Correcting Glenn Stanton’s myth about the myth of Christian divorce Part I

Those who know me know that the topic of divorce in church animates me more than anything else. DIC was even my screen name for many years, and what little bit of activism I manage is motivated by same. I have been uncomfortable with the attempts to counter Barna’s research on this subject for a long time. Stanton has written a piece that has been re-posted all across the Christian quarters of the internet as hapless men find reaffirmation and succor in what Stanton says.

Glenn, if I could speak directly to you for a moment please, I think we might make some progress if you will listen carefully. First, I will explain what you need to do and how, then I will show you why.

Glenn, you need to Ctrl-Alt-Del your hard drive my friend. Its OK if you remove the data files, family photos, favorite foods,  (nope those will leave clusters of bad code on the drive if I read your taste correctly), directions and credit card info….you get the point. Its your operating system that is corrupted. You have to do a government level delete and write over, maybe 16 times ought to do it, but just in case, we are going to make the last overwrite be every manosphere blog in existence, written on and deleted from your drive. If remnants remain, they will be of the good kind.

For some outreach Glenn, I recommend you visit your local family court, sit through a few days of hearings, and speak to the men who stumble out, mucus covered, ruined, and ask them to tell you what happened. Really LISTEN, which means eliminating your preconceived notions (deleting your operating system).

Its been merely annoying to hear and read your take on men and women and marriage, and it has offered low fruit for bloggers like Dalrock (Stanton’s heroes) and others as you shame men and build up as heroes the women who, lets be polite, are behaving badly….and yet are prominent (often even physically) in church, involved in activities, showing outward signs of a passionate faith, and otherwise creating social CV’s that demonstrate they, like a golden brown meat loaf, have deep down goodness.

Now you are opening up your store of dysfunction to the general public.

Your article about the myth of high church divorce rates is a rehash of the predictable response to Barna’s numbers of a few years ago and the resulting impression that the church is not doing very well in terms of divorce. You went so far as to find research loosely aligned with the subject, and found some numbers to use to refute Barna’s numbers. This is complicated. It is intangible in that measuring someone’s Christian-ness is specious at best because it lacks an objective metric, as is measuring their lack of same, even among the regular faces staring back from the pews. All the countable things cited are things that may be a result of true belief, or may be the product of people who just take their dedication to things seriously….reliable folks who, if told they should go to church they go to church.

In your piece you say,

The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes — attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously

You assert it is these things that truly define the difference in divorce propensity. Maybe, maybe not.

I prefer to argue using data, but by design these things are not countable. By observation we can count who shows up, who is active, and who appears to be serious and committed. But in the end to gather this information requires what amounts to a survey, and all the problems those include. Like the converse of “when did you stop beating your wife”, these kinds of do good surveys skew to the better…invariably.

But none of that matters if what I suspect is true. When you say,

Here’s the truth….

Many people who seriously practice a traditional religious faith — be it Christian or other — have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

I think you are wishful thinking, because for you to agree and admit there is a divorce problem in the church will invite even more scrutiny of the product you are selling, The Personal Jesus TM. Under said scrutiny you will find yourself forced to answer more than just questions about men behaving badly. Men are daily awakening to the soft (and hard) misandry of low expectations that is the churches face to men. The phrase “here is the truth” is hardly a bibliography, even if you list references.

Your statements prove something we discuss often in the Christian manosphere. That is the most women and many men do not understand statements that are suggestive of statistics. They read the statements and if they evoke good feelings, they must be true, if bad, untrue, and numbers always lie, so forth.

