Fact or Fiction: “Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world.”
Fact. Surprised? Perhaps this is misleading because “Christians” include anyone who says they are, even though they are not true believers. So is there a difference between believers and the world?
Professor Bradley Wright (University of Connecticut) found that the number of self-identified Christians who have been divorced is 60% for those who rarely attend church versus 38% for regular attendees.
W. Bradford Wilcox (University of Virginia/director of the National Marriage Project) compared stats of those with and without religious affiliations for the likelihood of divorce. “Active” meant some combination of weekly church attendance, reading religious material and praying. Note that a positive number means more likely to divorce than un-affiliated.
Nominal Protestant 20
Conservative Protestant -10
Active Conserv. Protestant -35
Nominal Catholic -5
Active Catholic -31
Nominal Jewish 53
Active Jewish -97
Surprised? Ready to convert to Active Judaism?
Beware of faulty conclusions
It’s been said that a statistician is a person who draws a mathematically precise line from an unwarranted assumption to a foregone conclusion. So, what conclusion are we supposed to draw from these stats? That active Judaism is the best way to ensure a good marriage?
The problem with stats is that they often misidentify the correlation between cause and effect. For example, high body temperatures may be attributed to infections caused by contacting infected people, when, in fact, the cause may be the drug side-effects, cancer or blood clots.
Is staying married good? Perhaps some Active Jewish people stay married out of fear. For example, only Orthodox Jewish men may initiate a divorce. Without receiving a “get” (certificate of divorce) from her husband, an Orthodox Jewish woman cannot divorce in the eyes of her faith. Some complain that this allows husbands to abuse them or blackmail them to stay married.
Should just staying married be our goal or should our goal be to honor God? If it is to honor God, can these statistics measure how well we are doing?
The most shocking statistic
Less than 100% of all marriages end in divorce. Why is this shocking? Because 100% of married people are sinners who will fail their spouses on many levels throughout their marriages. Only grace can hold a marriage together. As Robert Quillen says, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” The Bible reminds us, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).”
Does that mean that we shouldn’t be saddened that divorces occur? No, but it does mean that we should be thankful that both God and our spouses tolerate us. While going to church, praying and reading your Bible do not of themselves honor God if they are not sincere, trusting Christ and pursuing God does.
How does our commitment to Jesus impact our marriages?
Our commitment to Jesus should make us look different than the world, not because of actions, but because of our attitudes. Marriage is a covenant relationship established by God. He is completely faithful to his commitment to us. We should have the same mind as God when we establish our covenants in marriage. Why should a world that does not trust or believe in God or his covenants remain faithful to theirs? Because believers understand the depth of God’s faithfulness, there should be a difference.
But Satan roams the world looking for those to devour (1 Peter 5:8). “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan is highly motivated to destroy your marriage. He knows a divided house keeps you from being effective in your Kingdom work.
What can you do when trouble comes?
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Peter walked on water so long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. The minute he focused on his troubles and lost faith, he began to sink (Matthew 14:29-31). Staying focused on a God-honoring life will help keep you afloat.
Remember what you deserve. Jesus died on the cross to pay our sin debt—even though we did not deserve it. In fact, the Bible reminds us that, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). True understanding of the depth of what he did should bring us to our knees in humility, and make us ashamed when we cannot forgive our spouses for their transgressions against us.
Renew your vows daily. You promised to love your spouse until death. Satan will try to make you believe that you deserve to be loved and feel good. Marriage is a choice.
Share your appreciations. Count your blessings daily. Tell your spouse daily what you appreciate about them.
Patricia Hartman is a CPA/partner at Kofsky, Hartman & Weinger, PA. and author of The Christian Prenuptial Agreement: The Power of Marriage Unleashed. Learn more at TrishaHartman.com or follow her on Twitter @TrishaHartman.