Spiritual Intimacy - CORRECTION & Request for help - 3/19/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Tue Mar 19 17:44:27 EST 2002
subject: Spiritual Intimacy - CORRECTION & Request for help - 3/19/02
from: Smart Marriages
I've received a dozen emails along the lines of this one from Cary Lantz
which is the most informative. Egg on my face. Mea culpa and all that. I
DO NOW remember that Cary led an extensive discussion of this issue on the
list back in 1999.
I'll share some of that thread which is all there on the archive but
obviously not burned into my brain. I guess I was carried away by the
current interest in spiritual intimacy - spiritual marriage, spiritual sex,
spiritual bonding - and decided to share with you part of one email along
those lines and info on what we do have in the upcoming conference on this.
I just checked with the person who sent it who told me they got it from Gary
Smalley who would probably say - as Cary catalogues below - that he's not
sure where he got it, and so on.
Maybe all this interest is a post 9/11 phenomenon. Whatever, it's certainly
a good thing - research or not.
Also, hope you'll read to the end where an interesting and related question
is posed that's at the opposite end of the Spiritual Intimacy continuum.
I'm sure some of you will have ideas/answers which I hope you'll copy to the
list. - diane
CORRECTION ON THE SPIRITUAL INTIMACY AND DIVORCE LEGEND:
Diane, ". . . the Gallup organization found that less than 1% of couples
who develop spiritual intimacy together ever get divorced."
Unless this is a recent Gallup survey and you have the reference for it, I
believe this statement is erroneous. In the interest of protecting the
credibility of the various other marriage statistics that we see on the list
daily, I would urge that we stop circulating this "<1%" statistic. It
surfaces on the list (and elsewhere) periodically.
For four years now, I have been pursuing the source of this and related
figures re: couples who enjoy high levels of "spiritual intimacy" together,
pray together, study scripture together, etc., etc. Like many others, I
would like it to be true. In fact, I believe it may be true for an "elite"
tiny percentage of couples, but I am confident that no good study--and most
likely, not even a meaningful survey has obtained this figure. (In fact, I
am launching a faith research center specifically to investigate issues like
this related to the power of faith.) The one exception I have found it a
report by Greeley, saying that couples who (1) pray together regularly and
(2) have a high level of sexual intimacy as well, have a very low rate of
divorce. (Which, of course, invites the question of interaction effects)
However, (unless all references have their roots in the Greeley report;
though no one I've come across has cited him as their source) after
contacting over 70 leaders in the marriage/faith area (including Markey,
Stoop, Gallup, Barna, Dobson, etc., etc.; and even an inquiry put out to
this list some time back.) I am convinced that the figure is an "urban
legend"--passed along by people who are now quoting each other. (I guess
it's true that if you say something often enough, at some point people start
treating it as Truth.)
I have followed up on every mention of this <1% figure that I have come
across, whether from writers, researchers, clinicians, pollsters, or the
clergy and one-by-one, the sources have caved in. Having heard Gallup's
name mentioned several times, I talked with him a while back and he said he
was confident this was not one of his organization's findings; he thought he
would surely remember such a dramatic figure if they had come up with it.
He suggested that it sounded like something Barna's group might have found.
(But Barna's people also don't recognize the figure.)
>From leaders in the church and in the marriage education field alike I've
heard things like, "Well, I got that figure from someone who came up to me
at a seminar," or "I think I read it in one of those 'evangelical
publications' ", or "Yeah, I presented that figure in a paper a few years
back, but the study was a poor one, so I never even tried to publish it";
and, in following up with some pastors who've made similar claims, what I've
heard are things to the effect, "Well, I've married thousands of couples
who've committed to (regular faith practices together) over the years and
I've only had ________ of them come back to me and say they got a divorce;
and that's far less than 1%."
But, by far the most frequent and most discouraging feedback I get is: "I
don't remember where I heard that."
The figure takes slightly different form at different times, (couples who
pray together daily, couples who read the Bible together daily, "evangelical
couples", etc., etc.) but I'm sure it's just the "rumor" phenomenon--where
the message gets massaged as it's passed along.
The capstone (so far) to my crusade to find The Elusive Statistic is that
twice in the past year I have heard myself cited as the author of the study
that found this figure! (Both times it came from people finding my original
inquiry to the smartmarriages list in the archives. They saw my name
attached to the note, without noticing that I was asking the question--not
sharing a study I've done.)
