...the likelihood of married adults getting divorced is identical among born again Christians and those who are not born again. The study also cited attitudinal data showing that most Americans reject the notion that divorce is a sin.
Well, that's hardly news to folks who've been around contemporary evangelicalism. Still, it's nice to be able to move from the anecdotal to the concrete. But these two paragraphs are the real kicker:
George Barna noted that one reason why the divorce statistic among non-Born again adults is not higher is that a larger proportion of that group cohabits, effectively side-stepping marriage – and divorce – altogether. “Among born again adults, 80% have been married, compared to just 69% among the non-born again segment. If the non-born again population were to marry at the same rate as the born again group, it is likely that their divorce statistic would be roughly 38% - marginally higher than that among the born again group, but still surprisingly similar in magnitude.”
Barna also noted that he analyzed the data according to the ages at which survey respondents were divorced and the age at which those who were Christian accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. “The data suggest that relatively few divorced Christians experienced their divorce before accepting Christ as their savior,” he explained. “If we eliminate those who became Christians after their divorce, the divorce figure among born again adults drops to 34% - statistically identical to the figure among non-Christians.” The researcher also indicated that a surprising number of Christians experienced divorces both before and after their conversion.
The bold emphases are mine. For years, conservative Christians have suggested that cohabiting before marriage undermines the chance of success of that future marriage. The first highlighted sentence suggests that may not be the case. Of course, as more and more folks in secular society choose not to get married at all, that refusal to tie the knot will have a salutary effect on the divorce rate! The second high-lighted sentence is more fascinating. If nothing else, it makes it clear that our churches are doing a fairly poor job of supporting the marriages of their congregants.
And look who's getting the divorces!
The survey showed that divorce varied somewhat by a person’s denominational affiliation. Catholics were substantially less likely than Protestants to get divorced (25% versus 39%, respectively). Among the largest Protestant groups, those most likely to get divorced were Pentecostals (44%) while Presbyterians had the fewest divorces (28%).
Hah! No denomination is more "mainline" than the Presbyterians (though the Presbys are split seven ways to Sunday); no one can be more "born again" than a Pentecostal. That certainly challenges some of the received wisdom out there about the relative fidelity of evangelicals and mainlines to Scripture! And while the Catholics are doing better, a 25% divorce rate is hardly something to cheer.
Look, I've been divorced three times. Out of respect for my family, my former spouses, and above all, my current fiancee, I don't go into details on a public blog about those marriages. I will say, however, that my third divorce did take place "post-conversion" for me. (My third wife came out of a Pentecostal tradition, coincidentally, having come to Jesus through the wonderful Chi Alpha ministry of the Assemblies of God. I remember being a little frightened the first time she mentioned "gettin' slain in the spirit.") That third divorce was more devastating than the others for many reasons I won't go into, but one that I will: I just assumed that this was something that didn't happen to "real" Christians. Like many new converts, I was remarkably naive.
When my third wife and I divorced, I was disappointed in how the church reacted. Our friends in the congregation recommended good marriage therapists. Others, hearing of the decision to part, made genuine and heartfelt expressions of sympathy. But not one person -- even from the ranks of our most conservative friends -- said "Heck, no, you're not divorcing without a fight" No one in the church really tried to save our marriage. Look, I'm so in love with my fiancee today that I am grateful that things turned out as they did. But that doesn't make divorce good, and that doesn't mean that a church community shouldn't do more in the face of bad marriages than merely express sympathy.
In the light of statistics like these, it is hard to believe that my conservative Christian brethren believe gay unions to be a greater threat to marriage than the epidemic of heterosexual divorce. Given the biblical strictures against divorce (quite explicit in the New Testament), Christians can only effectively argue against same-sex marriage from a place of complete fidelity to Scripture on all subjects relating to the union of man and wife. I know full well that many evangelical churches would welcome me and my fourth wife even as they would refuse to recognize the marriage of two of their gay members. Where is the justice in that?
Why is no one pushing a constitutional amendment to prevent the likes of me from tying the knot again? Aren't folks like me the greater threat?