(Post two of a series on Christian divorce rates)
For several years now I have heard from various sources that Christians divorce at the same rates as non-Christians, and based on a non-scientific sample of several pastors & various websites, I think that is the prevailing, albeit saddening, wisdom.
This belief traces most directly to the work of George Barna--a researcher with a background in marketing and polling who collects data on various facets of Christianity. In what I think is his latest report on the topic, in 2004, Barna writes:
Although many Christian churches attempt to dissuade congregants from getting a divorce, the research confirmed a finding identified by Barna a decade ago (and further confirmed through tracking studies conducted each year since): born again Christians have the same likelihood of divorce as do non-Christians. Among married born again Christians, 35% have experienced a divorce. That figure is identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35%.
These and similar statistics produced by Barna have reverberated throughout Christianity, with commentators writing that they send "Christian leaders scrambling for answers" and leave believers "disturbed." Perhaps most prominently, Ron Sider, well-known Christian author, used these statistics for his "stinging jeremiad" (a great phrase, no?) against the Evangelical church in America for living "just like the rest of the world."
When I first heard of these statistics, I had trouble believing them because I was aware of how much emphasis the Christian church put on marriage. Surely this teaching and training had to have some effect? At a personal level, I count the instruction and support received from Christian friends as a major reason that I'm still married, and I've seen the same with others.
So, a few months ago I started looking at data on this issue. First, however, I had to figure out what type of comparisons should be made. That will be the topic of tomorrow's post, and then on Thursday I will start presenting data.