, I became angry at God for showing this to me. I couldn’t understand why He would make me feel old pain like that. Why bring it all up again? Why have this ugly family structure burned into my mind now? Wasn’t I better off just burying it all in the back of my mind, as if it never happened? The diagram made me feel ashamed. It was always very difficult to have so many different adults and new family members to reckon with constantly, and I didn’t like having them thrust into my face again all at once.

Is it safe for me to say that I just wanted my own family? MY family, MY triad, MY home?

Social conservatives believe in equality for children, because they believe in this for every child:

chart-2

When every child has this, without the extraneous people as I had, it is a form of equality.

The problem with this argument is that conservatives are not drawn to it. Equality is not a primary ideal in conservatism. But if we stop to think about it, I think it is fair to say that our recent loss over same-sex marriage may have been because our argument did not appeal to people’s sense of fairness. The appeal to equality was an appeal to fairness, after all.

Let’s consider the pro-life movement and see if there is something there that can help us. Crux.com recently published some interesting remarks by Daniel K. Williams, author of Defenders of the Unborn and associate professor of history at the University of West Georgia. He makes the argument that the pro-life movement started as a liberal movement based on social justice and human rights. He believes that the movement gains vitality and appeal when its proponents frame the issue using liberal values.

I discovered that we can do the same thing. We can embrace the liberal value of equality. The ancient Christian teachings on sex and marriage means that every child is to be raised with his or her own married mother and father, except for an unavoidable tragedy.

That’s a type of equality that people don’t talk about, but it is real. And there are other equalities that flow out of that one. When the family breaks down or doesn’t form according to the triad, inequalities for children multiply. I think it is exciting to see that this form of equality has been the flip-side of the ancient Christian teaching on marriage and sex all along.

You can learn more about this form of equality, and about the inequalities children face who were not raised with their own married parents. Go to the Ruth Institute website and order my new Special Report, called, “Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children.” It includes stories and easy-to-understand diagrams that will help you reopen this discussion with your friends and family members who may believe in same-sex marriage.

By embracing the liberal value of equality we can show people that we hold an ideal that they care about. This may help them listen to what we are saying. After all, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Go here to order this Special Report now:

http://www.ruthinstitute.org/store/pamphlets-and-booklets/marriage-and-equality

I don’t want to give away too much, but remember how I said I cried when I drew the diagram of my family structure? If you order the report, you read the story of how God worked that out for good.


Man Woman Marriage Creates Equality for children (in more ways than one!)

Marriage and Equality – How natural marriage promotes equality for children

By Jennifer Johnson, Associate Director, the Ruth Institute

“Gay marriage” supporters aren’t the only ones who care about equality. The ancient Christian teachings on sex and marriage ensure that every child is raised with his or her own married mother and father, except for an unavoidable tragedy. That’s a kind of equality people don’t talk about. And we need to talk more about it.

 

I have observed three ways that natural marriage upholds equality for children.

First way:

Every child lives with his own married mother and father in a unified home, except for an unavoidable tragedy.

The Christian teaching on marriage and sex creates “structural” equality among children—they’re all with their own parents. None of them are shuttling back and forth between “two homes.” None of them have had a genetic parent/family severed from them due to being conceived as a result of anonymous sperm or egg donation. None of them have birth records that have been falsified to accommodate a non-genetic parent’s wishes.

I first saw this form of equality one day when talking to Dr. Morse about her childhood. I asked her, “How many kids had divorced parents when you were young?” She said that she could think of one. So my mind pictured the playground, with her and all her schoolmates on it. I imagined each of them with a diagram of their family structure above their heads, in a little bubble like a cartoon. All of the kids had an intact family, except for one.


Second way:

The acceptance of all family members should be a two-way street between parents and their children.

Natural marriage creates equality between the generations. Let me use an anecdote from my own life to illustrate what I mean.

When I was growing up, my parents were divorced, so I spent my entire childhood doing the back-and-forth thing between “two homes.” They also both remarried. So, in each of those places, I had a male father figure. So, I had two half-time dads, a dad, and a step-dad.

I was about twelve or so when I consciously understood that my two half-time dads did not equal one dad. To a casual observer, it might seem as though me being with each of them for half-time would be the same as having one whole dad.

But it was not.

I am not 100% sure how I came to this realization, but I do remember consciously thinking it as I stood in the driveway one day. It might have been because I was an eye-witness to what a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. She lived with both her married parents, my mom, and my step-dad. I could see quite clearly that what she had and what I had were two very different things.

