(RNS) Christians Question Conventional Wisdom on Divorce Stats

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.”

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

6 comments on “(RNS) Christians Question Conventional Wisdom on Divorce Stats

  1. Teatime2 says:

    IMO, this article and mindset miss the point. Even if committed Christians are somewhat less likely to head to divorce court, does this mean that their marriages are necessarily better and healthy? Or does it simply mean that no matter how dysfunctional their marriages might be, they are more likely to remain married? And is that a good thing for all involved? I grew up in that sort of home and, personally, my answer is no.

    Also anecdotally, I have been shocked by the number of “good Christian husbands” who have propositioned me or other women I know or whom we’ve seen out in restaurants or clubs with women other than their wives. All of the high-profile Christian politicians who have gotten caught with their “pants down,” so to speak, hit the news with great regularity.

    So rather than crowing about divorce rates, perhaps Christian leaders should instead be focusing less on appearances and what’s really going on in many Christian marriages? Personally, I think that if Christians are concerned more about keeping up appearances by not divorcing rather than tackling dysfunction and bad behavior, then there’s a big problem. And it makes us as a group look terribly hypocritical.

    There are many people who simply shouldn’t marry because they don’t have the qualities required to be a faithful, unselfish, committed spouse. That needs to be recognized and stated clearly and sincerely by our leaders. There are also those who use the cover of marriage and the “respectability” it imparts to privately engage in all sorts of “other” behavior. That needs to be called out, too.

    When I was selling some furniture last summer on Craig’s List, I stumbled across the “Personals” section. Oh my. It takes a lot to shock me but I was shocked. In this very conservative, evangelical city in which I live, a lot of married people apparently are advertising for all sorts of clandestine sexual encounters. That means many spouses out there have no idea that they are at risk for STDs and they think they’re safe because they’re married.

    It’s a brave new world in which all sorts of websites, gadgets, and electronic media make it much easier for those so inclined to indulge their urges and fantasies. Yet, I’ve never heard a sermon about this — it’s as if Christian leaders want to remain in fantasyland and pretend that Christian marriage is a panacea. It’s not, and they’d best wake up. Divorce would be preferrable to putting those you supposedly love at risk for diseases and scandal.

  2. Jim the Puritan says:

    Teatime2–I am sorry that married men that have apparently held themselves forward as Christians have propositioned you or acquaintances, to me that is appalling but I certainly acknowledge that goes on although I would question how committed to following Christ these men were. I am reminded of a story a woman acquaintance of mine once told me of something that happened to her in the Eighties. She had gone as a guest as a wedding in another city officiated by an Episcopal priest. During the reception, she was tired and had decided to go back to her hotel room and the priest offered to drive her back. During the drive he propositioned her, claiming he and his wife were in an open marriage. My acquaintance, a Roman Catholic, was shocked and said no. Fortunately he did not press the issue. From what she found out later, the priest’s wife, who was also at the reception, also ended up going off with one of the guests and apparently something did happen there. What an offense to being a witness for Christ.

    I think a Christian marriage, if it is taken seriously, means that a couple will stay together no matter what, “for better or worse.” I acknowledge that there are times when divorce is necessary, such as when there is physical abuse or unfaithfulness by a spouse, but Scripture nowhere says we are just to stay together when things seem to be working. I think one of the misconceptions Christian couples have is that their marriages will somehow be free of all the problems that non-Christians have in their marriages. No, we will have all the same problems, but I think following Christ means we should be responding to those problems differently

    In my life, it was very difficult for us when my wife and I were raising our kids. We had very challenging children with a lot of issues and a lot of arguments between my wife on how we should raise them. One secular counselor even advised we should get divorced, because there were years when my wife and I could barely talk to each other because we were so stressed out dealing with our children.

    Nevertheless, we stuck it out and now, 26 years after we first got married, our kids are now raised and we have time for each other again and to rebuild the relationship we had when we first married. How glad I am that we stuck it out through those very difficult years, and how grateful I am that God through His grace was able to keep us faithful to each other through the difficult years. During this period I was tempted several times to have an affair with someone else, but it was always the realization of how it would hurt my wife and children that brought pain in my heart and stopped me before I acted on temptation. I have to ascribe that to the Holy Spirit stopping me–it certainly wasn’t me, since I was in a period in my life where I was pretty far from God. I can tell you that but for God our marriage would have ended in much anger and bitterness. But because of the vows we had taken and always took seriously, we never gave up although there were periods when I think it is miraculous we didn’t divorce.

  3. justinmartyr says:

    Teatime, this dark world is a little sunnier than we expected it to be. Christians are a little holier than what we supposed. And I’m celebrating beauty, commitment, and loyalty.

    I’m sorry you trawled the Internet and found filth. I hope you occasionally take off your shoes. Because you’ll start noticing that everywhere you stand is holy ground.

  4. Teatime2 says:

    Justin, all I ask is that these people not attempt to bring their filth on my holy ground. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. (And I wasn’t “trawling the Internet.” I was placing a classified ad. You don’t need to “trawl” — it’s right out there in the open.)

    Jim, you were/are committed and take your vows seriously. Those of whom I’m writing aren’t and could even have had their fingers crossed as they were saying their vows. Or behave like that priest and his wife you mentioned.

    I guess some do believe that whatever happens within the marriage and is agreed upon by both parties is fine as long as the marriage stays together. Well, it’s not fine — innocent people such as the woman in your story are hurt by this. We single Christians don’t want to deal with them and their drama and the Christian community is scandalized because of their actions. This is the sort of thing that in part has led homosexuals to figure they should be entitled to marriage, too, since the heterosexuals aren’t doing so well with fidelity themselves.

  5. Jim the Puritan says:

    Teatime, I agree with you entirely.

    One burden on my heart is how do single Christians meet others of the opposite sex who are appropriate for them, and how do they go through an honoring relationship that ideally leads to marriage, but if not, allows both parties to disengage from the relationship without hurting the other or becoming hard-hearted? The dating world out there these days is so toxic.

  6. Jim the Puritan says:

    I dropped the last sentence of my message, which should have said that if Christians don’t have a proper relationship with each other going into marriage, we should not be surprised that the marriage itself will also have serious problems that will manifest themselves at some point or another, whether it be infidelity, jealousy, selfishness, insecurity, or a host of other things.