Posted by: jackslife | August 11, 2009

Is Early Marriage the Answer?

So, I know I have been gone for a long time.  I’m a bad blogger, who is easily distracted and overwhelmed. 🙂

I read an interesting article from Christianity Today that Rod has also linked to on his blog.  I don’t know that I agree that early marriage is the answer to the evangelical premarital sex problem, but the author does make some good points.  I think that there is no doubt that the Church’s approach to marriage has contributed to this problem.  I was just talking with my parents this weekend about the lack of seriousness and reverence that our society, both inside and out of the Church, has treated marriage with.  Marriage is sacred and we have often settled for pretty, convenient, and fun.

There are some disturbing numbers in this piece, such as –

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.

I think that this is a very serious issue, but I have no idea how you fix it.  There is tremendous pressure and temptation to engage in sexual behavior prior to marriage in our society, and clearly young people of all types are giving into that pressure in huge numbers.  What are the factors that lead to this, and what can be done to reverse this trend within the church?  I agree with the author of this piece that more abstinence gimmicks are not the answer, but I don’t know that early marriage is either.  I think it’s more likely that the very mindset of Evangelicals about marriage, and a number of other things, needs to be changed.  I think that we have largely lost any concept of the sacred in our society.  We excel at levity and are sadly lacking in awe and reverence.  Our churches increasingly function as marketing institutions instead of houses of true worship.  It is difficult for personal holiness to grow in this environment.

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Responses

  1. Good to see you posting again!

    This subject is one I often think of since I am involved in youth ministry. I agree, there is no simple fix to this. Obviously, by encouraging young people to marry earlier it would reduce the amount of pre-marital sex amongst the Christian community, but at what cost? I would imagine that the divorce rate amongst Christians would climb at an alarming rate, since we would be encouraging couples to marry, primarily to enjoy a sex life. Honestly, I think that’s one of the biggest problems, the Church has allowed culture to reduce “love” to a primarily physical act when you’re young. Then, as you grow older, you learn to love your spouse for their other qualities the longer you are together.

    The Bible, I believe, refers to three separate types of love, Agape (unconditional), Philos (friendship) and Eros (Sex). God intended to for men and women to have a balance of all three in their marriages. Too often with teens, to appear cool and relate to them, we focus too much on the Eros part of a relationship and don’t take the time to explain the deeper intentions God had when we told us to save ourselves for marriage.

  2. Personally, when I encourage abstinence, I come at it from two angles: the Biblical angle (like how relationships were designed to function and how sex factors into that based on the model relationship of Christ and his Church), and the practical angle to appeal to everyone, including non-Christians. I think people have lost sight of all that is really good about abstinence, besides the 100% chance of avoiding unwanted pregnancy and STDs. There are plenty of other practical reasons besides that, but no one talks about them. I have tried blogging about some of them lately myself, but I get a feeling that even the no-nonsense practical approach might not be getting through, and I think selective listening is then to blame. They’re slaves to sin.

    • Thanks for the response Ruth!

      I think that coming at this issue from the two different angles certainly makes sense. I think that it is completely different when you talk to Christians and non-Christians about issues like this. A lot of the reasons that you would give a Christian are going to be largely irrelevant to the non-Christian. There are definitely practical reasons to be abstinent, especially for teens.

      The issue that I find disconcerting is the sexual behavior of young Christians. I don’t expect non-Christians to conform to Christian values, but it is troubling that Christian teens are so often sexually active. I am not judging at all, as I was raised in the church myself and was sexually active prior to marriage. In my case this took place during a period when I had fallen away from the faith, but I have known a number of young Christians who have struggled in this area, while still being actively engaged in the church. In many of these cases the people knew that what they were doing was wrong and were very repentant of it, but the question that this brings up for me is what is contributing to this problem among Christians? I think that the author of the article that I posted approaches the question from the early marriage perspective, not because he thinks that people should be married just so that they can have sex, but because we seem to have this middle ground where young people are engaged in relationships, but not getting married. During this time the young people are often engaged in physical relationships that are short of sexual, but pretty quickly can evolve into sexual behavior. When you see how close you can get to the line, whatever that is, it gets pretty difficult to stop things from crossing over the line.

      To me the problem still seems to be that we don’t take things seriously enough. We want to have a good time in our relationships without thinking about the deeper implications of our actions. In marriage we don’t recognize the sacred nature of that relationship. I think that the clear answer to the question, “Is nothing sacred?”, even within the church, has become “No, nothing is sacred.”


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