Family photos of other people’s whole families were on the walls, but not of my whole family. Family photos were taken, but not with me in them.

I was the only one who had divided Christmases, divided birthdays. I’ve seen this referred to as “Two Christmases,” or “Two birthdays” in some divorce literature. These are euphemisms. My dad wasn’t welcome on Christmas morning, and my mom wasn’t welcome on Christmas Eve. I don’t think either of them would have come, had they been invited. They were too busy with their new families. And when I got a little older and my parents lived further apart, I traveled alone during the holidays to see each of them. Nobody else had to do that.

Third way:

Everybody’s pain and grief caused by injustice deserves to be expressed, acknowledged, healed, and prevented so that others don’t experience the same thing.

Not only does the inequality happen on the level of the family, it happens in the wider culture. The child lives under a burden and is not allowed to feel anything negative about the particular family form that was chosen for him. If he feels grief about missing half of himself, it is “disenfranchised grief,” grief that is not acceptable to the wider culture.

Our culture is profoundly concerned about adults and their happiness in their marital, sexual and reproductive choices. But we fail to understand that when we redefine all of those things to expand those choices, the children must live under structural inequalities, double standards and unreciprocated demands.

Read Jennifer Johnson’ whole report on Marriage and Equality. We can defend man-woman marriage! We can defend the rights of children to their own parents! Get the arguments you need by downloading the full report Marriage and Equality on your Kindle for $2.99. Or, purchase a physical copy of this brand new Report here.



NEWSFLASH: YOU Don’t Get To Decide What Marriage Is

by Jennifer Johnson  

This article was first published at Clash Daily on September 1, 2016.

There is a lot of controversy over the Catholic annulment process, both within the Catholic world and outside of it. I am grateful that the Church has such a process, but there is confusion about it. So I thought of a way to explain it by using a hypothetical story about a same-sex couple:

Once upon a time there was a man and a man. They fell in love and decided to get married. They planned a large wedding in a beautiful church. They obtained a marriage license from the county and found a minister to conduct the ceremony. They planned a beautiful reception.


On the big day, all their family and friends came. The ceremony went smoothly and the reception was a lot of fun. Everybody had a wonderful time and many people remarked on what a joyous occasion it was. They went on a honeymoon and after they got back, they decided to buy a home together. They hung their marriage certificate on the wall. They were very happy.

After a few years, one of the men slowly became convinced that he was not living the way God wanted him to live. He eventually submitted his life to Jesus Christ, and sought a divorce. He started going to church that disagreed with same-sex marriage and made a lot of friends there. He had gotten to know a Christian woman there, and they became close friends. He told her of his past life and she didn’t seem to care. They loved each other and decided to marry.

They knew the ancient Christian teaching regarding marriage, and wondered if perhaps God viewed the man as still being married in God’s sight. So they went to the pastor with this question. The pastor told them that no, just because the man went through a wedding ceremony and had a marriage certificate, did not mean that he was married in God’s sight. The pastor assured them that the man was free to marry the woman, since he had not been married in God’s sight when he was with the other man.

Any Christian can see that this would be true, if it were to happen. Same-sex marriages are not marriages in God’s sight. If somebody in the situation above were to later desire marriage with somebody of the opposite sex, they would be free to marry since they were not truly married in the first place. As Christians, we say this because the ancient teaching is clear in passages such as Matthew 19.

Unfortunately, the same thing can happen in male/female marriages. Sometimes they are not married in God’s sight even though they had a wedding, a reception, a marriage certificate from the county, children, and a divorce. Even civil law acknowledges this concept, and calls these situations “putative marriages.” This is a problem that has grown along with the sexual revolution. So-called “sexual liberation” has distorted people’s understanding of marriage, to such an extent that some of them fail to enter into real marriages in the first place.

I am grateful to the Catholic Church for having a process to determine whether or not marriages are valid. Although I am sympathetic with some of the criticism of that process being made by orthodox Catholics, I am grateful the process exists. And it needs to exist as a matter of justice. Marriage is a public commitment, a public institution, not a private one. Determinations regarding it should happen in a public forum.

Catholics call this “the external forum” which is a tribunal that exists to make these kinds of determinations. Because marriage is a public institution, I disagree with “internal forum” or private/personal determinations regarding the status of a marriage in God’s sight. Our own testimony, feeling, and conscience regarding the status of our marriage is certainly valuable, but it is not enough. “Private marriage” is oxymoron, and so private (aka “internal forum”) determinations of it can’t satisfy the requirement for justice. If we rely solely on a private or “internal forum” solution regarding the status of our marriage, we are being the judge and the petitioner in our own case. It should be clear that justice can’t be rendered, since there is a conflict of interest. The judge needs to be separate from the petitioner.

