I have been wanting to write this post for a while. But I only got the clarity of vision and incentive to really tackle it when I came across Mark Regnerusâs fantastic article The Case for Early Marriage a few weeks ago (via Halfway to Normal). Suddenly, I was going, âYes, yes! Thatâs exactly what I was thinking! Thank-you, Mark!â So Iâm finally taking the plunge.
Mark Regnerus has already warned me (in his article) that almost no one sympathizes with his cause, and that he has received a nearly universal hostile reaction. Iâm ready for it. But I also thought that maybe readers wouldnât be as mean to me since I did marry young (at age 20) and still am young (Iâm 24). Maybe they wonât be as eager to hurt my feelings. But if not â whatevs, man. Iâm a big girl.
First, I want to outline the issue and my reasons for believing in early marriage, and give you an overview of Regnerus’ article. Then, in consecutive posts, I want to tackle each of the major objections that Regnerus brings up which are frequently leveled against early marriage.
So, to begin:
Central to this whole discussion is my (highly unpopular) conviction that sex must only occur within marriage. If you donât agree with this fundamental idea, you are not likely to agree with the rest of what I have to say.
Regnerus, a fellow Christian, shares my conviction. However, we both also agree that it is unreasonable to expect people to wait until their late twenties to have sex. It’s too long. As Regnerus puts it, that is âbattling our Creatorâs reproductive designs.â We were meant to have sex at a young age. Thereâs a reason we begin to have sexual urges early in life. God never meant for us to wait until we were 28.
If Regnerus and I think people should be able to have sex when theyâre young, but should only have sex when theyâre married, the only logical solution is being open to marriage at a younger age.
You are bound to already have objections to what Iâm saying, but please be patient. I will get to your objections eventually.
Why Save Sex for Marriage
Every sexual act brings the possibility of pregnancy. Thatâs hard for many of us to believe: with the enormous accessibility of birth control, we as a culture tend to think of ourselves as immune to this risk. Birth control eliminates the risk of pregnancy, right? But the reality is that unwanted pregnancies still occur at astronomical rates. I couldnât find any very recent stats, but one article stated that in 1994 almost half of all births in the U.S. were unintended (and 56% of these ended in abortion), and almost half of all women experience at least one unplanned pregnancy in their lives. Sure, that was sixteen years ago, but I doubt much has changed since then in terms of how many women use birth control. I personally know two women who got pregnant on the Pill.
Clearly, sex still results in babies, no matter how many pills and mechanisms there are out there to try to thwart it.
Consequently, I believe that we should only engage in sexual behaviour if we are at least somewhat open to the possibility of pregnancy. We should only have sex with another person if we are absolutely certain that both participants are able and willing to raise a child if one happens to result from the sexual encounter. And since marriage is, without question, the ideal environment in which to raise a child, I conclude that we should only have sex within marriage.
Itâs not even primarily about religion for me. Itâs about making sure that all babies that are conceived are wanted. (Of course, this idea grows out of my conviction that all human life is sacred, and should therefore be treated with dignity, but still).
But it certainly helps that I also believe that sex itself is sacred, and that God designed it to be shared with only one person, with whom you are meant to share everything else. But I will have to take up that subject in more detail in another post.
I would love for you to read Regnerusâ entire article for yourself, but considering itâs six pages long, I want to give you a brief overview of what he says here.
The Case for Early Marriage According to Mark Regnerus
- Evangelicals have continued to place increasing importance on virginity until marriage.
- However, very few young evangelicals accomplish what their parents and pastors hope they will. Almost 80% of unmarried Christian young adults engage in sex â only slightly less than their non-Christian counterparts.
- Regnerus asks, Whatâs the solution? Intensify the abstinence message ever more? He suggests not â it wonât work.
- Instead, the message must change and attention needs to be focused on fixing our idea of marriage. Christians have made a big deal about sex but have become âslow and laxâ about marriage.
- Pragmatically, marriage remains a foundational good for individuals and communities. However, the institution of marriage is under extreme duress in America. Fewer than half of American households are made up of married couples.
- In the last 30 years, the median age of first marriages has risen from 21 to 26 for women, and from 23 to 28 for men. âThatâs five additional, long years of peak sexual interest and fertility,â Regnerus notes.
- âWomenâs 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.â
- Yet, in surveying the scene, many Christians continue to perceive a sexual crisis rather than a marital one
- âWe buy, read, and pass along books about battling our sexual urges, when in fact we are battling them far longer than we were meant to.â
- The problem? âWhile our sexual ideas have remained biblical and thus rooted in marriage, our ideas about marriage have changed significantly.â
- We believe that romance and âfinding your soul mateâ is key to a good marriage and healthy society
- We advise young people to finish their education, launch their careers, and become financially independent before marrying, since dependence is a weakness
- âMost young Americans no longer think of marriage as a formative institution, but rather as an institution they enter once they think they are fully formed.â
- As a result, young adults sense that early marriage is foolish and risky
As I have already made clear, Regnerus and I agree that this is problematic. He then goes on to defend his case for early marriage against all the main objections that are made.
I would like to do the same thing in posts to follow. The primary objections to early marriage include:
- Economic insecurity: young people are too poor to get married. They will experience poverty if they marry too early.
- Immaturity: People are too immature before age 25 to make such an important commitment.
- A Poor Match: Marrying too early doesnât give people enough time to find the right partner.
- Marrying for sex: Some couples might get hitched too early just so they can enjoy guilt-free sex.
- Unrealistic expectations: Young people do not realize what marriage is really like.
- Having sex outside of marriage is not that big a deal and you religious zealots need to chillax, Kathleen.
(These objections are all identified by Regnerus, except for the last one).
Expect to hear more from me on the topic in the coming weeks as I tackle each one of these objections!
What do you think? Do you have any additional objections to early marriage? Do you think that a defense for early marriage is necessary? Or do you think it’s dangerous? What are your gut reactions to the idea? I want to hear all your thoughts, I only ask that you be civil.
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Clayton. That gorgeous young couple happens to be my sister and brother-in-law.