Below the Belt: Dr. Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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30 Responses

  1. Jean says:

    Duane:

    God created the marital estate in Gen 2;
    Marital and family issues comprise 3 of the 10 Commandments;
    Both Jesus and Paul addressed marital and family issues multiple times; and
    Paul said that marriage is a visible representation of Christ and His Church.

    Would it be an overstatement to argue that the very health (or decline) of the visible church on earth is tied to the health (or unhealthiness) of Christian families?

    If biblical marriage and family formation is important to the heath of the church, then shouldn’t those topics that be an area of focus for Christian catechesis? Perhaps in many cases repentance by church bodies who have let these topics slide for too long.

    Thank you for raising these issues in a thoughtful and thought provoking manner.

  2. Michael says:

    Jean,

    I think you make some very good points.

    The problem as I see it is that we have tried to exercise moral authority on the culture in an area in which we have lost our moral authority by our own actions and inaction.

    We need to clean up our own house before we open a house cleaning service…

  3. Duane Arnold says:

    #1 Jean

    All you say is true. I also think that our RC and EO brethren have a good case for the sacramental nature of marriage – after all, in the Church vows are made at baptism, marriage and, in some places, ordination.

    To be really honest, we (i.e. the Church) have not been really great at catechesis concerning marriage and family life, often because we have been tied to the culture. If you look at the Christian “marriage help” books from the 60s and 70s, the assumption was that in a “Godly marriage”, the husband was the head, the wife did not work outside the home, etc.

    Today, I see few “young couples” groups in churches. I think they are important, not only for socialization, but for fellowship and learning from others in the same situation. Couples today live in a far different world of debt, obligations and jobs than I experienced. It calls for “advanced juggling” – and that can be learned from others…

  4. Duane Arnold says:

    #2 Michael

    Nicely said…

  5. Erunner says:

    Duane, I think your three session counseling was and is wise. I’ve seen pastors pretty much set themselves up as giving permission for a couple to marry. They also took on marital counseling without handing off a tough situation to professionals as they saw that as unbiblical. Pastors counseling heroin addicts etc. is also a bad idea. To our great harm some pastor’s idea they were qualified to counsel everyone didn’t pan out. Sadly there are still those who refuse to acknowledge the place for sound christian psychiatry or counseling. As a result needless pain continues.

  6. Jean says:

    Michael,

    Let me clarify that the only thing on my mind in comment #1 is Christians and the Church. I am not in favor of the churches lecturing the pagan culture.

    As citizens I recognize each voters right to vote their conscience as voters. But that is another topic.

    Duane,

    I thought of the RC sacrament of marriage too as I was writing my first comment. I don’t know a lot about that (and RCs have a different definition of a Sacrament from a Lutheran), but I would enjoy learning how the EO see a sacrament of marriage if you or Xenia care to comment.

  7. Xenia says:

    There is a lot to be said for a sacramental understanding of marriage.

    We’ve been married for over 40 years now, and we have always had a great marriage. We were married by a preacher we found in the yellow pages, in his house trailer in front of his artificial fire place. The little ceremony was interrupted by the phone ringing. Kind of a bleak “wedding,” but I got my Eddie and that’s all that mattered.

    Ten years ago or so, our EO priest suggested that we have an Orthodox wedding, which we did. This was a real wedding, with flowers and cake and more importantly, all the prayers of the Church.

    This event has had a profound effect on our marriage, which as I said, was always good. But something changed…. the idea of sacrificing our lives for each other seems to be the theme now.

  8. Xenia says:

    I’ll write a bit about the EO view of marriage this afternoon. Thanks for asking, Jean!

  9. Duane Arnold says:

    #6 Jean

    I’ll leave it to Xenia to comment on the EO!

  10. Josh the Baptist says:

    I think I’m out of things to say on the “gay” issue.

    Marital counselling seems like the touchiest thing for a pastor. I’m betting when they get there, 1 of the 2 has already decided its over, and the counselling is just their due diligence. How do you convince someone like that to stay married? I’m guessing you don’t, which is why there are so many divorces.

  11. Papias says:

    I agree with your points on counseling and pre/marriage. Setting limitations on what people should expect from their pastor in these kinds of circumstances can only be a good thing. People need to know that their marriage success or failure lies in their hands and not anyone else.
    When I was in SOM at CC I felt the same way about counseling someone and then seeing them in church. Its kinda awkward to have someone come up to you afterwards and tell their friends how much you helped them – when you know it was the Lord. And that you know about them than you would normally know about someone.