Once such a marriage has been found as invalid by the external forum, it is referred to as a putative marriage. A putative marriage as some of the elements of a valid marriage, such as legitimate children. A valid marriage can be likened to a circle, and a putative marriage can be likened to a circle with a part missing. It looks like a complete circle until it is examined more closely by people who know how to do such things.

Are there any such procedures in non-Catholic Christian churches? I am not aware of them but I’m certainly no expert on what goes on in those churches. I would appreciate learning about these procedures in other denominations.

For Christians, an invalid marriage is a relationship that looks like a marriage yet was never a marriage in God’s sight. Somebody who was in such a relationship is free to marry. He is not in violation of verses such as Matthew 19 if he should seek marriage in the future. 

Jennifer Johnson is Associate Director and Treasurer of the Ruth Institute and Contributor for Ruth Institute Blog.

 

 

 


A Letter to God From a Child of Divorce

By Jennifer Johnson

This article was first posted at onepeterfive.com on

girl

Dear God,

Will you please tell book publishers to stop publishing books about “two homes” for children of divorce? Every time I see one, I want to scream. I know those authors and publishers think they are performing a needed service, but in reality they are whitewashing an extremely painful experience that never ends. Please tell me You understand what I’m saying because it seems to confuse everybody else. Let me explain. Take this quote, from I Am Living in Two Homes, by Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones:

It’s a grownup choice, through no fault of your own. Your dad and I are happier in two different homes.

Notice the word “choice.” It reminds me of “pro-choice.” “Choice” has been awfully hard on recent generations, Lord, don’t You agree?


Who is weaker, Lord: children or adults? I always thought children were weaker, but this book makes me feel like I was supposed be the strong one and sacrifice my happiness for the sake of my parents’ happiness. Isn’t that backwards, Lord? It seems like the older generations had a lot more family unity than more recent ones. Looking back, you can see that their parents sacrificed their “choices” in favor of their children.

Lord, I am reminded of what you said in Matthew 18:

Woe to the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to the man by whom the offense cometh.

I love my family, Lord, very much, and I know You do too, but frankly, I’m offended. Very offended. In important ways it’s not their fault so please don’t be mad at them. When professionals who know better are silent, how can the normal people who listen to their advice be blamed? The psychological, psychiatric, and medical communities have abandoned people like me by not speaking out to defend the natural family, even though they know it is the best environment for children. My entire culture has gone off the rails by propagating beliefs like these:

  • “Kids are resilient.”
  • “Babies are blank slates.”
  • “Kids can and do thrive under any number of family configurations.”

“The Sexual Revolution has blinded adults to the structural inequalities they are creating for their children. They have all embraced ideas of “freedom,” that are very heavy and burdensome for children who grew up like me and have to live with adults’ “choices.” For a long time I have tried to be a trooper and carry the burden as well as I could, Lord, but I am tired. So very tired.” It hurts so badly that my dad spends more time with his step-children than he does with me, and my mom had created a new family that I am not fully part of. Worse, I can’t say anything about it because I’m afraid of their reaction. And what good will it do? Will they get back together if I speak out? How can they get back together when they are already remarried with new families? I figured out a long time ago that there is no escape, and it makes me profoundly sad.

In addition to the professional communities mentioned, almost all of the Christian churches have abandoned me. Even my own church, the Catholic Church, the only Church that upheld the fullness of Your teaching about marriage and human sexuality in recent decades, is considering it. Will You please talk to the Catholics, Lord? I need somebody to go to bat for me. If they abandon me, where will I go? Children don’t have any money to put into the basket on Sundays. Let their tears be an offering instead, OK?

This verse in Your Word at Psalms 56:8 gives me comfort:

You keep track of all my sorrows.You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

In the meantime, publishers need to know that we don’t need any more books whitewashing children’s pain of living in “two homes.” In fact, we need the opposite: we need books that encourage adults to live in “two homes” so that their children can live in one home. Yes, the children should live in one home, and the adults should be the ones to pack suitcases every week and make the back-and-forth trip. I’d appreciate it if you’d let them know that this is what they should be doing, instead of pushing that burden down to their children. I think this would wake them all up as to how heavy of a burden it really is.

