The Family Research Council thinks that the American family is in the worst shape ever. They say that only 45 percent of teenagers live in the same house as their biological mother and father who were married before or around the time they were born. The rest, they say, score low on their "Index of Belonging."
Ed Stoddard looked at where the most divorced, remarried and single parents actually live, and lined that up with the dominant religious values of the region, he came to some conclusion that the FRC might not like.
The FRC, Stoddard notes, leaves religiosity out of their annual "Index of Belonging" report, even though the group claims that the "restoration of the husband-wife relationship” must be “led primarily by the institution of religion (church, synagogue, mosque and temple) and aided by the institution of education (schools, universities and media). These three—family, church and school—are the prime shapers of relationships.”
Does this assertion stand up to scrutiny? Based on some comparisons, perhaps not. For example, if you were to take the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s massive U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which was conducted in 2007, and compare it to FRC’s new index (based on 2008 data), you might draw some conclusions that would shake up a few evangelicals....
The Pew findings certainly jive with most people’s geographical conception of the U.S. “Bible Belt” — the South is much more strongly evangelical than other regions, and in three states — Oklahoma (viewed by many as part of the South), Arkansas and Tennessee, over 50 percent of the adults surveyed counted themselves as evangelical Protestant. In the (liberal) North East and California, only 11 to 20 percent of adults considered themselves evangelical. And in Utah, which is the Mormon heartland, only seven percent were evangelical.
How do these findings stack up with FRC’s on families and belonging and rejection? Well, on the “Index of Belonging,” the North East comes out on top and 50.4 percent, the South rock-bottom at 41 percent. As the FRC report acknowledges: “The South—mistakenly thought of as the most tradition-bound region of the country—has the least family-friendly environment for children.”
... (And there are other studies for example that suggest that white evangelical Protestants have high rates of teenage pregnancy – which helps explain why many took Bristol Palin’s pregnancy in stride. But critics would say it is further evidence that evangelical ideals and reality are far apart …)
The FRC findings also provide further bad news about the state of African-American families. In the Index of Belonging, Asian-Americans (at least some of whom I would guess are South Asian Muslims) come out on top at 62 percent, while blacks are at the bottom at 17.4 percent. Again, as one Pew report noted last year: “African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole, including level of affiliation with a religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life.”
When you compare all of these findings, do they in fact suggest an inverse relationship between religiosity and “intact” families?