The Creepy Push by Evangelicals for Early Marriage
With news that people are getting married later in life, if at all, some conservative Christians, in the past few years, have been pushing Christians to get married real early, say at age 18 or 19, or some suggesting age 21 or 22.
I don’t know why people are getting married later, though I might be able to come up with a few theories. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know what it is not: pushing kids to marry before age 25.
I found this long, mostly nauseating article at Christianity Today:
(Link): The Case For Early Marriage, by Mark Regnerus, first published in 2009
It’s a four or five page editorial, I’ve only seen the first two pages, and I am already fed up with it. I will address the author’s comments a bit at a time.
After mentioning that most Christians are having sex outside of marriage he (the author, Regnerus), makes these statements:
- “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.”
- I’ve come to the conclusion that Christians have made much ado about sex but are becoming slow and lax about marriage…
- 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.
Regnerus’ only concern is with “young” Christians (ages teens to 20s). How ageist. How about Christian women today who are age 35, 45, etc., who want to get married but have been unable to? Why is the spot light only focused on the 20 somethings by pastors, Christian blogs, and Christian magazines?
I suspect the hand wringing over young singles not getting married young may have something to do with fertility, given how often this author laments that women’s “childbearing” years are passing them by. He seems primarily concerned with getting ’em married young so that kids can be produced.
This point leads me to another: the author, Regnerus, makes several unfounded assumptions; here is one:
- [quote missing]
Aside from being ageist – where is your concern for age 40+ women who want marriage? – Christians need to understand that some Christians are highly ambivalent about having children (they don’t care if they have children or not), while others are so firm in knowing they want none, they consider themselves what is known as “child free.”
A Christian should not push for marriage on the sole or primary basis that marriage is about “baby making.”
The author assumes that churches are hyping celibacy too much, but not touting the greatness of marriage nearly enough.
Oh get a clue, pal!
Maybe the celibacy message was poured on thick among teens back in the 1980s or 1990s and a bit today, but if you are a Christian virgin over the age of 30 today, you hear nothing from pastors or Christian blogs about the topic! It is just assumed that older Christians who have never married are having sex.
This author’s “solution,” which is for churches to preach and hype on marriage EVEN MORE than they already are doing (and have been doing for 40 or more years now) is quite similar to what Candice Watters wrote about this subject, and she was wrong too – I gave her the smack down (Link): here.
The author comments about how the average age of men and women for marriage has risen, and he uses the phrase “our shifting sentiment about the institution” in introducing this issue. The ‘rising age’ might not be an expression of sentiment – do not assume that because women are marrying at age 27 that they prefer this; there may be plenty that wanted marriage by 25 but it did not happen until 27.
I certainly felt I would be married by age 30 to 35. I never expected to still be unmarried by age 40+. Do not assume I, or by extension, any other woman, delayed singleness this long because I am expressing “anti marriage” sentiment. One cannot marry if one received no marriage proposals. (I received one years ago but had to break things off.)
I found this next section of the editorial remarkable, considering I have held out to my 40s – I was still waiting up to this point for marriage before having sex, but according to this guy, it’s impossible to ask any Christian age 25+ to remain chaste.
Regnerus also makes the charge that not having sex by age 25/30 is “going against the Creator’s design for humanity.”
I’m sorry, but no. Where does the Bible say God commands, demands, or expects Christians to start having sex at or by age 25? Some people in the bible did not even get married until the age of 40!
Here is the excerpt:
- Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s. Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It’s battling our Creator’s reproductive designs. The data don’t lie. Our sexual behavior patterns—the kind I documented in 2007 in Forbidden Fruit—give us away. Very few wait long for sex. Meanwhile, women’s fertility is more or less fixed, yet Americans are increasingly ignoring it during their 20s, only to beg and pray to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s.
Women are not “ignoring” their singlehood or ticking biological clocks: we want to get married, and many want to pop out a kid, but THERE ARE NO CHRISTIAN MEN TO DATE AND MARRY. He keeps phrasing things as though this is all deliberate by women, but it is NOT.
Notice he says he thinks it’s “unreasonable” to ask Christians to refrain from sex after age 25. This is really a slap in the face to people such as me who are still virgins at age 40+. His attitude makes a mockery out of those of us Christians who have held on well past age 25. Did this author not think his views through before publishing this?
Later in the editorial, the author does acknowledge that there is a Christian man shortage. Well then, if you realize that there’s not enough men to go round for the ladies, what is with all the “blamey blame” in prior paragraphs? Christian single women do not have magic wands: we can’t make suitable partners appear out of thin air.
Noting the man shortage, the author writes:
- Many of the hopeful ones wait, watching their late 20s and early 30s arrive with no husband. When the persistent longing turns to deep disappointment, some decide that they didn’t really want to marry after all.
Another incorrect assumption. I would still like to get married. I am no longer interested in the “equally yoked” teaching, however. At this point, I am not ready to date, but when I am, I am now open to dating and marrying a Non-Christian.
The author also keeps up the stereotype that any man who has not married by age “X” is a loser or weirdo – it’s pretty much implied in this remark:
- By that time, the pool of available men is hardly the cream of the crop—and rarely chaste. I know, I know: God has someone in mind for them, and it’s just a matter of time before they meet. God does work miracles.
He goes on to surmise:
- Unfortunately, a key developmental institution for men—marriage—is the very thing being postponed, thus perpetuating their adolescence.
Getting married does not automatically make a man more mature. I’ve seen and known young married couples where the husband goes out on the town to PAR TAY, leaving the wife at home to take care of the kids. I’ve also seen some middle-aged married couples where this dynamic plays out.
Stop perpetuating that stereotype that MARRIAGE = GROWN UP, and SINGLE = IMMATURE.
Oddly, later in this editorial, after making it sound as though people are willfully putting off marriage he concedes:
- An increasing number of [Christian] men and women, however, aren’t marrying. They want to. But it’s not happening.
Later, he suggests that Christians support early marriage (people in their early 20s marrying) with the idea that churches should help the young couple (he seems to be suggesting mostly financial help):
- as well as by identifying deserving young couples who could use a little extra help once in a while. Christians are great about supporting their missionaries, but in this matter, we can be missionaries to the marriages in our midst.
Oh, okay, pal, what about never-married adults of age 25, 35, 45, 55? You are going to suggest that congregations help them with finances and other issues too, right?
He also writes,
- Marriage itself will become a witness to the gospel.
So is singlehood, buddy, so is singlehood. Marriage is not the only “witness to the gospel,” singleness is, too.
Related posts, this blog:
(Link): Seven Truths About Marriage You Won’t Hear in Church by F. Powell
(Link): Salvation Army Bans Duggar / Quivering Cult’s ‘Retreat’ (Called ‘Get Them Married’) that Promoted Arranged Marriages for Teen Girls – Quivering Advocates Are Anti-Adult Singleness and Anti-Celibacy