Based upon conventional wisdom, Christian church divorce rate statistics in America have essentially achieved parity with those outside of the church, and the divorce rate hovers around 50 percent, which essentially reduces successful marriage down to a coin toss. But one researcher believes these commonly cited numbers are not true at all.
In a related report by The Inquisitr, it was reportedly considered quite a shocker when Pope Francis told a woman married to a divorcee that she could take communion. This is because the teachings of the Catholic church claim that if a practicing Catholic is divorced and remarried, he or she is banned from taking communion unless there’s an annulment.
For example, Pope John Paul II wrote on the subject of divorce back in 1981:
“Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony. Since this is an evil that, like the others, is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. … [T]he Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried.”
Christians in the various denominations of the Protestant church may disagree or agree with this stance. The controversy over whether divorce and remarriage is allowed according to the Bible revolves primarily around Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. Jesus uses the phrase “except for marital unfaithfulness” or “except for sexual immorality.” Jesus even tackles remarriage, saying, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Many believe the exceptions should be interpreted to refer only to the innocent party. Still, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that Jesus hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that reconciliation and forgiveness should be the aim of a Christian (Luke 11:4, Ephesians 4:32).
Harvard-trained researcher Shaunti Feldhahn believes the idea that Christian church divorce rate statistics are the same as the rest of the world has been a demoralizing effect on many Christians:
“For a pastor it means ‘all my work doesn’t mean very much. For the average person in the congregation there’s this subtle feeling like, ‘If that’s true: if on something as important as marriage, doing what the Bible says doesn’t change anything, what does that mean about the Bible?'”
Virginia Pastor Daniel Floyd agrees, saying that “because a 50 percent divorce rate inside the church really just said the church makes no difference in your marriage. And that’s quite an indictment of the church.” Christian psychotherapist Angel Davis said the belief that half of Christian marriages fail “becomes like a statistic in your mind.”
Feldhahn decided to tackle the issue of the Christian divorce rate when writing her new book, The Good News About Marriage. In her previous books and speeches, she quoted the 50 percent divorce rate as if it was gospel, but eventually she realized it wasn’t true. What she discovered was that the general divorce rate in America was well below 50 percent for everyone, and even lower for Christians, which she estimates to be either in the single digits or in the teens. She believes the U.S. divorce rate is actually 31 percent, and she’s seen cases where pastors have tracked hundreds of couples they’ve married:
“It was 25, 27 years later. Less than 10 percent had been divorced.”
So where did the previously accepted Christian church divorce rate statistics come from in the first place? Feldhahn believes other researchers made these projections based upon the rising divorce numbers from the 1970s and 1980s, but in actuality she claims the “divorce rate has been dropping. We’ve never hit those numbers. We’ve never gotten close.”
Of course, Feldhahn’s should be balanced out against other studies. A Barna Group report from 2008 claims that overall the divorce rate in the U.S. is 33 percent, but they also note that evangelical Christians are at 26 percent and Catholics are 28 percent. But Protestants in general are listed as 34 percent, which would make that group the same as everyone else assuming a statistical margin of error.
Are you surprised that Christian church divorce rate statistics in America might be so low?