Divorce Rates Higher Among Christians
Christians have higher divorce rates than non-Christians, according to a study by the Barna Research Group. A study of 3,854 people indicated that, in general, the average divorce rate among self-identified “born-again” Christians (27%) is higher than the average rate for all Americans (25%). Baptists have the highest divorce rate of any denominational Christian group, at 29 percent.
George Barna explained that his study is lower than the oft-cited 50 percent divorce rate because this percentage simply divides the number of marriage by the number of divorces each year.
Similar studies reflect Barna’s findings. The most recent U.S. Census revealed that the divorce rate is higher in the “Bible Belt” states than in other areas of the U.S. The divorce rate for men, for example, was between 10 and 13.5 per 1,000 in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. The national average for men is 9.2 per 1,000.
The study also revealed that only 21 percent of atheists have been divorced.
Why is the divorce rate higher for Christians than the national average? Following are some of the speculated reasons:
1. Cultural Accommodation. A resolution entitled, On the Scandal of Southern Baptist Divorce, published by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2010, stated that cultural accommodation has been the cause of recent increased divorce rates. In other words, the contention is that divorce is being viewed as a viable option to resolving marital problems instead of adhering to biblical standards.
2. Gender Inequality. This is addressed in an article by Wendy Francisco entitled, Why Are Divorce Statistics So High? She says that the church has attempted to control marriages through its traditional teachings on gender roles in marriage. Francisco insists that “The reason we have the highest divorce rate” is because of our “heavy teachings on ‘Biblical order,’ and submission.”
In research for their book, Empowering Couples: Building on Your Strengths (2000), David H. and Amy K. Olsen discovered that 81 percent of couples with egalitarian roles in their marriages were happily married, but only 18 percent of couples were happy in marriages with traditional roles.
3. Lack of Spiritual Commitment. Focus on the Family’s Family Formation Studies Director, Glenn Stanton, said, “Church affiliation means nothing.” He explained that there is a difference between those who are simply affiliated with a church and those who are actively practicing their faith.
What can churches do to reverse the divorce trend? Some ideas:
1. Teach On Healthy Marriages. Barna said that the research, “raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families.” Instead of focusing on traditional gender roles, we can teach what it means to be in a healthy marriage. The Love and Respect curriculum is a good start to understanding God’s foundational principles in marriage.
2. Provide Enrichment Opportunities. Too often, churches push difficulties in marriages under the rug until it is too late. Southern Baptists, for example, are taking the divorce issue seriously. In their resolution they resolve to ramp up their efforts to educate their people through marriage retreats, “counseling, mentorship, and, where necessary, through biblical church discipline.”
3. Promote Spiritual Guidance. We need to urge people to seek marital help through prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines immediately. There needs to be a constant reminder that “God hates divorce” (Micah 2:16) and is pro marriage. With God, all things are possible!
Why do you think divorce rates are higher for Christians?
How can that be changed?