Three Things for Sunday

[“The Theology of Rest,” from the Forefront Church]

1. Divorce rate shocker? I’m not shocked.

Patrick Madrid linked to this article from CBN News (“Divorce Shocker: Most Marriages Do Make It”) contesting the widely-accepted “fact” that half of all marriages end in divorce. According to researcher Shaunti Feldhahn, the real divorce rate is probably much lower than that. CBN reports:

“First-time marriages: probably 20 to 25 percent have ended in divorce on average,” Feldhahn revealed. “Now, okay, that’s still too high, but it’s a whole lot better than what people think it is.”

Shaunti and Jeff point out the 50 percent figure came from projections of what researchers thought the divorce rate would become as they watched the divorce numbers rising in the 1970s and early 1980s when states around the nation were passing no-fault divorce laws.
“But the divorce rate has been dropping,” Feldhahn said. “We’ve never hit those numbers. We’ve never gotten close.”

CBN doesn’t link to any actual studies, but says that Feldhahn’s work appears in her new bookThe Good News About MarriageFeldhahn’s research is in line with these observations (a little old now, but still good for looking at long-term trends) from economist Justin Wolfers. Wolfers writes:

The number of divorces per thousand marriages has now fallen by 27 percent since the peak in 1979. The latest data suggest that the divorce rate for 2007 will be even lower still. And our own analysis of the stability of marriages suggests that those married in the 1990′s appear to be less likely to divorce than those married in the 1980′s, who in turn are less likely to divorce than those married in the 1970′s. As such, the divorce rate seems likely to continue to decline for some time yet.

For some reason, people (from the cultural right and left) resist any good news about marriage; the idea of “soaring divorce rates” is just so ingrained in our national psyche. Whenever I bring up dropping divorce rates, people try to argue that the stat is misleading, since marriage rates are also dropping. But notice that Wolfers uses divorces per 1000 marriages, which means that the drop in divorces is not a function of the drop in marriages. It means that people really are marrying better now than they did in the 1970s or 1980s.

2. Bob Dylan, traditionalist?

Robert Dean Lurie (h/t Andrew Sullivan) explores Bob Dylan’s 1960s period of idiosyncratic traditionalism in this fascinating post. Lurie writes:

On a personal level this involved getting married, moving to the country, and having a lot of kids. For a time he gave up smoking, drinking, and the various other substances that had fueled his manic outpourings over the previous years and had almost led to his demise. Journalists and commentators at the time attributed this transformation to his convalescence following an alleged motorcycle accident in July 1966. Whether or not the accident actually happened (and there are no hospital records to corroborate it), the young songwriter used the story as a pretext to pull himself off the fast track.

Inevitably, with the downtime came introspection. “When I [moved to] Woodstock,” Dylan wrote years later in his memoir, Chronicles, Volume One, “it became very clear to me that the whole counterculture was one big scarecrow wearing dead leaves. It had no purpose in my life.” This revelation brought with it some pretty serious implications for Dylan’s songwriting. If the “spokesman of his generation” repudiated said generation, would he have anything left to write about?

The answer turned out to be a decisive “yes”: He wrote enough to fill the albums “John Wesley Harding,” “Nashville Skyline,” “New Morning,” and “Planet Waves”—what would be a career’s worth for anyone else. Writing from a position of stability for the first time in his life, Dylan imbued his new material with warmth and melody. 

3. The Theology of Rest

Finally, ironically, I haven’t had time to watch all of the video at the head of this post. But I did love Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings post on it. Popova pulls out these quotes:

We’re picking up cues from our culture about the way we live our lives and the pace at which we live our lives. Rest isn’t a priority, because so often rest is confused with laziness… Sometimes, rest isn’t a priority because we’ve incorrectly measured success.


Rest, instead of being something passive, is actually an act of resistance. We live in The City That Never Sleeps — so resting may be the most countercultural and spiritual thing we do with our lives.

Unfortunately, what I need is less a theology of rest than a theology of stop-f*ing-around-on-my-blog-and-write-my-dumb-dissertation. But at least sermons like this help me feel better about not working.


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