Nominal Christians

Nominal Christians March 23, 2011

In an article about sociologist Bradley Wright’s book  Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media journalist Adelle M. Banks discusses his findings that Christians who go to church regularly have lower divorce rates, contrary to the assertion of other researchers that Christians have the same divorce rate as everybody else.

We’ve talked about that topic, but what I’d like us to consider is another issue raised in the story:

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.

Less active 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.

via Christians question conventional wisdom on divorce – KansasCity.com.

“Nominal Christians.”   We often say that churches are full of nominal Christians.  But it is probably more to the point that nominal Christians–including many who would classify themselves as “born again” and “conservative”–do not generally go to church.  They are Christians in name only, as opposed to Christians, whatever their faults, who attend worship services where, to whatever measure, they seek God and receive His Word.  That’s not being “nominal.”

There is no longer any cultural pressure to attend church, as there once was, and indeed the cultural pressure is in the other direction.  So those who are in church, I would argue, on some level, really mean it.

I wish I knew more about what Wilcox says about “a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life” that are associated with “nominal Christians.”  I suppose someone who is Christian in name only may well consider himself or herself married in name only, carrying over the tendency for superficial commitment in all relationships, with spouse as well as with God.

Can anyone fill in what Wilcox says?

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