Thursday, April 12, 2007

Digging Christian divorce rates

On, one of my favorite websites, a lead story today is that atheists have lower divorce rates than Christians--a story based on George Barna's work.

I posted on this extensively last year, and, basically, Barna made a rather elementary methodological error--comparing Christians against Christians. (Here's my digg post today). Other sociologists have likewise found that Christians have low divorce rates. Still, Barna's statistics on divorce rates have a long shelf-life because, I suppose, there being a large audience who want to believe the worst about Christians.

Sometimes I wonder if people put their personal lifeview before good data. You think?


Jerry said...

I've heard this stat, but mainly from the pulpit--as proof that we as Christians still have a lot of work to do at putting our actions into words. Maybe it's Christians who want to believe the worst about ourselves--the old tendency toward jeremiad.

Corey said...

I'm not sure I buy the conspiracy theory, on Barna's part anyway. He's been doing this "Christian polling" for a long time now. I'd chalk up this error up to lightweight methodology reinforced by conventional wisdom.

I partially agree with Jerry as well. To believe the worse about our fallen nature helps keep us on guard from complacency. fwiw.

Brad Wright said...

Yeah, I think that Barna just goofed... but there is a lot of people eager to believe this particular goof.

I agree, Jerry, about wanting to believe the worst about ourselves... though I'm not always sure that it's useful to do so.

There's enough to say to Christians that is accurate without needing to make stuff up.

Nate Loucks said...

The upsetting thing is that I hear this misinformed statistic quoted too often. As a matter of fact, until I read your blog I didn't realize that it wasn't truth. We have an obligation to uphold truth in it's natural context. And, this marriage statistic that Barna has is simply not true.

Brad Wright said...

I agree

Brian Francis Hume said...

I recently came across your blog and I am looking forward to reading your future postings. Regarding the issue of putting lifeview before good data, I was reminded of a great section on mental models in “The Power of Impossible Thinking” by Jerry Wind & Colin Crook. We only see (interpret data) according to our preexisting mental model that filters the data. In fact, our models may inhibit what we see or don’t see. Possibly Barna was so distraught by the issue of divorce in the church that he interpreted according to this slant. It was all that he could see. Just a thought – however, I have enjoyed immensely past books by Barna.