Here is another thing we children of divorce can never understand: if one of my parents is too awful for my other parent to live with, then why am I packing my suitcase to go and stay at the awful person’s home on a regular basis? If they are so awful, then I shouldn’t be going there. Since I am going there regularly, then this means that they can’t be that bad. Either that, or I am being put into harm’s way.

Finally, Lord, will you please ask someone to write a book or make a movie telling adults that it is okay to stay together for the sake of the kids? I would be very grateful for that, and I know that other kids of divorce would too.

Sincerely,

An adult child of divorce who has been struggling with the aftermath for over four decades
Jennifer Johnson is the Associate Director for the Ruth Institute.


More than two Parents: Not so New and Not so Enlightened

From the United Families International blog on July 16, 2014.

by Diane Robertson, featuring quotes by Ruth Institute's Jennifer Johnson.

child sad 2

In 2013 California made it legally possible for children to have more than two parents. More states will surely follow suit. The diversity-in-family-structure-loving-liberals think this is enlightened. They’re working hard to bring society out of the dark ages of Married mother and father families into the “Brave New World” of many parents.

Except this idea isn’t so brave and isn’t so new. Some children have already had a similar experience through divorce and they are speaking out. The Ruth Institute is collecting stories from children of divorce. As it turns out divorced couples, remarried couples, step families, broken families, and shared custody don’t actually feel so enlightened to the children who grew up in these situations.

One such personal story, told by Jennifer Johnson, illustrates what it actually feels like growing up with 5 parents. Johnson’s parents divorced when she was about three. Her mother remarried once and her father remarried twice. Johnson explains what her life was like growing up with five parents:


“it means going back and forth between all those households on a regular basis, never having a single place to call home during your most tender and vulnerable years. It means having divided Christmases, other holidays, and birthdays–you spend one with one parent, and another with the other parent, never spending a single holiday or birthday with both parents. Imagine having each of your parents completely ignore the other half of you, the other half of your family, as if it did not even exist. Meanwhile, imagine each parent pouring their energy into their new families and creating a unified home for their new children. These experiences give you the definite impression of being something leftover, something not quite part of them. You live like that on a daily basis for 18+ years.”

So why would so many adults push for this type of family brokenness and even make it possible for many adults to have legal control over a child? It’s called selfishness. Adults want this so they can have children and have sex with whoever they please and at whatever stage of life they wish. They want this sort of life legal so their partner can make medical and educational decisions for their children. They want convenience for themselves, but not their children.

Johnson writes about a woman, Masha Gessen, a prominent LGBT activist, who grew up with a married mother and father and speaks frankly about how her children have 5 parents. Gessen bemoans the fact that there, as yet, isn’t a way for her children to have all of their parents legally:

“I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.”

Johnson’s replies to Gessen simply calling out the truth of the matter:

“If what I had is so great, then why don’t they want it as children? Here’s my conclusion: they want it as adults but not as children. They want the benefits of the socially conservative family structure when they are children. But as adults, they want sexual freedom, or at least they want to appear ‘open minded’ and ‘tolerant’ about others sexual choices, even at the expense of children, even though they themselves would never want to live under what they advocate. It’s a bizarre sort of a ‘win-win’ for them, I guess.”

Children don’t need more than two legal parents. Society doesn’t need diversity in family structure. All children and all of society needs responsible adults who marry before having children, work daily on a loving relationship and together raise their children in stable, happy homes. It can be done and would be the source of a truly “enlightened” society!

 




World Congress of Families speakers lament sexual revolution, family breakdown

By PEGGY FLETCHER STACK

This article was first Published at The Salt Lake Tribune on October 29, 2015, and last updated October 31, 2015. 

On the third day of the World Congress of Families meeting in Salt Lake City, stirring speeches about assaults on the family from the government and media, costs of the sexual revolution, and the urgent need to protect religious freedom rang through the Grand America ballroom.

The family was "ordained of God," the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said in a plenary session of the international gathering Thursday morning. "In essence, it is the heart of God by which we experience the fullness of God's glory."

The idea of the family "does not stem from a political ideology," said Rodriguez, who ministers to a multiethnic evangelical congregation in Sacramento, Calif., "and I don't believe the U.S. Supreme Court has the power and authority to redefine it."

Close, loving families led by a mother and father provide, he said, the "antidote to poverty, gang violence and economic disparities. ... It is a God-ordained firewall against so many ills."

An attack on the institution, Rodriguez said, "is an attack on communities that need it most."

