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Christians Question Conventional Wisdom on Divorce Stats

posted by editor

(RNS) It’s been proclaimed from pulpits and blogs for years — Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America.
But some scholars and family activists are questioning the oft-cited statistics, saying Christians who attend church regularly are more likely to remain wed.
“It’s a useful myth,” said Bradley Wright, a University of Connecticut sociologist who recently wrote “Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told.”
“Because if a pastor wants to preach about how Christians should take their marriages more seriously, he or she can trot out this statistic to get them to listen to him or her.”
The various findings on religion and divorce hinge on what kind of Christians are being discussed.
Wright combed through the General Social Survey, a vast demographic study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that Christians, like adherents of other religions, have a divorce rate of about 42 percent. The rate among religiously unaffiliated Americans is 50 percent.
When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38 percent of weekly attendees.
Wright questions the approach of The Barna Group, evangelical pollsters based in Ventura, Calif.
Barna’s latest published divorce statistics say one-third of all adults, including “non-evangelical born again Christians,” have ended a marriage.
Barna’s statistics are tied to its highly specific — and controversial — definitions of born-again Christians and evangelicals.
For instance, Barna labels Christians “born-again” if they have made a personal commitment to Jesus and believe they will go to heaven because they have accepted him as their savior.
Evangelicals, on the other hand, are those who fit the born-again definition but also meet seven other conditions, including sharing their beliefs with non-Christians and agreeing that the Bible is completely accurate.
David Kinnaman, Barna’s president, said the statistical differences reflect varied approaches, with Wright looking more at attendance and his research firm dwelling on theological commitments.
“We’ve tried to measure it based on theological perspective, not merely their church attendance or whether they call themselves Catholic or mainline,” Kinnaman said.
Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family wrote a recent column in Baptist Press highlighting Wright’s interpretation of the state of divorce for Christians.
“The divorce rates of Christian believers are not identical to the general population — not even close,” he wrote. “Being a committed, faithful believer makes a measurable difference in marriage.”
Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, agrees there’s been some confusion.
“You do hear, both in Christian and non-Christian circles, that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to divorce and that is not true if you are focusing on Christians who are regular church attendees,” he said.
Wilcox’s analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35 percent less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.
Nominal conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20 percent more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated.
“There’s something about being a nominal ‘Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life,” Wilcox said.
- ADELLE M. BANKS, Religion News Service



  • nnmns

    Yes, belief in the unsubstantiated is a poor philosophy on which to build a life.

  • pagansister

    Sounds like the whole book is—a waste of time. Divorce among Christians depends on “what kind of Christian you are??” Whatever.

  • cmaglaughlin

    We can always count on two atheists to show up on a Christian news article. What are they going to do when they don’t have the Bible or Christians or God, Himself, to kick around any more? Hope they enjoy each other’s mutual warmth “You know where” to add to their eternal misery. It’s not just MY thing, but even God calls them fools, because nature itself speaks of His eternal reality and presence. Oh well, they’d be most miserable in Heaven where only He is the star!

  • Gwyddion9

    I always found it interesting how many Christians end up getting divorce. I find it amusing because some Christian sects set themselves up with the high and mighty attitude and still fail, like so many others. The hypocrisy speaks for itself but sadly those Christians won’t see the reality of things and maintain the “I’m better” attitude.

  • Grumpy Old Person

    My grandmother taught me that Christians were to think the best, believe the best, and hope the best for other people.
    ‘Hoping” two atheists end up in he11 “to add to their eternal misery” is not a Christian value.
    Shame on you cmaglaughlin. You kind of prove the point about the hypocrisy of those who claim the name of Christ but do not practice what He preached. You embody this “I’m better” attitude Gwyddion9 talked about.

  • cmaglaughlin

    Like Jesus said, “You are of your father…the devil.” Like Jesus didn’t ASK for the money changers to leave the temple. He took a whip and chains, and BEAT them out. Sometimes people confuse hypocrisy with truth. And MY grandmother loves me and agrees. Jesus dies for His own, NOT for those who don’t acknowledge His deity or His Father’s reality. Jesus said, “Choose this day whom thou shalt serve.” If you want to run with the “evil ones” then suffer the eternal consequences along with them. Now THAT’S love, telling it like it is. I DON’T make up the rules. If you have any complaints, take it up with the ONE who wrote the Manufacturer’s Handbook.

  • Henrietta22

    cmaglaughlin, where did the chains come from? A Pentecostal Bible? I only have read a whip. So your grandmother interpreted differently than Grumpy Old Person’s, it’s all in interpretation, and man has a very difficult time with that. Only God knows what is in men’s hearts.

  • pagansister

    What is your problem, cmag? Just because some don’t happen to believe like you do, you attempt to tell us we’re headed for hell? Guess what? I don’t believe in hell, so not a problem. :o) All the Christians in my life, including all my most of my immediate family members are very kind, good, understanding people—unlike some who feel they have all the answers. They accept and respect me, I accept and reapect them. I consider them excellent examples of Christianity, as I do many folks who post on this site. Believe me my Father has no relation to any make believe creation AKA. Mr. Satan or what ever name one wishes to spew. Hope you had a great day—now I have to go and put on my witch hat!

  • nnmns

    I suspect cmag is frustrated because a lot of people don’t believe in hell so he’s flogging it harder and harder. Like shouting english at people who don’t speak english.
    So no thanks for your bad wishes cmag. And thank you for acting like good Christians think Christians should act GOM.

  • Mordred08

    cmaglaughlin: “even God calls them fools”
    Didn’t Jesus say that whoever calls somebody a fool is in danger of hellfire? Oops.
    “nature itself speaks of His eternal reality and presence”
    Sorry, but I speak English, not nature.
    “Hope they enjoy each other’s mutual warmth ‘You know where’ to add to their eternal misery.”
    If you losers aren’t in “you know where”, sounds like a nice place to be. Besides, we’ll have all the good musicians.

  • cknuck

    I would guess if a person called people fools who Jesus called fools they would be correct. H I’ve never heard of a Pentecostal bible is that something you just made up. I imagine lots of people would be uncomfortable with Jesus talking about hell and the devil but He did and often. Protect your sin at all cost folk, it is your passion and worship. yes Jesus knows the heart of persons and He did call it as He saw it sinful generation.

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