The dissolution of any marriage is tragic. In fact, the southern novelist Pat Conroy may have said it best, declaring that “every divorce is the death of a small civilization.” It is.
Tabloids have been abuzz lately regarding the high profile split between Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The couple has a six-year-old daughter, Suri. I don’t know much about them, but their split seems a bit unusual, even for Hollywood.
Prior to the divorce proceedings, the Cruises were arguably the highest-profile members of the Church of Scientology, a movement that was started in 1950 by the release of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard.
To be sure, Scientology and Christianity are not compatible. What struck me, though, was an article in Sunday’s New York Times about how the organization makes it difficult to get divorced.
Church representatives apparently allude to the challenges of marriage even at the wedding service, offering up the following warning to newlyweds:
Know that life is stark and often somewhat grim, and tiredness and fret and pain and sickness do beget a state of mind where spring romance is far away and dead.
Not exactly the type of happy prose found inside a Hallmark card, is it?
But this is what really got me: The article explained that before a couple is allowed to divorce, they’re required to undergo intensive counseling – though it’s unorthodox, to be sure. In one described scene a couple was required to sit inside a room answering questions while hooked up to a special device known as an E-meter. It seems Scientologists believe that such a machine can detect unexpressed thoughts deep inside a person’s brain.
The article continued:
… a chaplain, also known as an auditor, questioned [the couple] for hours. “You do it until the needle is flat, until the sign on the machine doesn’t read any more thoughts,” [a former member] said. “They think that once you unload all these bad things, you’re going to fall madly back in love with each other.” And when they didn’t, Ms. Llywelyn said, she was assigned an in-house lawyer. “Scientologists aren’t allowed to sue each other,” she said, because of a policy to contain any public disputes.
To be candid, the set-up strikes me as peculiar, to say the least. E-meters? Reading thoughts?
But setting those matters aside, there is something admirable about trying to save a marriage through counseling, assuming the counseling is administered properly and fairly. There is also something good about a religious institution trying to preserve marital commitment.
Today, both inside and outside the Christian church, marriages are discounted and discarded too quickly.
I have long thought that one of the greatest challenges facing the Christian church today is the state of Christian marriage.
The development of an “E-Meter” won’t solve anything – but taking marriage more seriously and treating our respective obligations with a greater sense of care is a very good place to start.
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