Inconvenient religion

King's College, an evangelical Christian school based in Manhattan, has kicked out Dinesh D'Souza for getting engaged before he's quite finished divorcing his wife.   D'Souza is making quite a stink about it. ("I had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced.") Ann Althouse also is puzzled, as are many of her readers; the discussion wandered into the usual weeds over the image of God as the lawgiver vs. the kindly old gentleman (as C.S. Lewis put it) who didn't have very firm ideas about prohibiting bad behavior but instead "liked to see the young people enjoying themselves."   Gradually, however, a couple of traditional thinkers waded in and tried to stem the tide of rampant moral relativism.   All of commenter Paddy O's posts are worth reading:
Jesus, as you note, took the rougher part on himself, while giving grace to others.  Again, it just seems curious that of all the very tough demands Jesus makes on us, some are seen as selective and some are seen as absolute, the selective ones seeming to be applied to that which we would rather not give up, and the absolute seeming to be applied to others who we would like to manage.
Paddy O also offered the useful suggestion that D'Souza should follow the example of Henry VIII and start his own college.

Whether we look at the issue from the point of view of religious principles or just etiquette or mental health, I think it would take a strange view of marriage and commitment to get engaged before you finish divorcing.  Isn't there some essential confusion here?  I've never understand the point of marrying at all if one takes that vague a view of whether he's in a marriage or not.


E Hines said...

A couple of things on this.

On the question of whether one is in a marriage or not, I've written before about a certain friend of mine. One of the problems she had for years after her divorce (and still has to some extent) is whether her secular divorce counts as a divorce in God's eyes. She cites Bible passages that seem to insist that she cannot leave the marriage under any circumstance. Other, equally devout, Christians do not have that interpretation of the permanence of marriage.

On the question of the degree of impropriety of becoming engaged before a divorce is final, I see a spectrum to the dissolution of the existing marriage. If the three are just waiting out the clock, getting all the i's crossed and the t's dotted, or grunting through the waiting period some jurisdictions require before a divorce becomes final (never mind the purpose of the waiting period), there would seem no impropriety beyond offending bureaucrats.

If, though, the engagement comes while the marriage still is active and before any discussion between the spouses has occurred concerning the marriage's dissolution (and never minding the meaning of the engagement on the stage of dissolution), then the engagement seems improper.

These are, to be sure, extreme cases in the spectrum (though maybe the first aligns somewhat with d'Souza's situation), but they might illustrate the principle.

Eric Hines

Joseph W. said...

I don't see anything strange about this. If he and his wife are divorcing in the first place, it's because they are planning to be either (1) single, or (2) married to other people. So, he announces in public that his plan is (2) instead of (1) - where is the issue?

I've never understood the point of marrying at all if one takes that vague a view of whether he's in a marriage or not.

Well, one hopes that he and his wife weren't planning to get divorced when they did marry, and didn't take it so lightly before this "breakup." That falls under Ms. Althouse's comment: "What's the morality problem — beyond the basic moral problem of divorce?" That's where the real moral issue lies - how serious they were about the marriage, before this "breakup," what ever it was.

(Even a strict reading of Jesus' admonition - if you put your wife away, except for fornication, you send her out to commit adultery - focuses on consummation rather than announcement of the upcoming marriage; but since the custom he was attacking provided for very fast divorces, he didn't address what to do during a two-year delay when the marriage was effectively, but not officially, over.)

Grim said...

There's a similar issue with death. Marriage is 'until death do us part,' but even then people feel free to butt in.

Lots of people think it is in very bad taste for a widow/er to remarry within a year or so of the death of the spouse. There's a period of grieving that is considered seemly. It's often thought that a widow/er who does not go through a public period of grief satisfying to the community is not properly honoring their marriage, even though they may have been entirely faithful through the marriage's natural term.

It's not surprising to discover that people have similar feelings about divorce.

douglas said...

I was going to say something about King's College being evangelical, they may hold a higher standard, which D'Souza might have been reasonably expected to be aware of, but I just went to their website and read the 'About' and 'Campus Life' pages, and not one mention of religion, Jesus, God or anything even about values exactly. One brief mention of 'honor', but what that is depends greatly on one's values.

Also, it appears he was allowed to resign FWIW.

Anonymous said...

Really, what are the facts, here?

According to the underlying story, the guy took his "fiancé" to a conference and slept with her there before he filed for divorce.

Sound like your basic affair to destroy a marriage.


Grim said...

You could be right about the facts. I only know what Tex put forward; I'm otherwise trying hard to ignore this story. I don't really want to know the facts about his failed marriage; I would prefer to remain in blessed ignorance on the subject as much as possible.

I'm not sure just why I feel that way, except that I never liked this fellow by a sort of instinct -- something about how he writes and thinks bothers me. That being the case, I am sure I am disinclined to be fair to him; my judgment where he is concerned is sure to be faulty. That being so, it may be best not to judge at all.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I think it is none of my business. It's just that people seemed a little too eager to run with the idea that the only thing involved was a dicey timing of the engagement, rather than a homewrecking affair, so I just decided to follow the links.....

Most of the time, people, including evangelicals, choose to presume innocence. They would easily forgive an early engagement, but not blatant cheating, especially if they know the wife. I figured there just had to be more to it, and it turns out, there was.


Ddr said...

The bible seems pretty clear (to me, anyway) on the permanence of marriage. One can divorce a spouse for infidelity, but nowhere have I seen that it is okay to remarry once that is done - quite the contrary.