United States records 51% of people who are divorced. We do not keep records in Kenya. We have all kinds of marriages. Even “maize” fields weddings.
Many Africans and specifically Kenyans who divorce in the United States cite what I would call, “cultural adjustments”. A friend of mine worked very hard to bring his wife to the United States. They had been married in Kenya for over 10 years and had beautiful children. After the wife got to the United States, she settled at home and continued to do what she was doing back in Kenya; Taking care of the children, the house, and the husband.
The husband worked hard and I would say that he provided for a comfortable suburban life. After 2 years of what he thought was a peaceful marriage, something changed. The wife informed him that she needed to get a job. Given that the children were now in school and settled down, he agreed. After 4 months of his wife working, he realized that he was not getting any money from the wife. When he enquired, he was informed that she had opened an account to deposit the checks. She also informed him that she had gotten a post box to make it easier for the checks to be mailed.
When he argued that it would be good to work together to pay the bills, she did not agree. She argued that he was making enough money for that purpose and she intended to send her money to her mother in Kenya for future purposes. That was the beginning of major problems that led to divorce.
When I spoke to him last, he argued that he should not have brought her from Kenya. Instead, he should have married another woman in the United States and kept the one in Kenya. This, he argued, would have been consistent with the Kenyan polygamy principles and saved his marriage. According to him, Kenyan tribal systems solved family problems through polygamy. The woman and her children were taken care of and remained within the homestead. I reminded him that the man visited all the wives in turns, avoiding those who nagged him!
In the western concept of divorce, though it is not called that, it is polygamy. I call it “progressive polygamy”. One marries one wife but gets lid of her legally before marrying another. The difference is that the women also get a legal chance to become polygamists. They progressively marry other men.
In the Bible, the argument is made of Adam and Eve as the foundation of marriage. However it is true that biblical history records complexities in taking this foundation as absolute. Jesus argued that the human heart resulted in Moses authorizing polygamy. He also presented Marriage as ordained only within time and space. “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Mathew22: 30 (KJV)
The apostle Paul argued that marriage was too much a hindrance to the progression of the Kingdom purpose. He argued that it was better not to get married. In fact he argued that the only reason people should marry is if they are too weak to control their bodies. (1 Corinthians 7) And while Jesus argued from the genesis narrative, Paul argued within the new faith, to the believer in Christ.
The argument by the supporters of Gay marriage argue that even normal marriages are rocked by divorces therefore traditional marriage cannot claim any perfection. This of course is like arguing that given that believers are also sinners there is no need to become a believer. The thesis here is based upon an objection rather than the principle. The principle is that God is perfect. Therefore our belief is based on his perfection not the imperfection of the believer.
If I were to argue for a better system, just from a human perspective, I would say both polygamy and divorce with re-marriage is the same thing. One is permanent while the other is progressive. I would say permanent polygamy works better for the children. However, this demonstrates the complexity of bringing two characters together that are created by God with absolute distinctions.
Paul was forced to put disclaimers in his argument. “ But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away”. 1st Corinthians 7:12
By Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD) SYR Radio/TV, Director International Desk. IMANISHA. In Kenya listen to TNK on 91.1 ATG Radio: UFAHAMU Fridays 5pm EST.