Recommended

CP VOICES

Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

 Voices |

Steven Crowder and 'no-fault divorce'

YouTube/StevenCrowder

It seems there’s a new exposé on public figures acting privately horribly every few days. For
the past week, a viral video of American-Canadian political commentator Steven Crowder berating his heavily pregnant wife on security
footage back in 2021 has been everywhere.

Tweets, posts, and hot takes clog my feeds. Was it actually verbal abuse? Or just a tired husband in a cranky moment? Aren’t famous people entitled to having a bad day without being crucified online? Public opinions range from “that’s just a normal married fight” to “this is indicative of domestic violence.”

In the footage, Crowder accuses his wife of acting disrespectfully to him and all men in general, even while she softly repeats her offer to run his errands and get whatever he wants. So is the issue really her lack of respect, or his entitlement to coercive control?
Author Sheila Gregoire did a magnificent job of outlining how popular Christian authors have
dangerously defined masculine entitlement to demand unconditional respect from women, in
books such as Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.

“When she expresses an opinion, objection or even disappointment, she can violate the structure of the marriage. He, on the other hand, has the ability and right to label anything he doesn’t like as disrespectful,” Sheila explains in her article. She goes on to outline the advice Eggerichs’ book offers for situations like these, “‘Look at what you are doing wrong and give unconditional respect no matter what.’ In other words: Let him be in charge; defer to his leadership; follow his insight; give him sex on demand. The answer to his rageful emotional abuse is to be quieter, be more compliant, make yourself smaller.”

If his own actions are any indication, Crowder’s worldview aligns closely with Eggerichs’.
Despite positioning himself as a champion for Christian marriage, Crowder clearly felt perfectly entitled to treat his wife as he did, and there is absolutely nothing she could have done to hold him accountable.

Except to leave.

But “just leaving” is far harder than it might sound. Since his divorce, Crowder is loudly vocal
about repealing no-fault divorce laws. On the surface, it sounds good to some, as a solution to keep Christian families together. But is something more sinister under the surface?

In the United States, when divorce is granted without requiring one party to prove that the
other party is at fault for the failure of the marriage, it is called no-fault divorce. Cornell
University’s Legal Information Institute (LII) explains, “traditional fault grounds for divorce are
adultery, cruelty, confinement in prison, physical inability to have sexual intercourse, and
incurable insanity. Today, all states allow no-fault divorce but about two-thirds of the states
also still allow couples to obtain a divorce based on fault grounds.” (So I guess it’s fine to bail
on your marriage if your spouse is in an accident and can’t have sex anymore?)
To Christians who are enthusiastically supportive of marriage, the concept of no-fault divorce
may sound like a blank check for a society-wide attack on morality.

Christians who uphold the traditional values of lifelong commitment, understandably recoil from the idea of allowing a partner to change their mind whenever they want. But is that really what no-fault divorce allows? I’d like to suggest that we look deeper to assess our own underlying biases.

In 1969, states began passing no-fault divorce laws one at a time. Researchers were fascinated by the results. Gretchen Baskerville, author of Life-Saving Divorce, explains “In states that passed unilateral no-fault divorce:

  • The suicide rate for wives dropped by 8-16%.
  • The domestic violence rate by and against both men and women dropped by 30%
  • The homicide rate of women murdered by an intimate dropped by 10%.”

Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, a researcher, inventor of the Danger Assessment, and professor at
Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, states in her Danger Assessment certification training, “The safest states for women who face domestic violence are the states with the lowest rates of women killing men.” Why? Because — for partners living with intimate terrorism — societal infrastructures such as domestic violence shelters and no-fault divorce provide an alternative path to safety other than death.

For Christians raised in, and raising their children in, loving safe homes — the concept of being forced to choose between hell at home or death may seem unfathomable. But those who have experienced abuse can imagine it easily. To the casual onlooker, the idea of requiring one partner to prove that the other is, in fact, at fault, may seem quite reasonable. But those who have been forced to navigate the American family court system, know just how difficult, if not impossible, it can be to prove … well … anything at all.

Crowder, Focus on the Family, and others in this rising conservative Christian movement to
repeal no-fault divorce laws altogether would have everyone believe that proving fault is the
solution to keeping families together.

But what if the result is far worse? What if this repeal were to result in higher rates of abuse,
domestic violence, and even murder … because those who unwittingly married a coercively
controlling partner, are locked in for life unless they can incontrovertibly prove fault?

In a November 11, 2021 interview, Focus on the Family, “calls for doing away with laws
that allow abuse and betrayal victims to use current no-fault divorce provisions. In the interview the president of Focus on the Family, Jim Daly, said he was in favor of making divorce legally more difficult to obtain, and he didn't offer any exception for abused wives, or wives of serial adulterers or pedophiles,” notes Baskerville. What options would they have left?

Interestingly, Crowder’s dislike toward the idea of marital partners being allowed to leave,
seems to coincide with his own divorce and the looming requirement for financial support.
According to Rolling Stone, Crowder first began complaining “about no-fault divorce in a
segment last April, when his divorce proceedings were already underway … ‘I’m talking
divorce laws, alimony laws, talking about child support laws.’” His stance is not particularly
shocking, since coercive partners tend to feel entitled to avoid financial support of their
children once the abused partner is no longer under their control.

The irony though, is that Crowder lives in Texas. And according to Cornell, in the context of a
ground for fault-based divorce, Texes explains “the meaning of cruelty as ‘the willful, persistent infliction of unnecessary suffering, whether in realization or apprehension, whether of mind or body, to such an extent as to render cohabitation dangerous and unendurable.’”

In other words, if Texas were to repeal no-fault laws, the viral footage of Crowder’s behavior
would have lent weight toward him being “at fault” for making marital life unendurable. But
what if a partner has no footage? Victims of abuse without such evidence would find behavior like Crowder’s next to impossible to prove.

Let me be very clear — while I work in the abuse recovery field, I am for marriage. I believe in biblical family, lifelong commitment, and loving companionship. I also recognize that black- and-white thinking can create an affinity for solutions that naively overlook life-threatening risks and nuances. If we want to build marriages and families that are reflective of Christ’s healing safety, we must carefully consider all angles. (To explore those angles more, this bible study offers plenty to think about.)

We must look at the whole picture of what Scripture says about dealing with dangerous people, not just parts. Toward that end, as you assess your stance on social issues, include questions like: In what ways can we uphold healthy families and loving marriages, while having zero tolerance for abuse? Is the civil institution of marriage more valuable than the life and well-being of those being abused within its’ confines?

If you are reading this and you’re wondering if your own relationship is simply difficult or actually abusive, this free crash course will help you find safe answers. 

Sarah McDugal is an author, speaker, abuse recovery coach, and co-founder of Wilderness to WILD & the TraumaMAMAs mobile app. She creates courses, community, and coaching for women recovering from deceptive sexual trauma, coercive control, and intimate terrorism. 

Was this article helpful?

Want more articles like this?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone by making a one-time donation today.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.

Most Popular

Free Religious Freedom Updates

A religious liberty newsletter that is a must-read for people of faith.

More In Opinion