Lets look at three statements:

Professor Scott Stanley from the University of Denver, working with an absolute all-star team of leading sociologists on the Oklahoma Marriage Study, explains that couples with a vibrant religious faith had more and higher levels of the qualities couples need to avoid divorce

those who said that they were more religious reported higher average levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce and lower levels of negative interaction

Those who say they are more religious are less likely, not more, to have already experienced divorce. Likewise, those who report more frequent attendance at religious services were significantly less likely to have been divorced

The last one is the common  trick of stating something technically true and utterly irrelevant to the issue at hand. The subjectivity of the claims in the other statements begs that we dig into the footnotes he provides and unpack the facts, the context, what was omitted and what was inferred. I have done just that and over the next couple of posts I will cast a great deal of doubt on his claims. He has cherry picked, he has omitted data, and failed to put things in any kind of context. I will show this by posting what his references actually say. I’ve also written the authors and ask for their take on the issue, because the cited research is buried in a much broader cultural contextual analysis.

Please hang with me as I attempt to better paint the landscape of divorce in the American church.

6 thoughts on “Correcting Glenn Stanton’s myth about the myth of Christian divorce Part I

  1. This comment at The Spearhead hints at what the theme of my next posts is, and how the research they cite actually backs what this poster said. Pugs stated:
    Her list of qualities in what she considered to be a “good man” was a mile long, and impossible to even attempt to fulfill. I wish her luck. The thing that most people seem to miss when quoting scriptures that reference marriage is that everything they describe was a lot easier to do back when all you had was your tent, your flock, or your farm.
    He was referring to a woman he had connected with after his divorce and she was telling him this rot.
    The answer is also in there in what he says about what makes marriage easier.

  2. Great topic! I can’t wait to read the upcoming series. I’m really curious about the rate of divorce in the church, but what I’m even more curious about is the rate of unbiblical divorce (“frivorce”). I’m guessing there isn’t much data out there that could reliably show what percentage of divorces resulted from unrepentant infidelity or physical abandonment. I would want statics that do not consider “abuse” as a valid biblical reason for divorce.

  3. Pingback: How to make Glenn Stanton’s day. | Dalrock

  4. Something that always strikes me in these types of articles, like Stenton’s, is that most religious people who are nearing divorce take a step back from all the things that he says make marriages work. It has a result of ensuring that his ideas are somewhat defensible. Men who are fighting for their marriage are spending all their efforts on saving the marriage and spend less time in church, and Bible reading. They may spend more time praying, but I doubt that time praying together is happening with a wife that has declared war on their marriage. So I can say that with a fair amount of certainty that men are rarely doing all of these things when their marriage dissolve. Its easy. Who prays WITH a person who has declared war on your family.

    I look forward to dealing with the lists church ladies make for their future husbands. I have found that first timers have incredible lists. I would think that second timers or long forgotten first timers would have shorter more reasonable lists, but it seems as I get back out there that it is just the opposite. The lists get worse and longer. The funny thing is the guy they like meets all the things on the list until he is a bad guy, then he doesn’t and if only she had noticed it before, then her heart would not be broken, and she would not have to be re-virginized yet again.

  5. My take on Stanton: Let’s assume, for sake of argument, that his statistical methods hold up (which they don’t, because, as you said, there is no objective countable measure of Christian devotion). But let’s pretend….

    Now let’s look at what our Lord has stated: Divorce is only acceptable in case of adultery or abandonment by a non-believing spouse.

    So in order for these divorces not to be total disobedience, either at least one partner in the marriage is cheating on the other, or at least one partner has abandoned the other. But wait a second. If one “devoted” Christian partner is cheating on another, or abandons the other, that is ALSO disobedience, but by the other party. We are forbidden by Christ from behaving this way.

    So from a Biblical standpoint, the only acceptable level of Christian divorce is 0%. Anything else points to a sin problem. Our sins are forgiven, yes. But that doesn’t mean that our sins no longer constitute disobedience, are no longer destructive, or are no longer a big deal.

    And if our sins are forgiven, why are we afraid of admitting them, repenting of them, taking them to the Cross? What do we have to lose but our Pharisaical pride?

    And that’s the thing. In the end, the Stanton’s of the world defend Christian divorce because it is easier than letting go of our, “I praise God that I’m not like that tax collector over there” attitude (Luke 18:11).

  6. We have nothing to base said pride on, which flips us right back around to the pet morality of the church while frivorcees run amok. Are there 38% of the church members who are in a gay marriage?

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