This week country music star Vince Gill made news for his confrontation of the Westboro Baptist protesters. While this ‘colorful’ group of believers normally likes to target military funerals, this week they had their sights set squarely on Gill and his adulterous ways. But when they showed up to protest at his Kansas City concert last week, Gill decided to confront and engage with them. As he approached the group one female protester asked him, “What are you doing with another man’s wife? Don’t you know that divorce plus remarriage equals adultery? Jesus said that.”
For those of you who don’t keep up with country music gossip, Vince Gill and 80s Christian music sensation Amy Grant divorced their spouses and married one another in 2001. It was a scandalous pairing that rocked country music morality and sent Amy Grant’s Christian music fans into mourning for her very soul. How could these two toothy, attractive representations of wholesomeness end up divorced?
I am not going to advocate for or against divorce here. What I am going to do is suggest that the church often misses the mark of what divorce is really like. Which isn’t to say that very many people out there are mistaking the Westboro crew for the Church universal at this point. Still, in truth, the Westboro protester had a point, and it’s a point one sometimes hears in circles that aren’t as much on the fringe. Jesus does speak to the wrongs of divorce, and there is no getting around it. Yet when we persecute those among us who have had marriages end, we forget that divorce often feels like the most difficult and painful thing that has ever happened to them. Even if they find someone else. Even if that someone else is Amy Grant.
Of course, the true takeaway here is the one that Vince Gill himself provides. When the protester gives him a mini-Sunday school lesson on divorce in the Gospels, he responds, “(Jesus) He also said a lot of stuff about forgiveness, about grace. You guys don’t have any of that.” Gill does not deny his divorce or try to justify it; he just names his forgiveness by grace.
In a 2006 interview with the LA Times, Gill spoke about his divorce this way:
“For a while I thought I had every Christian in the world mad at me,” he said with a characteristically low-key laugh. “But you just put one foot in front of the other, take with a grain of salt what people are saying about you … and we just pressed on. They say time is the great healer, and it’s proven to be that.”