>Thoughts on the Case for Young Marriage

Posted: 05/09/2009 in Christianity Today, marraige, sex

>Christianity Today published an article on the case for young marriage. The author argues that in addition to teaching abstinence, Christianity needs to emphasize the virtues of marriage, specifically young marriage, to Christians. This is clearly a step in the right direction, but I have mixed reactions to the article.

For instance, the article cited that 80% of Christians have pre-marital sex. The author also admitted that “not all indulgers become miserable or marital train wrecks.” It’s nice of him to say so. There is however, an obvious implication here that is unaddressed in the article: of what value, then, is our abstinence culture? It seems that the promises of abstaining do not guarantee a good marriage and sex life later on. Likewise, pre-maritial sex does not curse one’s later marital unions. The high statistic (80%) seems to make the abstinence culture as much of a sham as Sarah Palin’s views on sex-education while bumbling to explain her pregnant 17-year old daughter. Maybe I’m harsh, but I know I can’t be the only one thinking, “the Emperor has no clothes.”

Nonetheless, the author advocates that teaching young people about what marriage is and what it is not. This, I think is a great idea. I have known many young marriages that have turned out beautifully, despite the economic and social hardships that he lists. Yes, getting married young, in many cases, is a still a good idea.

On the other hand, I am also old enough to have known more than a few divorced friends. This is not an issue to be taken lightly. One friend feels like he was simply “following a script” when he was married at 20. Another peer and his spouse where not emotionally or financially ready for the commitment -even despite the idea of marriage as formative institution. I could list a few more, but the examples need not be multiplied. The authors knows well that young marriage correlates with divorce. He is also right to point on that this is not a casual connection.

But in answering objections, I still have some questions -especially economics. The author is right that we have set a higher-than-realistic economic standard for both weddings and young marriages. I also think that he is right that helping young marriages economically is something that Christians ought to be doing. If more established people see new married couples in need of some kind assistance, providing that assistance should be the norm not the exception -if we truly believe it is as important as we claim.

However, I still don’t think that the economic concerns can be so easily overcome. The author writes from Texas, and the situation may be very different out there. I live in Los Angeles. Very, very, few people I think, are established enough to be married here by their early twenties. Putting off marriage to either establish oneself in your career or to pursue more education is, I think, I very smart decision for many people. This kind of thinking is further exacerbated by the economic outlook of my generation. Many of us know that government services like Medicare are not going to be there for us in the future. We are also keenly aware of the high cost of raising children. These are all legitimate concerns and are completely justifiable reasons to delay marriage.

Finally, there was something that the article did not address: that the divorce rate is slightly higher among evangelicals than it is in the general populace. It very likely the lack of teaching about marriage, which the author advocates, that causes this. The consequences of the present circumstance are dire however. I think many young Christians put off marriage because they see less value to it. Why push marriage on ourselves if our ideas about marriage came from the discontent unions of many of our parents, the divorces of our relatives, or even the divorces of our peers? I do not mean to denigrate the institution. I think marriage is a good thing. But if it is the intention of older Christians to inspire younger Christians to be married, then the older generation must understand that many of the young are disappointed with the institution and why.

  1. >I'm glad you blogged about this…I talked about it to you in CA, right? Anyhow, it is an interesting article, and I was interested to read your thoughts. Still come down on a different place in the sex before marriage debate, but I totally agree with what you said about financial assistance and the need for more education on MARRIAGE, not just being a virgin when you get there.

  2. Heidi says:

    >I didn't read the article, though I've heard it talked about (will have to go back and read it a little later when I have more time). I whole-heartedly agree that people today have a completely skewed view of what love and marriage are. Love is not just a feeling, but a commitment, an act of selflessness. And that is completely opposite from what our society projects. And if the parents and the church are not doing what they can to teach young people the truth, then of course we're going to have similar divorce rates.When Daniel and I got married at 19, we had tangible reasons for believing that the other was the person God had for us. I could tell you exactly why Daniel would make a great husband and it wasn't just because "I loved him." But I would not have been prepared to even choose that relationship if it hadn't been for the teachings and the help that my mom and step-dad offered to me in high school.Plus, it is huge to know that the person you are marrying is a firm believer in Christ, in which case we knew we would only grow together on our journey in faith, not grow apart.As for the finances, we knew God would provide. And He did, with a little help from some family (not much, mind you – they didn't support us, we mostly supported ourselves). And we did in SoCal too.I really think people just need to be in honest, open relationships with friends and mentors and family, so that they are guided into making wise decisions and challenged to be selfless spouses.

  3. Stephanie says:

    >Pretty much the only thing I was taught about marriage growing up was that you had to be a virgin to make it work. I never really thought about it past that. I wanted to meet a Good Guy so that we could get married and have sex. That was about as far as it went. Never having a model marriage, I was a little confused on the purpose of marriage past that. As a (young) adult, working through issues of sex and marriage in real life, I felt lied to by both the world and the church. I feel as though the church has panicked in response to the world and instead of offering solid teaching on life skills, has put all its eggs in the don't-have-sex basket and that will solve all your problems. I hate it that "purity" has come to be associated with not having sex. There are many ways to be pure, the most important of which is having a clean heart before God, a status which is not reserved only for virgins, last time I checked. Anyway, getting married old, young, whatever, I think it's more important to have standards for marriage, rather than an age limit.

  4. Jin-roh says:

    >Nice post, Stephers.I have hard time explaining to people that I am much more concerned about creating quality marriages and lowering a divorce rate rather than just two virgins tying the knot.In fact, when it comes to potential helpmates or whatever, a girl's sexual history (or lack thereof) is a bit low on list of priorities for me. Case in point, one of my cousins insisted that he could only marry a virgin. I think that's a bit cruel -and naive.

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