    I don’t know about “the Church” being tolerant of divorce. I can only speak in about seeing the results in the life of my wife’s family and if I was asked for my opinion I would give it. Same as any other subject.

    “I would not feel comfortable, for the reasons stated above, in a pro-active LGBT congregation. Nor, however, would I feel comfortable in a congregation in which anti-Gay activism was the order of the day.”

    And I assume that there are more than these two extremes?

  12. Papias says:

    Josh – “You can only counsel who is sitting in front of you.”

    Which in my experience is usually just one of the two.

    If both show up then there may be a chance still. I would point them both to Matt 19 and talk about Jesus’ words about it. Of course there may be other factors but you have to start somewhere.

    I am not sure its anyones job to try to convince someone to stay married if they have already made up their mind to divorce. “If you can talk someone into being married then someone else can talk them out of being married.”

  13. Duane Arnold says:

    #11 Papias

    Yes, there are more than the two extremes… there’s a whole “center” that is confused about how to react with pressure being constantly exerted from the two extremes.

  14. Papias says:

    Duane,

    I don’t know about the confusion in the center?

    How about the church says “We love you but it we would not be comfortable with in performing your wedding in our church.”

    That’s neither approving nor being anti-gay.

    …of course the entire discussion is more nuanced than I have presented….

  15. Papias says:

    “How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice.

    They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in Spirit. They are in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit.

    They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another.

    Side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another, they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts… Psalms and hymns they sing to one another.

    Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present, and where He is, there evil is not.”

    Tertullian.
    To my wife, Book 2, Chapter 8

  16. Duane Arnold says:

    #14 Papias

    Love the Tertullian quote!

    No, I have no problem with the centrist position you put forward, but the pressure still comes from both sides, even when you approach the issue with moderation… At least that’s what I’ve been witnessing of late…

  17. DavidM says:

    As a pastor, many years ago I let the congregation know that I am NOT a counselor. I would be happy to see a person and then direct them to the right situation for them. I at some point realized that I was in over my head in so many counseling situations. Better to send them to a professional.

    Helping a married couple through some rough times can be done, and that has happened many times, but I avoid the multiple sessions over an extended period of time.

    “Discipling” or mentoring someone is altogether different, and I find a great deal of joy in that process.

  18. em... again says:

    is it safe to say that the Christian needs to commit to the sanctity of the marriage vows knowing that God’s design for a perfect union in a fallen world may escape them?
    i hate that phrase, “all i want is for my children to be happy” as, rightly or wrongly, it really translates anything that makes my child happy is the right thing – so, isn’t, “i’m just not happy,” the most voiced reason for divorce?
    my first experience in the work place was in the 1950s – large company, mostly male and i had my share of men making passes, but there was a sense of right and wrong overriding
    my next entrance into the work arena was in the 1980s – the change in atmosphere was shocking… not so much the change in behaviors, but the lack of a sense of an absolute, it was as if everyone was back in their teens…
    now that does not mean that i think that there is no reason to leave a marriage as there are serious issues that do call for getting out
    #7 – sounds like those EO folk just like an excuse to have a party 🙂

  19. The New Victor says:

    i hate that phrase, “all i want is for my children to be happy” as, rightly or wrongly, it really translates anything that makes my child happy is the right thing – so, isn’t, “i’m just not happy,” the most voiced reason for divorce?

    My ex told me her mom said again and again, “make it work!” But ultimately said, “I just want you to be happy.” I don’t blame her mother (though that is a cop-out). Her daughter was responsible for her choices.

    Three years later, as I was kind of counseling the mother of our children to navigate through domestic violence, she told me that I was more helpful than her friends. I asked how, and she replied that at the time, they encouraged her to leave and find her own happiness.

    As if life were Eat, Pray, Love.

    Everything I told her would happen came true, even worse. These are the consequences when one loves themselves more then their neighbor, or their children.

    At least all of this got us back into the church, all of us. In keep reminding myself of this, that there is a bigger plan here at work, and whatever takes place is under God’s will.

