The concept of staying in a troubled marriage for the sake of the children should still be seen as a mature, selfless decision, Pastor Rick Warren says.
Warren, who heads Saddleback Church in California, wrote in a recent devotional post that some modern couples dismiss the traditional idea that it is important to stay in a difficult marriage for the sake of their children's happiness.
"Today people laugh at that statement. 'Stay together for the sake of the kids? What are you talking about? You've got to do what's best for you,'" Warren writes, adding that staying together for the children used to be considered "unselfish and mature."
"Really? Do you always have to do what's best for you? That's called narcissism. Can you sometimes do something that's best for somebody else? For someone who's more vulnerable than you are? That's called maturity. That's called unselfishness. That's called love," the evangelical preacher maintains.
Warren also writes that it is important to do marriage "God's way" so children feel secure and protected, and therefore have the opportunity to flourish in ways they may not be able to if they grow up in a divorced household.
Children need "a place of refuge and security, where they don't have to worry if mom or dad is going to walk out," the pastor writes. "Why did God create marriage for the protection of children? Because when children are born, they are completely helpless. God knew that children needed a safe environment and somebody to feed and dress and nurture and protect and train and care for them."
"When you do marriage God's way, it works out better in your life and your kids' lives. Kids grow healthier and stronger when they grow up in a stable family, with a mom and a dad in a stable marriage," the pastor adds.
Divorce is a prominent topic in the evangelical church, with different polls offering different insights into how secular Americans view divorce compared to evangelical Christians.
A 2008 Barna study found, for example, that when "evangelicals and non-evangelical born again Christians are combined into an aggregate class of born again adults, their divorce figure is statistically identical to that of non-born again adults: 32% versus 33%, respectively."
Best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn has dedicated herself to debuking myths about marriage, divorce and religion, telling The Christian Post in an interview in 2014 that several "statistics" regarding marriage in the church simply are not true.
Feldhahn told CP at the time that after conducting eight years of research for her book The Good News About Marriage, she found that marriage statistics are not nearly as dismal as they once seemed.
One important misunderstanding, Feldhahn clarifies in her book, is the conception that divorce rates are the same in the church as outside of the church, as mentioned in an earlier Barna study.
The author told CP that she partnered with the Barna Group to determine that these numbers were misleading because they only accounted for people's expressed religious beliefs, rather than their actual church attendance.
"So I partnered with Barna and we re-ran the numbers: and if the person was in church the prior week, their divorce rate dropped 27% compared to those who weren't! Many studies have found that church attendance drops the divorce rate 25-50% compared to those who don't attend. It also increases happiness in marriage and has several other dramatic life and marriage outcomes that we cover in the book," Feldhahn told CP.