What I Like about Bart Barber’s Marriage Contract (Follow-up Post)

by Dave Miller on January 23, 2013 · 12 comments

I remain in somewhat the same position concerning this idea that I was last night when I wrote the previous post. It is a wild idea and I’m not sure whether is will work or even whether it should work. There are some issues. But there are also some things that I really like about this idea and I thought I would delineate those in a follow-up post here today. I thought about just altering the last one, or adding this as a comment, but I had nothing waiting to post, so here goes. Here are some of the things I like about Bart’s marriage contract.

1) It encourages engaged couples to think seriously about the importance of marriage and the commitment they are making. When you sign a $10,000 contract, it makes you think. Everyone tends to be starry-eyed about their wedding, but this would be a smack in the face of stone-cold reality.

2) It could give a couple (if the contract is enforceable) the impetus to work on their problems instead of taking the easy way out. If they knew they were going to have to write a $9990 check, they would be motivated to get some help and work things out.

3) Confession: I don’t particularly enjoy doing walk-in weddings. The couple often has little desire to honor God, but is just looking for a place and a preacher for a wedding. Any spiritual input is viewed as an imposition. (I know, I’m stereotyping, but I think it is a fairly accurate one). A contract like this would certainly cut those kinds of things down.  Of course, just demanding premarital counseling discourages many couples.

4) We all complain about the problem of rampant divorce. Bart is taking action. Again, I’m still wavering on whether it is good action or not. But it is action, an approach. It’s more than I am doing by just complaining about things.

5) As Bart says, the national statistics may not change, but Bart might be able to steer a few couples away from either tenuous marriages or disastrous divorces.

6) It could be a way to fund his 25th wedding anniversary Caribbean cruise.

Some of you have been pretty negative about this. Some have reflected my ambivalence. But what are the potential positives of such an approach?

1 Dave Miller January 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Positives, here, people.

2 Bob Cleveland January 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm

As far as I’m concerned, and I do hold Bart in high regard, this is another evidence of the church resorting to the world’s ways to solve Spiritual problems. I think it has no place among believers.

3 Jon January 23, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Well, I think it’s nice that Bart wants to take action to minimize the potentiality of divorce. Thank you, Bart. And what may work even better is if we teach the institution of marriage, its meaning, its purpose, and its place in the fabric of God’s broader design for creation. Marriage promotes society and holds eschatological significance insofar as it points to the fulfillment of God’s plan.

4 Dave Miller January 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I would agree that the best marriage counseling forum is the pulpit on Sunday morning (and night). Consistent Bible teaching and discipleship is the key.

5 Randall Cofield January 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Best comment to-date.

Couples who are being fed spiritually, are growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth, and are functionally active in the Kingdom work of the Church are very unlikely candidates for divorce.

6 rick January 23, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I appreciate Bart’s effort, and I wish him well.

In the previous discussion there was no mention of why Christians or the people we marry divorce. Personally, I believe this is because we do not have a sound theology of marriage. Our marriage practices, for better or for worse, do NOT reflect a Biblical ideal (no matter what Bill Gothard or James Dobson or even the Covenant folks will tell you), but instead reflect cultural norms and expectations.

Let me ask this, do our missionaries in India have the same problem with divorce in their churches that we have here in America? What about Africa or Southeast Asia? Is divorce the problem there that it is here? Or do we see that the divorce rate parallels the rate of the general population of the local area?

Seems like a Romans 12:2 issue more than anything else. I don’t see how the contract will address the causes of divorce. I don’t see how it will do anything other than add another cost to the the divorce. I appreciate the sentiment, but unless people are committed to staying married no matter what, then they aren’t going to.

About the only people I see this affecting are tightwads who would rather suffer in a bad marriage than give away $10K.

7 Greg Harvey January 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

I appreciate what he’s trying to do here: as a professional to some extent he’s exposed to malpractice as part of providing any form of counseling. This is an effort to establish a limited counterclaim against the practitioners of marriage that he certifies under the circumstance that they practice malpractice within their covenant relationship and specifically if they fail to fulfill the covenant by staying married.

Will it work? Nope. But is it a great discussion point? I think so. Furthermore, claiming that the marriage is valuable and he as practitioner is helping establish it and shares in the value that is created–not as an employee of a church but as a professional–borders on novel from a conversation perspective.

We HAVE to change the conversation on marriage. Just wagging our fingers isn’t working. That means it becomes essentially an education-based approach and includes asking newlyweds how much damage they think they will do to their future children if they fail to succeed in keeping the marriage covenant intact. And then laying down facts to show them what happens. Things like the percentage of children in poverty that are in single-parent homes.

This isn’t about shame, either. It’s about getting the adult portion of the brain working hard to be successful at being a responsible human being. At the end of the day, that is what the freedom from sin that is offered through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ affords us: the opportunity to be the grown ups that we ought to be.

8 dean January 23, 2013 at 7:24 pm

One thing that I emphasize over and over again in premarital counseling is that the couple has invited me into their marriage. At any moment in the future I am free to call and ask them how successfully they are doing the things that we discuss. Bart is in a way emphasizing there is a relationship between the pastor and the couple whose marriage he performs that continues past the ceremony.

9 Bruce H. January 24, 2013 at 8:10 am

Positive? Ok. This is the best bad idea I have seen to try to keep a marriage together.

10 steve tanner January 24, 2013 at 9:48 am

When in Arkansas and our Governor was Mike Huckabee he instituted a program where couples could enter into a covenant marriage legally. Those already married could make their marriage a covenant marriage. The terms were a couple had to attend a covenant marriage seminar before they could get married and would have to attend counseling before a legal divorcee could be granted. What is wrong with that?

11 Dave Miller January 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm

I have no trouble with it!

12 Jess Alford January 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I think most couples will not know if it is a legally binding contract. I wouldn’t even give them a copy to keep. I would just keep the one they
signed. They will always remember the contract after the minister goes over it with them.

Bart doesn’t have a beard, so I think the couples wouldn’t place much stock in it anyway.

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