Decline of Christianity Linked to Collapse in Marriage and Fatherhood, Experts Say
The Pew Research Center shared survey results earlier this month on the structure of the “modern American family.” The report stated, “The American family has undergone significant change in recent decades. There is no longer one predominant family form, and Americans are experiencing family life in increasingly diverse ways.” Experts say this familial breakdown is connected to the breakdown of Christianity in the U.S.
Compared to 1970, the home of a married mom and dad with children all living together has dropped from 67% to 37%. Reportedly, much of the decline is due to the normalization of unmarried adults living together. Another survey done by Communio, an evangelical nonprofit organization, yielded similar results, arguing that the decrease in Christianity as linked to a “collapse of marriage [and] fatherhood.”
This survey found 80% of churchgoers were people who had parents who stayed married. Additionally, adults who had a “close relationship” with their fathers had a 25% higher chance of sharing their parent’s faith. J.P. De Gance, the founder of Communio, noted many atheists come from homes with absent fathers or broken relationships with fathers. Moreover, how marriage is viewed bleeds into statistics on fatherhood, loneliness, and Christianity. “For those in the church interested in seeing a renewal of faith, [we] need to see a renewal of marriage,” Gance said, adding that “Christian marriage” needs to be “central.”
The survey found direct ties between never-married individuals and high levels of loneliness — in and out of the church — which has been noted to be psychologically damaging. As reported, since 2017, loneliness among Americans has risen from 40% to 58%. The survey found while “Sunday churchgoers are less likely than the average American to report being lonely, … there is a substantial gap between married, cohabiting, and single Sunday churchgoers in feelings of loneliness.”
In general, those who were married were significantly less lonely than those who were not. The results also showed that there were 10% more unmarried men in the church who considered themselves lonely than there were widows who considered themselves lonely. The report acknowledged how many people view loneliness in the church as proof of marriage being idolized but also wrote, “The loneliness data for those who have never married reinforces the truth found in Genesis 2:18 that, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’”
John Stonestreet, president of the Colsen Center for Christian Worldview, contended at the end of the report that due to the “loosened” sexual morals through the intensifying sexual revolution, “marriage and family are treated as if they are … social constructs that can be rethought in light of ever-evolving social conditions.”
By way of analogy, he compared a speed limit to gravity. “A speed limit is real, in the sense that it exists over a particular stretch of highway, but it is not real in the same sense as gravity is real. … [T]he speed limit may be changed accordingly.” As he put it, gravity is not a social construct, but rather “baked into reality,” and marriage is no different.
In light of Scripture, Stonestreet emphasized marriage as a “foundational reality.” He wrote, “[M]arital roles, the nature of family enterprise, and educational options [may] have changed, but the essential form of marriage and the relationships that comprise families have not.”
As De Gance put it, churches need to address these issues by having better marriage and family ministries. Churches need to “help Christians form the kind of relationships that lead to lifelong marriages” as well as help them form healthy relationships.
The report concluded, “The structure of marriage and family is built into the fabric of reality. To disregard it is to court destruction, in this case the destruction of faith.”
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.