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Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love, and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos
W. Bradford Wilcox
Oxford University Press, 2016
248 pp., $29.95
Marriage and the Church
"I used a lot of drugs, I drank a lot, I didn't care for my family … . When the weekend came I left my wife and I would go play soccer with friends … and then go drinking and that was my whole weekend." That's how Roberto Flores, a 37-year-old Mexican American living in San Diego, describes his former life. When his wife, Marcia, convinced him to attend a couples' retreat at a nearby Catholic church, everything changed.
"That's when I met God," Roberto explains. "I cried before God, which was something I never did. I never cry. But a lot of things I never did before I did on that day." After that retreat, Roberto left behind his destructive habits and re-engaged with his wife and kids. He also started going to church, where he has been taught that God "has a plan for marriage," and that "you need a lot of love to raise a good family."
Roberto and Marcia's story, one of many recounted in Soul Mates, vividly illustrates how churches can transform marriages and support families—not just among middle-class white evangelicals, but also among racial minorities facing complicated problems like addiction and economic instability. And these days, resources for struggling families are perhaps more crucial than ever. For a combination of cultural, political, and economic reasons, Americans of all racial/ethnic backgrounds are more likely to delay or forego marriage, more likely to divorce, and more likely to have kids outside of marriage than they were fifty years ago. As previous researchers have documented, Christians who attend church regularly have happier and more stable marriages than non-churchgoers, and they are less likely to have children out of wedlock, for reasons I'll get to below. They have been protected to some degree from the post-1960s revolution in family life that is still unfolding today. Yet African Americans and Latinos, who are more religious on average than other racial/ethnic groups, have been particularly vulnerable to that revolution, ...