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January 18, 2014 - Harry Eagar
If you are a Southerner, you know that divorce is routine, despite -- as a study notes -- the religious disapproval of the majority of the sectaries.

The study understates the dogma. A number of rightwing Christian cults -- including the fastest-growing one, Calvary Chapel -- either forbid divorce or counsel women to stay with their husbands no matter how violent or drunken they are.

Yet, and I have run into this reaction from such believers many times, if you observe that divorce is most common among Baptists and the like, they will strenuously deny it. What's the deal, they never heard of Tammy Wynette? Or looked around their own congregations?

In statistical fact, the holy roller divorce rate is around twice the national average.

The study asks, is it because of domestic violence (no), early marriage (only partly) or low income (correlated but not regarded as a cause).

I would have fingered early marriage, but that seems not to be the whole story. It's early marriage allied with little schooling (and consequent low income), combined with a habit of divorce -- even among non-sectaries in the same community.

Well, I have some doubts about the "non-sectaries." A great many Southerners who do not go to church were indoctrinated young and maintain the same religious orientation as the church-goers. That's not something that sociological surveys can catch, but if you grew up among Baptists, as I did, you know it.

I would like to know if the habit of divorce -- I regard it as a habit, at least in the peckerwoods -- shows up in the rates of second, third and fourth divorces. I suspect it would. I knew an awful lot of serial divorcers.


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