Several years back Mark Noll, a highly respected evangelical scholar, wrote
an award-winning book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, in which he
challenges evangelical Christians to develop a higher regard for critical
thinking and good scholarship. After four years on the trail of this
study/survey I've come to believe that this circulating statistic with a
life of its own (particularly among evangelical Christians--my own identity
group) may be Exhibit A in support of Noll's argument.
I hope someone will come forward with the reference to prove my comments to
be in error.
Cary Lantz CaryE46 at aol.com
- - - - ---
Diane, Seems like divorce statistics are a popular topic.
I'd like to toss out another request for the list: Through various sources,
I have heard some dramatic figures quoted. However, I have found it nearly
impossible to trace the numbers back to the original sources. The
particular figures I am interested in is the divorce rate for Christian
couples who participate in various spiritual activities regularly (viz.,
married in a Christian ceremony, pray together daily, read the Bible
together regularly, regular shared scripture reading, weekly church
attendance, etc.). I have heard such dramatic numbers as 0% (!!), 1%, 2%,
and 1:1150 (or 1 out of 1,150 couples!) The latter figure was reported as
coming from "a Harvard study". Obviously, if anything near these figures is
true (when practicing one's faith is pinned down to specific spiritual/
religious activities), the finding is phenomenally significant in light of
the national rates. The couples referred to have been referred to variously
as "evangelical" or "born again" Christians. I am trying Barna Research
Group, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today; but, so far, no success. I
would be very interested in any leads your list might be able to share.
Cary Lantz asked about data relating to religious practice and
divorce. There is a section in the "To Have and To Hold" report (pages 91 -
92) which summarises some of the research. The report is on the web at
Regards, Kevin Andrews,
>> Dear Dianne, Re: divorce stats. Do you have any data, or can you direct me
>> to research on divorce rates among couples identifying themselves as
>> Christians? Pastors, for years, have been saying from the pulpit that the
>> rates within the church are now no different from the population at large
>> (i.e., 50%). I doubt that. David Larson's studies on correlates of
>> "religious" participation (broadly defined) would seem to challenge this
>> figure. I am wondering if there are any studies breaking down rates
>> according to different Christian denominations, or according to how
>> respondents define "Christian" (i.e., church attendance, believing in God,
>> being "born again", having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, etc.).
>> I might add, on the other hand, that I recently heard a nationally prominent
>> pastor say on TV that the divorce rate among "evangelical" Christians is less
>> than 2%! (I count myself in that faith category, but we all know that that
>> rate is false. I contacted this person to ask where they got the figure and
>> they replied that they couldn't remember!) I would like to get my hands on
>> more meaningful numbers re: this portion ("Christians") of the population, or
>> to get in touch with folks who are investigating this area. (Else, I may
>> have to do the study myself!)
>> Thanks for any help or direction you can offer.
>> Cary Lantz
> Note from Diane: What about non-Christian religions? Who can help with the
> latest on this?
INTERESTING RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCE REQUEST:
I wonder if anyone on the list can consult about a case I am
working on. It is a stepfamily couple who has been married for 7 years and
now separated for 2 years. The husband is a Vietnam vet and has experienced
extensive PTSD, which contributed significantly to their marital problems.
The wife brought two sons into the remarriage, though one never lived with
them. They had many of the traditional stepfamily issues - no communication,
he was too tough on her son, she expected him to love her kids, they had no
time as a couple etc.
About a year into the separation they decided they would give the marriage
one more try which is when they came to see me for marital counseling. We
have made great progress on the stepfamily front and they have markedly
improved their communication/problem solving skills. Around Christmas they
decided they were almost ready to move in together again and be a family
once more. Then she had second thoughts.
The hang up now is the difference in their religious beliefs. He describes
himself as a "middle of the road Methodist with an interest in Buddhism to
spice it up." She is a very strict fundamentalist Christian. She believes
that he is going to hell if he does not believe what she does. She has made
the choice to limit her outside influence to only things that pertain to her
belief system e.g. only watches the Trinity Broadcasts on television, only
reads religious material, doesn't go to movies etc. He is having a terrible
time accepting this - he likes a good movie and wants a partner with whom he
can discuss things. He believes she is too rigid and limited in her beliefs;
she believes he is going to hell. She continues to back out of the plans to
reconcile because she is fearful that the differences in this part of their
lives is too great.
They are a well matched couple in many other areas of their lives. And most
important, both say they love the other. I feel a bit out of my league when
it comes to this fundamental Christian orientation and am seeking advice as
to how to proceed to help this couple. We've worked a long time and I hate
to see them not make it now.
Thanks for your thoughts on this one.
Jean McBride, M.S., LMFT
The Center for Divorce & Remarriage
cdr at verinet.com
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