Jennifer Roback Morse added her voice to the chorus of worried Christians, sounding the alarm about the aftermath — and victims — of the so-called "sexual revolution."


Morse — who was named one of the "Catholic Stars of 2013" along with Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and others — was so troubled by what she sees as the decline of marriage that she launched the nonprofit Ruth Institute in 2008 to raise awareness about the costs.

The list of those victimized by the family breakdown includes children of divorce, children of unwed mothers, women who have been abandoned and children of same-sex couples, she said. "Men, women and children have been harmed ... by the lies [about marriage]."

Society's view of sexuality "is a totalitarian ideology," the Catholic scholar said. "Even [its] most ardent opponents don't know how insidious the revolution is."

Morse then challenged the gathering to speak against sexual freedom and its consequences.

"We are up against powerful people in our world," she said, "but Bill Gates and George Soros do not have enough money to silence all of us."

The Rev. Paige Patterson, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and current president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, tackled the topic of religious freedom.

It began, he said, when God created the first couple — Adam and Eve.

"God could have created automatons," the Baptist preacher said, "but our progenitors were created with the freedom to reject God or honor him."

The Constitution's First Amendment outlaws any government-established religion and forbids limits to the "free exercise of religion" — unless the state has a compelling interest to do so.

"Those concerned about the future of the family can no longer lend support to any candidate who doesn't vigorously support the First Amendment or is seeking to impose restrictions on religious freedoms," he said. "All such [office seekers] must be resisted."

Without religious freedom, Patterson said, "all other freedoms become relatively meaningless."

The Utah gathering wraps up Friday. The 10th World Congress of Families is tentatively scheduled for May 16-18, 2016, in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

 



Which Same-Sex Marriage Supporter Is Correct?

By Jennifer Johnson

This article was first published July 9, 2015, at The Federalist.

Some same-sex marriage supporters say redefining marriage will strengthen it. Others say it will destroy marriage. They can’t both be right.

Some same-sex marriage supporters have very different goals. It’s worth looking at these goals, because they are in direct conflict with one another. One side is right, and the other side is not. Which is which?

Some who support same-sex marriage argue it will strengthen the family. For example, President Obama said this on June 26, 2015 regarding the SCOTUS ruling that made same-sex marriage legal across the United States: “This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land… It’s a victory for their children, whose families will now be recognized as equal to any other.”


Others take a very different view. Masha Gessen, for example, is an author who is perhaps most well-known as being an expert on Vladimir Putin. She was honored at the State Department in June 2014 for her gay-rights activism in Russia. She is a same-sex marriage supporter who believes the institution of marriage should not exist. She had this to say about marriage in 2012 at a writer’s conference in Sydney:

Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie. The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist….

I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.

Obama’s view is not compatible with Gessen’s view. How do we know which is correct?

If somebody wants to destroy marriage, would they support a policy initiative that strengthened marriage? Of course not. Thus, Gessen really does believe that same-sex marriage will harm if not destroy marriage.

Second, Gessen’s goals are coming to pass as a result of same-sex marriage. Here are two examples. In response to a lesbian marriage and custody dispute, California enacted a bill that allows a child to have more than two legal parents. Gessen correctly argued that man-woman marriage is not compatible with her desire for an unlimited number of legal parents for children. Same-sex marriage has accomplished this goal in California. The state of Alabama tried to abolish marriage licenses as a response to same-sex marriage. Gessen wants to abolish marriage, and abolishing marriage licenses is a step towards abolishing marriage.

What Rearranging Families Does to Children

Remember Gessen’s desire for five legal parents for her children? Let’s examine how much damage to the family is already possible before same-sex marriage came along. The following diagram is not hypothetical. This is a real-life situation.

Johnson1

Locate the oval that says, “Older half-sister.” This diagram is based on her experience. She has her mom (Wife 1) and dad—those two are her legal parents. She also has three step-parents: one step-dad and two step-moms (who are labeled Wife 2 and Wife 3). This looks quite fractured, doesn’t it? But consider that several popular cultural ideas made this possible:

  • The kids will be fine if the adults are happy.
  • Kids get over divorce.
  • Kids don’t care about their parents’ new love interests or new children.
  • The government has a duty to enforce all divorces.

Gessen advocates that all of the adults should be legal parents, not just the natural mother and father. So instead of the older half-sister living between (only!) two homes from the time she was three years old, she would live between three or more homes. Would adults ever choose to spend years living like that? Of course not. That is one example of the new kind of family breakdown.

