Maybe If Al Green Were More Popular in Alabama...

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Coming Sunday to a pulpit near you: "Let's Move to Manhattan: Learning to Stay Together Even If You Don't Like Each Other All That Much." In a study thatís bound to cause a bit of a ruckus at the next Southern Baptist convention, the Associated Press found that four states in the Bible Belt rank in the top five in the nation in terms of frequency of divorce. Residents of Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma are apparently having some trouble living up to a "family values" agenda, racking up between 6.0 to 6.4 divorces per thousand people. In a stark contrast, freewheeling New Yorkers are holding on to their marriage vows with a vengeance. Along with residents of Connecticut and Massachusetts, New Yorkers boast a divorce rate that's half that of their Bible Belt counterparts.

What in heaven's name is happening here? The speculation has already begun: Could it be that sky-high property values on the Eastern seaboard are keeping people pinned to their nests? Are evangelical Protestants heading into marriage with unrealistic expectations? Do East Coast Catholics stay married even if they're miserable, for fear of incurring the wrath of their church? There's probably no one answer to this sociological puzzle, but rather a combination of complicated, and possibly inflammatory, explanations. According to the AP report, many of the evangelical faithful worry that it's too easy to get a divorce, while some southern judges speculate that it may be too easy to get married. The head of the Oklahoma Psychological Association warns that the state's conservative religious atmosphere pushes people into marriage before they're ready, and the head of the Oklahoma Southern Baptist church wishes his denomination's doctrine on divorce was much more strict, forcing people to work through their problems. Of course, maybe Tipper's right, and the music's at fault: How can southerners stay together for long if they're constantly bombarded by songs like "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "She Got the Gold Mine and I Got the Shaft"?