Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


The Case for Early Marriage

Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post called Say Yes. What are you waiting for? in which he advocated for what he called early marriage. Not exactly teen marriage, he was speaking in favor of 20-22 year olds marrying. He reports that it has become inc reasingly common for marriage to be delayed until a couple is in their 30s.
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.

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.
To show the change, the author cites the following,
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.

Frank and Victoria on their wedding day in 1985I 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



  • At 8/06/2009 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Okay, well my first marriage(what a way to start this huh) was over within a year. Truthfully we married because I became pregnant. BUT the marriage fell apart because my husband was unfaithful twice. I did my best to make it work and he was not willing. So it ended and I found the true path God had for me. That was my second husband just months after my divorce was final. And now it has been over ten years and we feel we are just as strong and stronger actually. I feel the problem with divorce rates being so high is that couples just give up. I tried my best to make it work in the first marriage but both parties have to be willing. I do believe everyone is waiting too late to get married and start their families. Most I see are just too into buying stuff and having a "good time". I think all these people are missing out on the family life and find out too late and it has just become so common that everyone does not want to settle down and start a family, which I feel is just sad. I married first at 18 and then again at 20. And I am very happy that I did so I can enjoy my family for as long as I possibly can. I hope someday others come to see this way and realize that family is SO VERY important. But I do believe you should be ready for the responsibility and not say well if it doesn't work out we can just divorce. As far as trying to stop sex before marriage, like I said before it has become so common everyone feels it is okay and acceptable which it should not be I agree. But I would hope that an early marriage would shorten the number of partners and find out that a marriage is SO MUCH more that just sexual. Well those are my thoughts.

  • At 8/06/2009 9:46 AM, Blogger contact said…

    You bring up a good point about working on a marriage. There is an interesting article on this that recently ran in The New York Times:

    Modern Love: Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear.


  • At 8/06/2009 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My husband and I married almost 20 years ago. I was 23 and he 22. We waited 5 years before having children. We knew we were in love and I won't lie and say that the whole 20 year road has been a piece of cake. The road has been gravel and the road has been paved.
    We spend most of our time now raising and running the kids. Sometimes this is hard on a marriage but yes, believe it or not I think at times it takes work. On the same wave length though, sometimes it is just a smooth sail where we work in sync. Love, Trust, Honor and Commitment: Big words, Big Meaning.

  • At 10/19/2010 1:05 AM, Blogger ankita said…

    i thnk that k early marriag is not gud for health since it al has face a girl.She got many problems and also died after delivery many times so i think k it is not gud on the part of a girl

  • At 11/24/2010 5:10 AM, Anonymous generic cialis 20mg said…

    Interesting article, added his blog to Favorites


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