Marriage, Divorce, and the Church

Ed Stetzer (at the link there is much more)

One of the most common statements that I’ve seen is “Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians,” undoubtedly giving the world another opportunity to shout “Hypocrite!” This is controversial statement that is surely going to attract eyes and pageviews, but how accurate is it? Some sociologists are even reporting that religious conservatives divorce more than the rest of society.

Furthermore, we’ve all heard that you have a 50% chance of getting divorced, because, you know, 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce.

Yet research found in Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites… and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, shows that couples who are active in their faith are much less likely to divorce. Catholic couples were 31% less likely to divorce; Protestant couples 35% less likely; and Jewish couples 97% less likely, which in itself is quite impressive, I must say.

But, many news outlets breathlessly reported that being a conservative Protestant increases your chances of divorce– even being near those conservative Protestants does so….

And, while we are addressing stats, let me add that no reputable study has found that 50% of marriages end in divorce—ever—though that does not stop it from spreading because people love bad stats. (The New York Times explains a bit on that stat here.)

Keep in mind that when you hear a stat that does not make sense—like going to church makes you more likely to divorce, contrary to many other studies—don’t rush to assume it’s true. It is often more complicated that the initial news reports….

Dr. Wilcox finds that “active conservative protestants” who attend church regularly are actually 35% less likely to divorce than those who have no religious preferences.

In all cases, notice the active element of the faith commitment.

“Nominal” Christians, however, those who simply call themselves Christians but so not actively engage with the faith, are actually 20% more likely than the general population to get divorced—perhaps there is a link between putting on a show in the religious and relational context.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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