Friday, December 23, 2011

Interview: Joe Pote, author of "So You are a Believer Who has been through a Divorce"

Joe Pote is a fellow Arkansas writer who I've come to know over the Internet. He has a book out titled Are You a Believer Who has been Through a Divorce?:
A Myth-Busting Biblical Perspective on Divorce. Let's have Joe tell us a little about his book.
AATTA: Can you give us a brief description of what this book is about?

JP: Sure.  This book discusses God’s heart toward Christians who have experienced divorce. The church has developed a system of biblically unsubstantiated myths encouraging legalistic attitudes toward believers who have experienced divorce.  These myths act as barriers, distancing relationships with both God and fellow believers.

In this book, I address seven of these misconceptions, discussing both the basis for the myth and what the Bible actually says in context of the complete scripture.

Readers will experience the liberating joy of lifted guilt and renewed intimacy with God as each myth is exposed in the light of God’s truth.

AATTA: We would normally expect a book on this topic to be written by a pastor, a theologian, or a Christian counselor.  You’re a structural engineer, one of my professional kinfolk.  Why did you decide to write this book, and what qualifies you to write a book on this topic?

JP: Yes, I am a structural engineer.  I have neither a seminary degree, nor a psychology degree.  I do, however, have a strong background in biblical study and inductive interpretation of scripture.  As a child, I was literally raised in church, attending multiple church services and Bible studies each week, and I have continued to study the Bible throughout my adult life.

Several years ago, I went through a divorce.  It was a devastating experience, at many levels.  As a child, growing up in church, I had been taught that Christians don’t divorce; that Christian married couples find a way to work through any issues, without ever even considering divorce as a potential option.  Yet, here I was, a Christian with deep convictions and a strong love for Christ, going through a divorce.

In processing that reality, I began studying what the Bible teaches on the topic of God’s heart toward His children who have experienced divorce, and was surprised by what I learned.  I began to realize that much of what I had believed about God’s view of divorce was simply incorrect. I had accepted certain myths as truth, based not on scripture, but on words, actions, attitudes and impressions observed as a child, growing up in church.

In the years following that divorce, in conversing with other Christians with similar divorce experiences, I discovered that I was not alone in those misperceptions. In fact, these same myths are widely believed and accepted as truth by many people within the Christian church. For believers who have experienced divorce, these myths directly interfere with our relationships, acting as barriers as we seek to draw close to God, as well as to our fellow believers.

AATTA: There are a lot of books on the market discussing divorce from a Christian perspective.  What makes your book different from any other book on this topic?

JP: The Bible really doesn’t talk very much about the specific topic of divorce of a marriage covenant.  Most books on this topic pull their information from a few of the passages that do mention divorce, while ignoring other passages that don’t support their viewpoint.  Then they lift a few sentences out of context, using them to create an inflexible set of rigid legalistic rules, which they attempt to apply to every situation.

Although the Bible says relatively little on the specific topic of divorce of a marriage covenant, it has much more to say on the broader topic of covenants, in general.  In this book, I draw from this broader scope of rich illustrations of God’s heart in regard to covenant and redemption. 

I also review passages that specifically reference divorce of a marriage covenant, discussing them within the context of the entire passage in which they are presented, as well as within the context of the broader body of scripture.

AATTA: You have titled the first chapter of your book, “Myth 1 ~ Divorce is Sin.”  By calling this viewpoint a myth, you clearly indicate disagreement with the position that divorce is always sin.  Does that mean you believe God approves of anyone suing for divorce, for any reason at all?

JP: No, not all!  In fact, I spend far more pages of this book explaining the importance of honoring covenants than I do explaining that divorce is not sin. 

However, I think it is very important to make a clear distinction between violating covenant vows, and choosing to justly end a covenant that has been repeatedly violated.  The Bible is very clear that violating covenant vows to love, honor, cherish, protect, and forsake all others is sin.  The just dissolution of a covenant that has been repeatedly misused as a tool to enslave or abuse is not sin.

AATTA: I’ve noticed that you use the phrase, “believers who have experienced divorce,” rather than simply saying, “divorced believers.”  Is there something you don’t like about the word “divorced”?

JP: Yes, there is, when used as an adjective.  In fact, I discuss this topic in the chapter titled, “Myth 4 ~ Divorce is a Perpetual State of Being.”  To summarize, we tend to categorize people as being married, single, widowed, or divorced.  Within the church, we often extend these categorizations to also include divorced-and-remarried. 

We affix the label “divorced” to people, and never remove it no matter what happens, for the rest of their lives.  That’s just not scriptural.  Divorce is an experience I have lived through, not a defining characteristic of who I am.  My covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ defines who I am.

AATTA: The very first sentence of the book’s Introduction asks a question, “What does Jesus look like going through a divorce?”  What is your answer to that question?

JP: Well, I obviously wrote an entire book in answer to that question.  It is difficult to answer without first providing all the background contained within the book.

However, as a concise answer to a concise question, I would say that Jesus, going through a divorce, looks much as He did leading the exodus of His people out of Sheol, the place of the dead.  He walks with His child, justly redeeming them from their covenant of bondage, and delivering them through the divorce.

AATTA: In this book you target seven myths held by many people within the church, today.  People tend to hold very strong opinions about matters of faith.  In writing this book, are you intending to stir up controversy?

JP: No, it is not my intent to be controversial; though I’m sure some will take issue with my position.  Actually, as a writer, I am more concerned about whether or not I have adequately explained my position.  If someone understands my position and chooses to disagree, I am completely fine with that.  I just hope they will take the time to first read the book and understand the position, before disagreeing with it.

My intent in writing this book is to share a message of hope and healing with people who have suffered the devastation of a failed marriage.  I pray that God will use this book to liberate fellow believers who have experienced divorce to a greater fullness of joy in the love and redemption of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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