“Born-again” Christians are just as likely to divorce as are non-Christians, according to a Sept. 8 report by pollster George Barna.
Barna said 35 percent of married born-again Christians have gone through a divorce. That figure is identical to the 35 percent divorce rate among married adults who are not born again.
The study confirmed findings first identified by Barna a decade ago, that born-agains are just as likely to divorce as non-Christians.
One factor skewing those numbers is that greater numbers of non-born again adults cohabit without marrying, sidestepping the need for divorce. Eighty percent of born-again adults have been married, compared to 69 percent among the non-born again segment. Even if both segments married at the same rate, however, Barna said the divorce rate for non-born-agains would be only marginally higher.
Relatively few born-again Christians experienced their divorce before accepting Christ, Barna said.
He also found that majorities of both born-again and non-born-again do not believe divorce is a sin.
Faith perspective made a difference, but 52 percent of those born again disagreed that divorce without adultery being involved is a sin. Three fourths of non-born-again adults disagreed with the statement.
“You can understand why atheists and agnostics might have a higher rate of divorce, since they are less likely to believe concepts such as sin, absolute moral truth and judgment,” Barna said. Yet the percentage of atheists and agnostics who have been married and divorced is very similar to numbers of the born-again population.
More than one in three (35 percent) Americans who have been married have also been divorced Barna said. He said there appears to be no end in sight for the trend—nearly half of baby boomers (46 percent) have undergone a marital split and the generation following boomers appears headed for similar heights.
The news comes while many evangelical leaders are focusing on defending family values by amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage and opposing civil unions for same-sex couples in the states.
A year ago the Southern Baptist Convention pledged to make cutting the divorce rate a priority. The SBC launched its Kingdom Family emphasis in 2003 in Phoenix, built around former SBC president Tom Elliff’s book, Seven Pillars for a Kingdom Family, which he said, if followed, would make marriages virtually divorce-proof.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.