Charisma Magazine On-Line
Shock Study Reveals Christians More Likely to Divorce Than Non-Christians
Pro-family groups say study reveals churches’ failure to prepare couples.
by Andy Butcher
An “alarming” report that finds Christians are more likely to divorce than non-Christians has been welcomed as a badly needed “wake-up call to the Church.” The study by the Barna Research Group (BRG) also reveals that atheists are less likely to end their marriage than
The sobering findings, just released, come from a survey of nearly 4,000 adults by the Calif.-based Christian research organization. They discovered that 27 percent of born-again Christians are or have previously been divorced–compared to 24 percent of others.
President George Barna said that while the statistics may seem alarming, they confirmed a pattern that existed for some time. The study “raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families,” he said. “The high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages.”
Within the denominations surveyed, Baptists recorded the highest divorce rate, with 29 percent. Catholics had the lowest–21 percent. For nondenominational Christians the rate was 34 percent. The Mormon divorce rate was 24 percent, while for atheists and agnostics it was 21 percent.
The survey did not specify whether the divorces occurred before those surveyed became Christians, but BRG’s David Kinnaman said: “Approximately 90 percent of born-again Christians who have ever been divorced experienced that marital breakup since they became a Christian, not before.”
Talk radio host and national spokesperson for the Family Research Council, Janet Parshall, said that the study “breaks my heart” and should be a wake-up call. “This is a defining moment for us; it is one of the clearest hallmarks of the age in which we live. We are at the Rubicon; will we be a make or break generation?”
The high divorce rate was the result of a growing acceptance of situational ethics within churches, where Christians no longer accepted the Bible as God’s non-negotiable, absolute truth. “We practice a kind of cushy Christianity where we have much more interest in comfort than character,” she said. “What happens is we lead with our skin, we say, ‘I am uncomfortable, so I will escape.’ But God says, ‘I hate divorce.’ We don’t operate from truth but from comfort.”
The study showed that evangelicals have a lot to learn from Catholics about marriage preparation and support, said Michael McManus, founder of Marriage Savers, a program which has seen divorce rates drop in communities by encouraging church leaders to develop effective marriage preparation programs.
“Catholics require six months of marriage preparation,” he said. “A Baptist pastor might require a meeting once or twice. It’s as if a little holy water will do. This is stupid.” Nondenominational churches “seem to have the idea that because they are walking with Jesus they are immune to the ravages of the culture.”
The BRG study also discovered that while only 11 percent of the adult population is currently divorced, one out of every four adults has experienced at least one marriage breakup. More whites (27 percent) divorce than African Americans (22 percent) or Hispanics (20 percent). Only eight percent of Asians end their marriages.
Barna said that “even more disturbing, perhaps” than the Christian divorce rate was that many of those involved “feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing.”