Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Christian Myths

Christian myths are those things that have been perpetuated (often through the Internet) by the Christian community (primarily) to the Christian community in the churches themselves. They often appear harmless, but even the slightest ones often make us lose credibility in the sight of the world. Now certainly, if they wish to mock us for a biblical doctrine, that is one thing. But we should not add unto ourselves problems that don’t even have a sound basis! The following are some Christian myths that the church has held for far too long. This may become a series.

1. The divorce rate in America is 50%.

The Myth: This has been repeated in pulpits, publications, and psychological books on marriage by Christians for decades now. It is often mentioned in combination with the idea that the church’s divorce rate is identical (or at least not discernibly different) to the world. The problem? It’s just not true. Or, I should say, the supposed basis is faulty.

This statistic is based on a single study in which sociologists, for reasons unknown to me, took the number of divorces in a given year and divided by the number of marriages that same year. Someone interpreted it to be the actual rate of marriages that end in divorce, and it was off to the races. I am not accusing the sociologists of bad practice; indeed, they may have been studying a divorce rate to marriage replacement rate for all I know (I’ve never read the study). But this would be one of the worst and least accurate possible ways to figure out how many marriages end in divorce.

To see why, let us take made up figures in two examples. For the first example, let’s say there were 10,000 marriages and 5,000 divorces in a given year. 5,000 / 10,000 = 0.5, or the number of divorces in a given year represented half of the number of marriages that year. In the second example, let us assume there were 5,000 marriages and 10,000 divorces. 10,000 / 5,000 = 2. So the divorce rate in a given year is twice the marriage rate. But if the first example is what was used to determine the percentage of marriages that end in divorce, the second number represents 200% of the marriages ending in divorce--a mathematical impossibility!

In case someone is not yet convinced, consider this: simply because there were X number of marriages and X number of divorces, it does not at all follow that those people were married and divorced the same year. Nor is there any justification sociologically for saying the marriage and divorce rates remain stagnant from year to year before and after the study.

Why it matters: Because we must be concerned with the truth. Further than that, it creates an alarmist attitude where we tend to think the only people doing good in the world is our little band of Christianity. After all, the divorce rate isn’t 50% in my church, and if it is in the world and in most of Christianity, why, then, we’re pretty good! Finally, it’s important to the younger generation that we can be trusted without being perceived as hyperbolic or anti-intellectual. They need to be able to trust us.

Next up: Russians dug a hole into Hell . . .
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