BETTER News on Marriage & Divorce Statistics
There is a particular statistic that has been thrown around for years, that I have always been suspicious of: that “50% of marriages end in divorce, and it is no different for Christians than for non-Christians”. I have heard prominent pastors use this, and I have never truly believed it. When I hear it, a number of questions would arise in my mind. “What is the meaning of ‘Christian’ to the pollster?” “Is this percentage referring to the number of people getting married, or the number of marriages, total?” But even if this is all true, is it really the case that those who profess to follow the Creator of the institution of marriage, the One who said in Malachi 2:16, “I hate divorce”…really are the ones divorcing?
I once heard Francis Chan say something to this effect: “Would someone surrendering to the Holy Spirit really go against God’s wishes on marriage?” Statistics are not benign; they really do impact the way we think and go about our lives. There is one article that is heavily quoted—quoting Dr. Jennifer Baker as saying that there is a 50% first-marriage divorce rate, 60% second-marriage, 72% third-marriage. One of the most-quoted citations for the 60 percent and 72 percent divorce rates is in Psychology Today, a popular magazine written by psychologists, but meant for the public. This statistic has been used so often, that popular Christian author Shaunti Feldhahn contacted Dr. Baker about it. She wrote back an email, in all capital letters; and it was one line: “THAT’S NOT ME; I NEVER SAID THAT; I’VE BEEN TRYING TO GET THEM TO TAKE MY NAME OFF THAT WEBSITE FOR YEARS.” It was an urban legend.
This has an impact: fears associated with failure in marriage lead to a “failure to launch”! Younger generations are skeptical of the touted “security” found in marriage, partially due to the failure rate particularly found in the Baby Boomer generation, who in our nation, have often been associated with a rejection or redefinition of “traditional values”. (Something to do with the 70’s…)
There is GOOD news about marriage! Millenials who do get married have a much lower divorce rate than previous generations, and those who have been married over 10 years are much lower than that! The population coming in, and getting married, are replacing the higher divorce rates of the past. After crunching the numbers, the actual divorce rates today are between 25-35% in society as a whole, depending on how you interpret the data; Feldhahn estimates it at around 31% currently (and falling)!
Now, how about Christians? The George Barna Group study, that summarized that “Christians” had roughly the same divorce statistics as those of other secular/religious belief systems, were just that: general belief systems. It was not even referring to those who were in church vs outside of church! Re-running the numbers with Barna, Feldhan discovered that if one simple factor was added, “Was the person in church last week?”, the divorce rate plummeted 27%! A 2017 study by Harvard found that those who simply attended church every week had a 47% lower rate than those who did not. In other words, the Rate of Divorce is NOT the same in the Church! (or local churches!)
Every demographer studying marriage knows that this is true; it’s just that every Christian doesn’t—they’ve all been, unnecessarily, discouraged. We simply have better truth to pass on to the world.
Now these are still mere statistics, and you are no mere statistic! But this does have much to say about the general realities around us: 1. The Importance of a Faith Community who will strengthen and encourage you, AND whom you can gain a certain perspective and purpose in serving!
2. The Security that Marriage Brings, with Christ at the Center, and informed by the Word of God! 3. Those Committed to their Local Church find that there is a special strength working through any difficulties together!
One more study, from Oklahoma: Couples on the verge of divorce, but choosing to stay in the marriage, were approached 5 years later, and asked, “On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate your marriage?” 83% of those couples gave their marriage a 4 or a 5. (The same couples who were contemplating divorce 5 years earlier!) There is something to be said about sticking together through the tough times!
There’s still much to be concerned about. Recently, 40% in the States polled said they “didn’t believe in Marriage”, and 80% in Europe! We, as Christians, have much to offer the world, and at the heart of it: 1. Christ-Centered Marriages that model to the world a commitment that is born out of our love for our Lord! 2. Husbands who "love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her" (Ephesians 5:25) 3. Wives who "submit to their husbands as they would the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22)
We have a different and beautiful vision of marriage to offer the world, through the design of God Himself, given in Hebrews 13:4, that both promotes security and societal well-being, and honors Him: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Will you join us in promoting this Good News?