Despite the Stigma, More Divorced Christians Are Going to Church

Over the decades, divorce has become common enough that it affects every corner of American society—including the church. Congregations have to balance their convictions and their sense of welcome, upholding the institution of marriage while still offering a supportive place for those who are going through divorce.

But have churches been effective at reducing the stigma that comes with ending a marriage?

The General Social Survey has been asking people about their marital status since its inception in 1972. The question is posed this way: “Are you currently—married, widowed, divorced, separated, or have you never been married?” (This question asks about current marital status; therefore the results visualized below do not depict all Christians who have been divorced, just those who are currently divorced or separated.)

The common assumption that the vast majority of Christians are married used to be true but is no longer the case. In 1972, nearly three quarters of all Christians were married (73.1%); however, that has declined by over 20 percentage points in the past four decades.

Now, just a slim majority of Christians report that they are married (52.4%).

Many have observed that more young Christians—along with the rest of society—are delaying marriage or staying single for good, and the data show that today’s Christians are more than twice as likely as in 1972 to have never been married (24%). But they are also more than twice as likely to be divorced (17%).

With twice as many divorced believers now than in the ’70s, many churches have struggled with how to gracefully minister to current or potential members who have split, changed their family structure, and felt more socially isolated as a result. The stigma of divorce can feel especially heavy in theological traditions that espouse the concept that divorce is a sin even in cases of abandonment or adultery, or that do not bring divorced members into certain leadership roles.

Research has shown that women are much more likely to suffer economically than men after divorce, and many are left with the burden of single parenthood. Both factors may lead to a feeling of stigmatization. But across Christian traditions, despite those factors, divorced women are not deterred from church attendance.

Click here to read more.
Source: Christianity Today