The truth about the Christian divorce rate
The news has swept the Christina blogosphere – those who identify as Christians and go to church regularly report far less divorce than those who identify as Christians but rarely go church. In the studies of sociologist Professor Bradley Wright, among regular attendees 38% had divorced, while 60% of infrequent attendees had divorced.
The way Wright looked at this is, in my opinion, the right way to go about it. Wright says “I compare Christians who attend church frequently to those who attend less frequently. The logic here is that if being a Christian makes a difference in people’s lives, we would expect to see more difference among those people who are more involved in it.“1 This same method has been used by George Barna for years, and it has proven to be a good way to sort out those who are serious about following Jesus from those who are more “social Christians”.
So apparently actually following makes a difference – a rather big difference. Other studies have found similar differences and benefits for those who attend church regularly. (For more on this see Write’s book, link below).
A couple other points on divorce rates, while we’re here. The traditional “divorce rate” is obtained by comparing the number of marriages and divorces for a given year. This actually results in a statistic that is completely useless. If you calculated the “death rate” the same way, you would, at various times in history, have death rates of as low as 60% and as high as 200%. Never mind that the death rate is 100%. Wright did it right, he asked a group of folks if they had been married, and if so, if they had been divorced. Still not completely accurate (some will divorce after being asked) but better – and at least a statistic that can be compared. (I could not find a similar statistic for non-Christians.)
Then there is the attempt to compare the divorce rate for Christians and non-Christians. Aside from the problems above, and the issue of self-defined Christian versus real follow the reality is those who are following Jesus are much more like than the world to get married rather than to live together without marriage. “Co-habitation”, as it’s called, is far more common among those who are not Christians, and those who are not serious about their religion. Break-ups by those living together don’t make the statistics for divorce, so a group more likely to co-habitat has fewer marriages to start with. Moreover, given that co-habitation weeds out many doomed relationships, that significantly lowers the divorce rate for those who eventually marry. If we were to compare all those who live together in a sexual relationship, with or without marriage, and the subsequent break-ups, those who attend church regularly would have a significantly lower “split up” rate than the rest of the world.
1 Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites …and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media by Bradley R.E. Wright (affiliate link)
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