  20. Em says:

    It isn’t wrong to be happy – but I think New Victor has identified something key in saying a self-centered happiness is not an attitude that God can bless (‘blessed’ means “happy” I understand)… ☺

  21. Duane Arnold says:

    #19 Victor

    I think that sometimes we forget that all relationships – friendship, marriage, church fellowship, being in a band, etc. – require sacrifice, i.e. putting others first. When we only look for our own happiness, the relationships fail…

  22. Duane Arnold says:

    So, thinking about em… again’s comment at #18 about re-entering the work place in the 80s and finding things had changed. As she said, “no absolutes”…

    This morning, I went on to Spotify to check the top ten songs in the US charts, based on streaming and radio play. Of the top ten, nine songs had a warning of explicit lyrics. I listened to all ten. The lyrics of the nine were indeed explicit, most being sexually demeaning about men or women or both. I started to reflect on the culture and how it effects the young man or woman who listens, is dating or even considering marriage.

    We certainly cannot have younger people in a bubble protected from the culture, but I wonder what the responsibility of the Church is in teaching and giving them tools to deal with the culture, especially as in regard to relationships?

  23. Michael says:

    Duane,

    We both understand the power of art and music.
    I’m trying to help raise a boy into Christian manhood.
    The biggest scourge of my life is popular, explicit rap music, which I am convinced has it’s origins and continued blessing from the pit of hell.
    When you combine audio filth with the visual filth of this culture it’s a wonder any young person doesn’t reach adulthood a deviant.

  24. Duane Arnold says:

    #23 Michael

    The thing that worries me, is when the first “definitions” of what a relationship with a girl or a boy might be, the defining point is sexual, demeaning and pornographic. When that is the starting point, how can they be moved to defining relationships in terms of giving, self-sacrifice, mutual respect, etc.?

  25. Michael says:

    Duane,

    I wish I had a good answer to your question.
    The answer should be seen in how relationships are modeled in front of them…but we’re not doing so well in that area either.
    I do know that if you want to witness unhinged debauchery, all you need do is go to a high school student parking lot at lunch time…

  26. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    That’s why I listen to country music – pure and American. 😉

  27. Michael says:

    I have to run, but I want to chime in quickly on MLD’s humorous, but somewhat true comment.
    I listened to a great deal of country growing up…and while there was cheating, drinking, and all manner of foolishness, the ideal was still a good relationship and infidelity was something to be ashamed of.
    There was something of a plaintive call to decency.

    This helped shape my own views about such.

    Rap is often about violent filth and degradation of women.

    Let’s not be surprised when it shapes the views of the people who listen to it…

  28. The New Victor says:

    I’m going to sound like a broken record to my kids, but I keep relating all of our actions back to “Love does no harm to its neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of The Law.” I always find teaching opportunities to stress this with the kids. It’s easy now, at 7 and 5 (well, little D is a bit headstrong).

    I imagine a class discussion with a group of kids:

    How is Love defined in The Bible?

    What does it mean that Love does no harm to its neighbor?

    How do the Ten Commandments codify “doing no harm?” If your car is stolen, say, that seems harmful. However, does stealing a 75 cent candy bar from the store hurt anybody?

    Coveting seems like it doesn’t harm anybody since it’s something inside one’s mind. In what ways is coveting harmful?

    How do we see ourselves hurting others in our lives, and they hurting us? Discuss… etc.

    Wrap up the class with forgiveness, and how mercy is a form of sacrifice, and how it shows love.

  29. Duane Arnold says:

    #28 The New Victor

    With your kids at 7 and 5, how do you see teaching them as they go into their teens, given the culture and, most especially, peer pressure?

  30. The New Victor says:

    Unfortunately, we had to put S7 into the public school. He already learned some choice swear words from another kid, in 1st grade. I never repeated how my mother swore, and switching from Lutheran school into the public school system in 7th grade is where I first started hearing kids use cuss words with regularity. Previously, I was last in the public schools in 4th grade.

    The other week, S7 got pantsed by another kid, due to the Captain Underpants books and movie. He also got into the video game Five Nights At Freddy’s, which is too violent for kids this age (it’s a game from the 90s, where you get trapped in a Chuck E. Cheese like establishment and the animatronics come to life at night and try to kill you). So I’ve had to clamp down on You Tube because he gets up before me on Saturdays and goes to watch videos of this.

    Given it’s only going to get worse with the violence, sex, if I can’t get a handle on this now, then I don’t know how it will be when he gets older, and we live in a gang-infested area to boot.

    I hope to provide a good example of meekness without being milquetoast. Finding other like-minded families to connect to, I think, would help. You do what your peers do, right? These are some of my thoughts off the top of my head.

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