Depending on which study you look at, divorce rates among Evangelicals or Born-Again Christians are either equal to the national average or well below it. But they’re never under 25%. So one marriage out of four, at least, ends in divorce.
Whether this is better than the national average or not, it’s still very high. Much higher than you’d think, given Jesus’s strong words against divorce.
Why is this so? I don’t know, but I have a few observations. I’ll work through them in more detail in subsequent posts, but today I’ll simply give an overview.
Idolatry of Family – we Evangelicals see the family as paramount. We ignore the Apostle Paul’s words about celibacy (1 Cor 7:8-9), and we push everyone to get married early.
The pressure is so subtle, we don’t even realize it’s there, but we’re soaking in it every day of our lives. We get married before we’re ready, and it sets too many of us on the path to divorce.
Purity Culture – alongside the pressure to marry young is the overwhelming pressure (at least on girls) to stay “pure” for marriage.
The ugly flip side of this is that girls who have sex before they are married (and something like 80% do), are often shamed, treated like damaged goods. Elizabeth Smart’s story is a chilling example of this. The emotional scars this shaming leaves can affect marriage for years down the line.
Purity Culture’s Empty Promises - If the stick wasn’t enough, purity culture has an equally damaging carrot. It’s implied, and sometimes even stated outright, that if you wait until your wedding night, everything will be awesome.
The truth is, virginity is no magic key to a perfect marriage. This should be obvious, and it’s a sign of how messed up things are that it isn’t.
Having mystically high expectations set up that reality can’t realistically meet? Not a good foundation for a marriage.
Game Face Churchianity – you’d think that at church, among your fellow believers, would be the place to share your struggles, to show vulnerability, to be true and authentic, even when it isn’t pretty.
Well, you’d think that unless you’d ever actually been to church.
Pray Away the Gay – I went to a Baptist college as an undergraduate. Several men I knew there got married right out of college, just like they were supposed to (see #1, above). Some even had kids, just like they were supposed to.
Then, down the line, they realized they were gay. Or they admitted to themselves that they were gay. Or they just couldn’t repress the fact that they were gay anymore.
Reparative therapy doesn’t work. That’s been proven to the point that the APA and AMA are both resolutely against it. Marrying a woman and hoping it will all work out certainly doesn’t work.
Dragging a woman (and even children) through that unnecessary hell is just plain inexcusable, but the greater guilt is on those who pressured the gay man to do it.
So What’s Left?
Maybe the answer isn’t found in Jesus’ words about divorce, but in his words about self-examination and self-righteousness in Matthew 7:3-5.
4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.