The Case for Early Marriage
How did we get here? The fault lies less with indecisive young people than it does with us, their parents. Our own ideas about marriage changed as we climbed toward career success. Many of us got our MBAs, JDs, MDs and PhDs. Now we advise our children to complete their education before even contemplating marriage, to launch their careers and become financially independent. We caution that depending on another person is weak and fragile. We don't want them to rush into a relationship. We won't help you with college tuition anymore, we threaten. Don't repeat our mistakes, we warn.His idea not only fell flat, but the paper got a host of negative reactions. Now Regnerus, the author of both the opinion piece and Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers is making the case anew in a Christianity Today article The Case for Early Marriage. In this new article, Regnerus claims that evangelical Christian discourse on teen sexuality is as conservative as ever without seeming to have any effect on the lives of teenage Christians. Chastity balls and virginity pledges have made no discernable impact on whether teens do or do not have sex before marriage. He writes in part,
Indeed, over 90 percent of American adults experience sexual intercourse before marrying. The percentage of evangelicals who do so is not much lower. In a nationally representative study of young adults, just under 80 percent of unmarried, church- going, conservative Protestants who are currently dating someone are having sex of some sort. I'm certainly not suggesting that they cannot abstain. I'm suggesting that in the domain of sex, most of them don't and won't.To show the change, the author cites the following,
What to do? Intensify the abstinence message even more? No. It won't work. The message must change, because our preoccupation with sex has unwittingly turned our attention away from the damage that Americans—including evangelicals—are doing to the institution of marriage by discouraging it and delaying it.
Another indicator of our shifting sentiment about the institution is the median age at first marriage, which has risen from 21 for women and 23 for men in 1970 to where it stands today: 26 for women and 28 for men, the highest figures since the Census Bureau started collecting data about it.The full text of his latest article is online here: The Case for Early Marriage.
I married at 22 mostly because I had met the person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life and not because of some desire just to be married to someone. Our 24th anniversary is just over a month away, so it seems to have worked for us. I have never regretted the decision to marry in my early twenties and have in fact felt quite good about it. On the other hand, I wouldn't want anyone to rush the move to marriage for the sake of early marriage. In fact, I end up trying to give him a fair hearing. And when he ends by writing,
If a young couple displays maturity, faith, fidelity, a commitment to understanding marriage as a covenant, and a sense of realism about marriage, then it's our duty—indeed, our pleasure—to help them expedite the part of marriage that involves public recognition and celebration of what God is already knitting together.I am sympathetic. But wouldn't the end result of any sort of push for early marriage more likely drive up the divorce rate rather than have any discernable effect on sexual activity among teens? As with chastity balls and virginity pledges, I think a push for early marriage would have little to no positive effect in lowering the rates of pre-marital sex. That's my take. What do y'all think?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
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