Conservative Christians see themselves as the last defenders of traditional marriage. Yet many don't quite live up to the ideal.
Conservative Christians think of themselves as the last line of defense for a time-honored and holy tradition, marriage. In the conservative Christian view, marriage is a sacred union ordained by God. It binds one man and woman together so that the "two become one flesh" until they are parted by death.
This view of marriage is unbiblical, to be sure. See Captive Virgins, Polygamy, Sex Slaves: What Marriage Would Look Like If We Actually Followed The Bible
. But hey, who actually reads the Bible? Surely, what God meant to say
is that marriage should take the form that is most familiar and traditional to us: One male plus one female who is given to the male by her father--that part is
In this worldview, Christian marriage is under assault by an anti-trinity of powerful and dark forces: feminism, homosexuality and godlessness. Faith, on the other hand, saves both souls and marriages. When I was young, a slogan made its way around my church: The family that prays together stays together
. Tom Ellis, former chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention's Council on the Family boldly claimed
that "born-again Christian couples who marry...in the church after having received premarital counseling...and attend church regularly and pray daily together... experience only 1 divorce out of nearly 39,000 marriages."
But then came data. According to
research by the Barna Research Group over a decade ago, American divorce rates were highest among Baptists and nondenominational "Bible-believing" Christians and lower among more theologically liberal Christians like Methodists, with atheists at the bottom of the divorce pack. When the findings were made public, George Barna took some heat because Christians expected the difference to be more dramatic and to favor believers. Ellis suggested that maybe Barna had sampled badly. Perhaps some people who called themselves born again had never really devoted their lives to Christ. But Barna held his ground, saying
, "We rarely find substantial differences" [in the moral behavior of Christians and non-Christians].