Life is Short

colson2The billboard, set high above Chicago streets, was enough to stop traffic. It featured, on one side, the torso of a buxom young woman wearing a black-lace brassiere and little else. The other side featured the torso of a young man with six-pack abs. The billboard’s message? “Life is short: Get a divorce.” Beneath it was the phone number of a firm of divorce lawyers. It was the ultimate anti-marriage, anti-family message, and people have not been shy about saying so. The billboard “trivializes divorce and I think it’s absolutely disgusting,” said Rick Tivers, a clinical social worker at the Center for Divorce Recovery in Chicago. A blogger at ABC News fumed, “It is vile and disgusting on so many levels, I can’t think straight.” And he added, “Divorce lawyers are the lowest form of life. They will stoop to anything to make a buck. What’s next? [A billboard reading] ‘Life’s short: Kill your spouse [and] we’ll get you off?’” Even what’s been called the “lowest form of life”—divorce lawyers—hate the ad. “It’s grotesque . . . totally undignified and offensive,” said John Ducanto of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Despite the barrage of criticism, the divorce lawyer who thought up the ad—Corrie Fetman—is unrepentant. “Lawyers don’t cause divorces. People cause divorces,” she claims. (That’s deep!) The billboard, Fetman says, “promotes happiness and personal integrity.” Well, yeah—if your idea of happiness is destroying spouses and children. Sure—if you define “personal integrity” as trashing your commitments. This billboard set off a firestorm of anger in part because of what it symbolizes. It’s not just an ad: It’s a cultural statement about the value of keeping commitments—one that will influence everyone who sees it. It tells children that that there are people out there who are trying break up their parents’ marriage. It teaches us that life is about little more than gratifying one’s own desires. Just half a century ago, every state in the country had alienation of affection laws. They recognized the sacred nature of marriage and the importance of protecting families from those who would destroy them. We’ve gone from laws like these to billboards that actually encourage family breakup. It ignores that fact that most couples go through rough times, but if they tough it out, the result is often a lasting—and a happier—marriage. The reality is that people who divorce live shorter, less healthy lives. Our youth have been so damaged by their parents’ divorce that many fear tying the knot themselves. This “get a divorce” billboard is a reminder of why Americans place lawyers just below used-car salesmen on the food chain. When I practiced law, advertising was considered unethical. Now, lawyers not only hawk their services on TV, they produce sleazy billboards to get clients. Enough of this. If your family or friends are talking about this “get a divorce” billboard, take that occasion to start a discussion about the value God intends us to put on marriage—and about the destructiveness of divorce. And if you live in Chicago, I have an idea for your church: Put up another billboard next to the “get a divorce” one. It could feature happily married older couples who have weathered the matrimonial storms. Its message: “Put a divorce lawyer out of business: Honor your commitments. Stay married.”  
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For Further Reading and Information
‘Life’s Short. Get a Divorce.’—Chicago Billboard Turns Heads,” ABC News, 7 May 2007. “‘Life’s Short. Get a Divorce’ Billboard Removed After One Week in Chicago,” Associated Press, 9 May 2007. “‘Life’s Short, Get a Divorce’ Law Firm Ad Causes a Stir in Chicago Neighborhood,” Fox News, 4 May 2007. Peter Lattman, “Chicago Matrimonial Firm Causes Stir With Billboard Ad,” Wall Street Journal Law Blog, 9 May 2007. Holly Small, “‘Life’s Short. Get a Divorce’,” The Point, 7 May 2007. Anne Morse, “Worth Wedding For: Does America Have a ‘Marriage Gap’?,” BreakPoint Online, 9 March 2007. Kristine Steakley, “When Dad Is Missing: To Own a Dragon and A Dad-Shaped Hole in My Heart,” BreakPoint Online, 17 March 2006. BreakPoint Commentary No. 060130, “Marriage and Faith: They Really Do Go Together.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 050701, “When the Honeymoon Is Over: How to Nurture Marriage.” Michael McManus, Marriage Savers (Word 1995).


Chuck Colson


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