(RNS) Conservative Protestants
in red states aren’t the only ones seeing high divorce rates — so are their neighbors, according to a new study.
Researchers found that simply living in an area with a large concentration of conservative Protestants increases the chances of divorce, even for those who are not themselves conservative Protestants.
The findings are not as straightforward as saying “conservative Protestants are causing trouble for other people’s marriages,” said Charles Stokes, a sociology professor at Samford University, who conducted a separate study on Americans who, on average, got married at a younger age.
In his own research, Stokes found that conservative Protestants who attend church regularly are significantly less likely to have gotten divorced than nonreligious peers.
So what seems to be happening is that idealizing marriage becomes dominant in conservative Protestant areas, but only those conservative Protestants who are also active participants in their church community have the social and communal resources to help their marriage survive; whereas other Christians and other people in the region (who also imbibed the intense pressure to get and stay married that is dominant in the area) don't participate as much in their religious/church community and thus don't have the social support that can help their marriages survive.