President Obama Agrees that Fatherlessness Is Painful

Another example: after what he has said about his father’s absence from his life, would President Obama choose to be raised as a child in a lesbian marriage? I can’t see how he would, since he has spoken about how painful it has been to live without his father. He has made remarks about the importance of fathers on more than one occasion. In 2013, for example, he said: “I was raised by two wonderful grandparents. But I still wish that I had a dad who was not only around, but involved, another role model… That’s why I try to be, for Michelle and my girls, what my father was not for my mother and me.”

That’s what marriage is about now: to affirm adults in their identities and their choices. What happens to kids is an afterthought.

I commend President Obama for being that kind of man for his family. When a child is raised in an intact home with his married biological parents, it’s like winning the lottery. But fewer and fewer kids have access to that kind of life. Why? One reason is that kind of life creates demands that may go against the adults’ sexual identities and sexual desires. That’s what marriage is about now: to affirm adults in their identities and their choices. What happens to kids is an afterthought.

Gessen was raised with her own married parents, and I’ve never seen her state that she wished it were otherwise. She wants to destroy marriage as an ideal, not only for her own children but for everybody’s children. President Obama was not raised with his married parents. He has lamented the absence of his father and he wishes to strengthen marriage.

Gessen is correct about same-sex marriage and Obama is not. When will same-sex marriage supporters realize they’ve been naive?

Jennifer Johnson is the associate director for the Ruth Institute, which reaches out to those who have been harmed by our culture's toxic sexual ideology. She is a former libertarian who did not vote "yes" on California's Proposition 8 in 2008, and serves on the Testimonial Council for the International Children's Rights Institute.


Breaking the Sexual Revolution's New Taboos

By Jennifer Johnson

This article was first published June 30, 2015, at the Christian Post.

A taboo is a subject, word, or activity that is avoided because it is offensive or embarrassing. It seems to me that children who are not raised by their married biological parents are subject to a new kind of taboo. They are not encouraged to discuss what it is like to live in a situation where one or both biological parents were amputated from their lives on purpose. I'm thinking of the following kinds of people:


Children of divorce
Children of unmarried parents
Donor conceived children
Children in a "single-parent-by-choice" household
Some adopted children
Children with falsified birth records

In addition, there are others who live under the Sexual Revolution's new taboos:

Men, grandparents, etc., who had a biologically-related child aborted against their will
Children with an aborted sibling (or half-sibling)
Children with frozen embryo-siblings (or half-siblings)
People divorced against their will

All of these situations have become legitimate due to the Sexual Revolution, which was a cultural shift surrounding marital, sexual and reproductive choices that has transpired over the past 40-50 years.

Not only are these people not allowed to discuss any pain of living in those situations, our language does not describe the experience very well. If they do discuss problems they have, they are labeled as whiners or are diagnosed as having some kind of treatable mental illness. When these kids have problems with depression, for example, they may be said to "have issues." However, I think it's very possible that they are responding as a normal person would when living with stress, living with injustice, and living in a social environment that is inhospitable to the unique kind of pain caused by those situations.

The Sexual Revolution's new taboos mean that we must avoid offending people who believe in the new morality surrounding marital, sexual and reproductive choices. Also, offending those people goes against popular cultural beliefs such as:

"The kids will be fine if the adults are happy"
"Babies are blank slates"
"Kids are resilient"
"Freedom to choose is a woman's fundamental right"

Here is an example of what I mean. It's a message I received a few days ago from a child of divorce, copied here with his approval:

"I want to share my testimony online about my family upbringing. I can only do it if it is done anonymously, I don't think I can really share a very public testimony about the mistakes of my parents without guaranteed anonymity. In their own individual way, my parents are too sensitive to handle that kind of criticism."

This is an example of how the popular cultural belief of "Kids are resilient," has an unspoken corollary: "Your parents are fragile, so you are duty-bound to keep quiet about their marital, sexual and reproductive choices."

At the expense of their own feelings, people in those situations become responsible for maintaining their parents' (or others) feelings. To object to new kinds of marital, sexual and/or reproductive choices made by others is to break the taboo and to risk sanctions.

The Sexual Revolution did not remove any taboos. It only shifted them from one realm to another. Isn't it time we broke the Sexual Revolution's new taboos?

What do you think? Do people in those situations live under a taboo? If you were subject to one of the above situations, do you have complete liberty to talk about any pain you experienced because of it? If not, why not?

Jennifer Johnson is the associate director at the Ruth Institute.

 


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