Why the Very, Very Righteous Make Me Very, Very Nervous

Now that we’re no longer a married culture; now that we have more single people floating about the country than wedded ones, it’s fun to watch the family-values contingent race to point fingers. Who is responsible for this cultural sea-change? Who, they want to know, is bad, and who is good?

I always want to know who’s doing the asking.

When you see a study claiming to somehow assess our morals, be suspicious of interest groups conducting that study—just as you’d be suspicious of a drug company conducting a study of one of its drugs. You want to know if it’s the Christian Right surveying people on their infidelity habits, say, or if it’s a neutral organization like the Pew Research organization, which analyzes census data. For when the Very, Very Righteous claim to be objective about a moral issue, I get very very nervous. Now the Barna Group, a research firm devoted primarily to the exploration of faith and spirituality, is not a biased group, and I don’t distrust its findings. So I was interested in its recent marriage study of 5017 adults selected from across the continental U.S. It concluded that born-again Christians are most likely to marry (84 percent of them, next to just 74 percent of those aligned with non-Christian faiths, and 65 percent of those who call themselves agnostics and atheists). That’s interesting. But don’t let anyone get all moral on you here: the study doesn’t show that Christians stayed married longer.

Christians of all stripes, born-again or not, are just as likely to divorce as anyone else. Born-again Christians in the study who were not evangelical (meaning, born-again Christians who meet less-stringent criteria among the born-again sect than do evangelical born-again Christians) were indistinguishable from the national average: 33 per cent have been married and divorced. Further, when evangelical born-again Christians and non-evangelical born-again Christians are combined under the heading of “born-again adults,” the number of their divorces is statistically identical to that of non-born-again adults: 32 per cent vs. 33 percent.

Ditto infidelity statistics, of which I’ve seen many—from Kinsey’s to Playboy Magazine’s to independent researchers’. It doesn’t matter if the study is sponsored by a group so morally righteous you don’t dare have a Hershey bar in their presence, any responsible method of taking our national moral temperature always uncovers one truth: We don’t differ much. Wel have the same fever, whatever our religious persuasion, however often we go to church, synagogue or mosque. Most of us marry at some point. Many of us do something we hadn’t planned to do that challenges that marriage and that may or may not end the marriage. Many of us divorce. Many of us then date for awhile, then marry again, then divorce again and then date around some more and maybe marry yet again. Increasingly we are a Singles’ Nation–which isn’t the fault of feminists ( a favorite group to point fingers at), of atheists, of non-born-agains, or anyone else.

Anyone who clears his throat to tell you otherwise—like that his group is in any way morally superior to yours–should be asked to go home and deliver his sermon to his own family…if his family still lives with him.

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