Is Early Marriage Really THAT Counter-Cultural? I Think Not – Re: Christianity Today Editorial by Rebecca Brewster Stevenson
So, I saw this headline from Christianity Today.
This seems to be an annual thing with Christians.
At least once a year, I see a major Christian magazine or blog publish some kind of article lamenting the declining marriage rates, or the rising age of first marriage, and that also push the idea that people should marry before they hit the ripe old age of 22.
Here we go again. Yet another one. (There will probably be another one in 2019, and one in the year after that, and so on and so forth.)
I notice that often times that the people who write these types of articles admit to having married pre-age 25.
I take it that the REAL motivation is that these people feel defensive about their life choice – they feel as though culture is “looking down their noses” at them for marrying young because most people today are not marrying at all, or not until they get to age 30.
The thing is, though, nobody cares that they married when they were 21! These sorts of articles are largely unnecessary.
If anything, the opposite type of editorial is needed, because authors like this one shame or judge people for not marrying young, or for not marrying at all. Christians continue to push marriage and baby-making as the “norm,” when the Bible does no such thing.
I will excerpt the editorial then comment on it below:
Excerpts from that editorial:
In a world of hookups and cohabitation, he took a leap— and made an act— of faith.
by REBECCA BREWSTER STEVENSON
…Then in 2013, the Knot Yet Report revealed that those averages are higher still: Couples now are postponing marriage to age 29 for men and 27 for women.
The delayed marriage trend appears to come with some excellent effects, including decreased divorce rates and increased incomes for college-educated women.
Why, in light of this, would we not merely acquiesce to this very young marriage, but wholeheartedly encourage it? What of the risks? The potential for divorce? The unavoidable struggles of navigating early adulthood compounded by this life-changing decision.
…The prevalent message in our culture is that young adulthood is the time to build a foundation for a healthy life.
…Playing the Field
While there are certainly young adults, Christian and non-Christian, who choose sexual (Link): abstinence, many today are sexually active long before marriage looms.
A 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 41 percent of high school students report having had sexual intercourse. This is actually a downward trend from recent decades; in 2009..
…While a smaller percentage of teens are sexually active today, the number that are is still significant…
….Sociologist Bradford Wilcox said it well here in Christianity Today:…
(end article quotes)
First of all, the author made the grave mistake of quoting Bradford Wilcox in her piece, as though he is some marital authority, when I have chronicled on my blog before that the man is a marriage idolater who, contrary to the Bible, degrades singleness.
Please refrain from quoting from pro-marriage content by a man (W.B. Wilcox) who thinks it’s good to promote marriage by shaming singles for being single and depicting all singleness as being a state of arrested development, as being second best to marriage, or as a disease that needs to be cured.
See these posts for more on Wilcox:
(Link): Are Single Women – and specifically Never Married Women – More Likely To Be Victims of Abuse? Rebuttals to this view (advanced by W B Wilcox)
You see, Wilcox is so oddly biased in favor of marriage, one of his common ways of promoting it is to try to scare singles into getting married by telling them in his hit pieces they will be lonely, miserable, or more apt to get raped or what have you, than married people.
(The Bible no where uses scare tactics to try to convince single people into marrying. As a matter of fact, the Bible doesn’t try to argue, convince, or cajole ANYONE into marrying.)
Secondly, conservatives and Christians need to stop hyper-ventilating over diminishing marriage rates and they need to stop panicking over delayed marriage. Marriage does not save a culture.
Marriage does not make a person more mature, ethical, or godly.
The Bible does not say that marriage improves culture. The Bible does not say that God hates singleness or prefers marriage to singleness. God does not consider marriage to be “more holy” than singleness.
As I said on Twitter about this story, great for author Brewster-Stevenson’s son if he chose to marry young, but, please do not pressure or shame other people into marrying young, or shame people if they’ve not married by age 25.
(And, by the way, according to the articles I’ve read, such as (Link): this one, early marriages have a greater chance of divorce than folks who marry at 30 or older.)
While it’s true that marriage patterns have changed the last few years – more and (Link): more people are single these days, because they are either deliberately by-passing marriage and remaining single over a life time, or, they are co-habitating, or they have been willing to marry yet unable to find a partner, there is still a big stigma in conservative and evangelical Christian cultures being single past one’s 20s.
