Morality in America
When studying the founding of the United States, you can’t help but encounter the faith of the nation’s forefathers. Time and again they recognized God’s hand in the shaping of America. You will find Him repeatedly mentioned in their words and documents. And you will find Him having an active, vibrant role in the country’s early history.
Today, God continues His work in America – but it’s in a nation that has clearly lost its moral compass. Every week, “Morality in America” will address the myriad of moral concerns facing the United States and undermining its Godly heritage. After you read, remember to intercede in prayer for America – that this nation will return to the Christian standards that once defined it.
Divorce in America
Recent studies discover link to eroding religion
By Bill Noles, Jr.
Two widely recognized trends in American society might have something to do with each other, according to The Washington Post.
"Divorce rates climbed to the highest levels ever in the 1980s, when about half of all marriages ended in divorce."
"And in the present day, Americans are rapidly becoming less religious. Since 1972, the share of Americans who say they do not adhere to any particular religion has increased from 5 percent of the population to 25 percent," The Washington Post stated.
A new study from the Public Religion Research Institute discovered that the children of divorced parents have grown up to be adults of no religion. One out of every four (25 percent) Americans – and nearly four in ten (39 percent) young adults – identify as religiously unaffiliated.
"A lot of the narrative around the rise of the nones, or the rise of the non-affiliated, has focused on how there’s changing cultural preferences, that people are choosing to move away from religion," said Daniel Cox, one of the researchers on the new study. "I think there’s also a structural part of the story that has not gotten as much attention. We wanted to focus on the way millennials were raised, which is different from any previous generation. And part of that is they’re more likely to have grown up with parents who are divorced."
"Everything in a divorce gets divided. Literally everything. Parents’ friends get divided. Relatives get divided. Everyone takes sides," said Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary. "Even religion takes sides. The church gets divided. Dad leaves Mom’s faith, or vice versa. Negotiating those worlds becomes difficult."
A 2013 Baylor University study found that children of divorce – with two actively religious parents – are more likely to change religions or to shy away from organized religion as adults.
"When both parents are religious, the effect of divorce has a negative effect on religiosity," said Jeremy Uecker, a professor at Baylor University and lead author of the study. "They might think their parents’ marriage was ordained by God or something and that breakup can have more of an effect on their religiousness in adulthood."
"I think it’s this idea of the loss of socialization and teaching of the religion when parents separate," Uecker added.
Another report in 2015 from Pew Research showed that religion is losing ground as more people drop out of church. The shrinking numbers of Christians is the most significant change since 2007.
"Divorce shapes young people through their lives – how they approach the major stories of the faith and how they approach the big questions of moral and spiritual development," said Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, in an interview on FamilyLife Today.
"I think the clergy – the congregation – we adults often don’t know what to do with kids on their own. We don’t know what to do with kids who are from a divorced family. We don’t want to offend their parents. We don’t want to make the child cry. We don’t know what to say – so, we just say nothing, which is the worst thing of all."
According to Marquardt, children of divorce have more difficulty establishing a relationship with God because of that divorce.
"Not only do they have less consistent involvement in a religious community when they're growing up, they are far less religious, on average, as adults," Marquardt said. "The grown children of divorce – these are 18 to 35-year-olds – they were about 14 percent less likely to be a member at a house of worship and, similarly, less likely to be – to say that they are very or fairly religious. Overall, these young people are far less religious compared to their peers, who grow up with married parents. The stories they tell explain this."
hat Can We Do?
"If people-of-faith want to arrest the cultural flight from religion, we’re going to need to get serious about promoting healthy marriages, ministering more effectively to divorced families and children-of-divorce in particular, and finding ways for our churches to be places that provide a sense of family life for members (e.g., by having things like movie nights, game nights, parish meals, and other social ministries that model the kinds of activities traditionally held by families.)," said Dr. Gregory Popcak, author and Executive Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute.
"There is a reason the Church teaches that family is the basic unit of society. As the family goes, so goes the church and politics and the culture as well," Dr. Greg added.
This week pray:
- For children of divorced parents to find a caring church.
- For divorced parents to focus on the importance of church and faith.
- For churches to promote healthy marriages and minister more effectively to divorced families.
Bill Noles Jr. is a former Christian newspaper publisher, an entrepreneur, author and writer. He and his wife Diann live in Albany, Oregon.
The following expressions and comments are from our members and do not necessarily represent or reflect the biblical, world views or opinions of the Presidential Prayer Team
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