Divorce in the Bible Belt

January 29, 2004 -- Posted at 6:18 pm CST

WALNUT RIDGE—Biblical scholars say in the Old Testament only men were allowed to divorce, for reasons such as the woman was no longer beautiful, or believe it or not she had bad breath.

"Jesus really tried to stress that if all possible, no matter what the problems are in a marriage, work it out," said Williams Baptist College Professor Ken Gore.

Gore says divorce can be a sin in some circumstances.

"One needs to be very careful as to when divorce is allowed and when divorce should not be allowed," said Gore.

The most recent state by state comparison of divorce rates in the U.S. shows that the least number of divorces take place in northeast states that are predominately Catholic. States in the bible belt rank high in the number of divorces. According to a study by the Barna Research Group, Born Again Christians are more likely to go through a marital split than are non Christians. The question is why is this happening in a place where many people are so attached to religion?

"Christians tend to avoid co-habitation, and in other parts of the country, people just live together and break up and they're not contributing to the divorce rate in those parts of the country," said Ron Deal with Southwest Church of Christ in Jonesboro.

Southwest Church of Christ is one local church that has a pre-marital counseling program, urging couples to wait 6 months to a year before getting married.

"We follow up with the couple 6 months after they're married and a year after they're married in a personal interview to make sure we're checking in on them to see how things are going," said Deal.

Even with all the efforts to prevent divorce, why are the statistics so high?

"First of all, we have to remember not to blame Christianity. As it turns out 84% of Americans claim to have a Christian faith, but only 4% actually live out of that world view," said Deal.