Churches and conservative Christianity offer nothing to adults who are single, whether their singleness is due to divorce, widowhood, or just never having found the right person. That is, unless one counts judgement – many churches and pastors are great at insulting singles for being single, such as:
Perhaps the aspect I find THE most annoying about articles such as this one by Brewster-Stevenson is that there is this very big assumption that if one wants a spouse, one can get a spouse instantly, in the same way if one wants a pizza, all one has to do is call Domino’s Pizza Delivery, or run down to the local Kroger’s and buy one.
I’m in my mid 40s. Though I trusted God to send me a spouse, God never sent me a spouse. I was engaged, but my ex-fiance’ was a selfish jerk, so I dumped him. I remain single to this day, in spite of having wanted to be married.
These articles that promote early marriage carry this assumption that anyone and everyone who wants to get married will get a spouse (and by a certain age!), but that is not how real life works out.
By the way, I am puzzled by people who are defensive about this subject.
This woman wrote this article because she seems to feel that she or her son are being judged or put down by – I don’t know, secular culture? Other Christians? – for her son marrying at age 20.
I personally do not care if her son married at 20 or not.
My problem is not with people who marry young (so long as it is their choice and they are not caving in to church or parental desires), but that people such as her (and Christians) actually harshly judge people such as myself who never marry.
If you are still single past the age of 25 or 30 in American Christian culture, Christians tend to look down on you, assume there is something “wrong” with you, or, they condescendingly assume – and give you a condescending pat on the back – about how nice it is that God ‘gave you the gift of singless’ (even though you hate being single and had wanted to marry).
As to the sexual fornication vs. abstinence information this woman quoted in her article: lady, not buying it. I’m over 45 years of age and a virgin with a libido. Do not use the possibility of fornication (sexual sin) as a rationale to argue on behalf of early marriage. Just don’t go there.
There is absolutely no reason your son could not hold on to his virginity until his mid-40s as well. I do not lack a libido.
I don’t have a “special gifting” or calling from God to remain chaste. It’s all personal choice along with self-discipline. If I could abstain this long, so too could your son or anyone else. Being a virgin this late in life is not some huge hurdle only a few can accomplish.
Singleness for people over the age of 30 is still not largely accepted by most American Christians.
Most American Christians and pastors continue to act as though marriage is the norm for most people, and they teach or assume that anyone who does not marry at all, or not by a certain age, has failed, and is a “loser.”
There is also often a painful assumption by conservatives and conservative Christians that any and all women over the age of 30 who are still single are single by choice, when the truth is, many Christian single women would love to be married, but there are no single Christian men for them to marry.
Many of us older single women are (Link): single by circumstance, NOT BY CHOICE.
(Link): What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis (from TIME) (ie, Why Are Conservative Religious Women Not Marrying Even Though They Want to Be Married. Hint: It’s a Demographics Issue)
Since many singles are single by circumstance, not due to choice, it’s hurtful and infuriating to hear Christian speakers such as Al Mohler shame and scold us ladies for supposedly having put “career” first, or to accuse us all of being man-hating, bra-burning liberal feminists who eschew marriage altogether.
To Brewster-Stevenson: there is far more negative cultural judgement, especially in Christian culture, for those who are single (regardless of reason), than there is judgement against people who marry very young.
Your editorial is therefore, very, very, very unnecessary.
I had to start this blog that mainly focuses on being single past the age of 35, precisely because there are really no blogs or Christian or conservative magazines for adult singles. I could not find a magazine or blog for people such as myself (older singles), so I made one.
Nobody is judging your kid badly for being married at age 20, but there is a sh*t ton of people, including Christians, who judge me unfavorably for being never-married at my mid-40s.
Where are the much-needed annual editorials at magazines such as ‘Christianity Today’ defending adult singleness from the frequent on-slaught of singles-shaming rhetoric released by the Mark Driscolls, Al Mohlers, and other Christian figures out there?
Related Posts, this blog:
(Link): Singles Advocate DePaulo Responds to Right Wing, Conservative Critics of Singlehood, Who Blame Singles For Breakdown of The Family (reminder: I myself am right wing)
(Link): ‘Why Are You Single’ Lists That Do Not Pathologize Singles by B. DePaulo