Christian Divorce Rate
Christians Divorce At Same Rate As Others But For Different Reasons
(RNS) WASHINGTON--Although traditional Christian
teaching rejects divorce and stresses marital fidelity and family
values are central to the religious conservatives' moral agenda,
data show divorce strikes born-again Christians at about the same
rate as those who don't profess a born-again experience.
The Barna Research Group, a California-based polling
and marketing organization that specializes in religion, even found
that those who characterize themselves as "fundamentalist"
had a slightly higher divorce rate than the general public.
But other research shows that the way Christians
deal with divorce -- the reasons they separate and how they handle
the pain -- might be different from [the way] the general population
[deals with it].
Tom Whiteman, a Philadelphia psychologist and counselor,
was disturbed by the data showing that Christians were no more immune
to divorce than the general population, so 10 years ago he founded
Fresh Start, a divorce recovery ministry.
Whiteman's doctoral research concurred with Barna's
-- devout Christians divorce at about the same rate as others. But,
he found, they did so for different reasons.
He found that the number one reason cited in divorce
proceedings for the general population was incompatibility, but
Christians rarely use that as grounds for a divorce.
"In the Christian population, the reasons
are adultery, abuse (including substance, physical and verbal abuse)
and abandonment," Whiteman says.
And Christians tend to hang on to bad marriages
longer than others, he says. "The good news is we are staying
together longer and taking marriage seriously, but the bad news
is we're putting up with a lot more pain and ending up getting divorced
Whiteman believes that Christians who stay in troubled
marriages may sometimes be seeking revenge on their mates: "I
have heard both men and women say, I'm going to be the instrument
of pain in that person's life.'"
Other unhappy spouses hang on to the hope that
their faithfulness in the marriage might actually lead to a change
in their mates' hearts, but that hope is not always rewarded, Whiteman
says. "God never promises that he will bring your spouse back.
He just promises that whatever happens, he'll be there."
The religious spouse may even find his or her faith
to be a contributing factor in the breakup.
Whiteman says cases in which one spouse's religious
conversion becomes a "bone of contention" happen occasionally,
but the partners hardly ever admit that is the cause. "Usually
the unbelieving spouse talks more in terms of jealousy -- You care
more about that church than you do me.'"
It's usually the wife who becomes religious, Whiteman
says, and her increased activity outside the home creates an off-limits
topic of discussion -- what he calls an "unsafe area."
"You get enough unsafe areas in the marriage and you've got
trouble," Whiteman said.
Once the marriage is irretrievably broken, he says,
Christians feel not only the anguish of rejection by their spouse,
but a collapse of their belief system, compounded by overwhelming
guilt. "Your whole anchor comes undone. You think there's nothing
left to believe in." (by Pamela H. Long, c. 1997 Religion News
Service, www.religionnews.com; for subscription information, call
For more insight on the topic discussed in the
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THE COMPLETE STRESS MANAGEMENT WORKBOOK
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FIT TO BE TIED: MAKING MARRIAGE LAST A
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INSURING MARRIAGE by Michael J.
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The author, a leading voice in divorce prevention, presents simple,
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MARRIAGE SAVERS: HELPING YOUR FRIENDS AND
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THE MARRIAGE MENTOR MANUAL: COUPLES ENCOURAGING
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SAVING YOUR MARRIAGE BEFORE IT STARTS:
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Article curtsey of ©
John Mark Ministries