Pastors believe not all divorces are created equal, but for many Americans any reason is as good as another, a new study shows.
“Pastors make a distinction about the rightness of a divorce based on the reasons behind it,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research in Nashville. “They want to account for the parts of Scripture that speak of possible rationales.”
However, Americans view virtually all reasons for ending a marriage in the same moral light.
In a phone survey of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found 39 percent say divorce is a sin when an individual’s spouse commits adultery; 38 percent when the couple no longer loves one another; 38 percent when a spouse abandons the other; 37 percent when a spouse is abused; and 35 percent when a spouse is addicted to pornography. Close to the same (37 percent) say divorce is not a sin in any of these.
“About one in seven Americans are saying divorce is a sin in all of these cases, more than a third don’t think any of these would be a sin, and almost half believe some circumstances would be sinful, but not others,” McConnell said.
In a separate phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors, less than a third want to classify as sinful an individual divorcing their spouse for adultery (32 percent), abuse (28 percent), or abandonment (27 percent).
Pastors are more likely to call divorce a sin when a couple divorces over a pornography addiction (39 percent), and because the spouses no longer love another (61 percent).
LifeWay released the findings Aug. 12, drawing from two phone surveys last fall.
In their views on divorce, Protestant church members are much more closely aligned with the average American than with their pastor. Virtually the same percentage of Protestants believes a divorce is sinful when it is over adultery (44 percent) or an end to their feelings of love (46 percent).
Differences also exist between Americans from different regions of the country. Those in the Northeast and those in the predominately Protestant South are more likely to consider the various possibilities as sinful compared to those in the West. Westerners are the most likely to say none of the reasons would be a sin (51 percent).
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SOURCE: Baptist Press