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Virginity pledges. Chastity balls. Courtship. Side hugs. Guarding your heart. Evangelical discourse on sex is more conservative than I've ever seen it. Parents and pastors and youth group leaders told us not to do it before we got married. Why? Because ...

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Displaying 1–244 of 244 comments

Michelle Taylor

December 06, 2013  1:31am

Mark, I truly thank you for posting this. I am 21 and have been engaged to my fiance' for 3 years. God has been our strength in the pursuit of holiness in our actions & thought life. Speaking from a young adult's perspective, we can become a bit defensive when not taken seriously. My fiance' and I have heard a lot opposing our marriage due to time (or age) and it has at times caused us to want to defend ourselves, but that won't help. The thing we are to remember is to set an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith and in purity. We do believe that in the multitude of counsel there is safety and we never want to be rebellious. How marriage is perceived is in relation to how Barabbas in the sight of the people was worthy to be released unjustly and Jesus in their sight worthy to be captured & crucified unjustly - in other words we accept the bad over good. Nevertheless, it has so much more to do with just sex, but God called marriage honorable.

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Claire Guest

November 06, 2012  9:55pm

Benefits of marriage which promote a strong society: http://www.nationformarriage.org/atf/cf/%7B39D8B5C1-F9FE-48C0-ABE6-1029BA77 854C%7D/ProtestantEnglish.pdf

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Claire Guest

November 06, 2012  9:49pm

PaulT, are you implying the fact "that Israel himself had two wives" is a valid argument against monogamy today? Have you forgotten that Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, that it was not his choice to marry anyone BUT Rachel? I do agree with you that "the entire institution [of marriage] has been so loaded with unrelated concepts that the original purpose is destroyed." I just think you didn't go back far enough. Christ Jesus confirmed God's will for His people re: marriage as shown in Genesis, in Matthew 19. Kudos to Scott Lachut - my experience mirrors his, and I praise God for it. Waiting years to marry doesn't prepare most people for marriage - only divorce, as they typically have a series of 'serious' relationships along the way, and the serial break-ups do not serve to prepare them to be faithful husbands and wives whose marriages reflect the love of God for His bride.

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Scott Lachut

August 25, 2012  8:53am

This article is an incredible insight. It's something I have pondered since even before my own early marriage (26 years ago and still going). I have never been able to articulate it like this. Our wider culture has completely lost the idea of the significance of marriage and it is leading us to the social chaos we are seeing around us. Thank you so much. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (Pro 5:18-19)

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Paul T

August 09, 2012  8:57pm

The immature female mentality (Lose/Win) is no more mature than the immature male mentality (Win/Lose), and this fallacy that women mature faster than men is complete falsehood, as the final, mature human mentality is Win/Win, and neither gender makes it there quickly or naturally. I know too many women who have never (and have no intention to ever) grow up and learn Win/Win because of this oft-stated fallacy, and on the other side of the coin, there are greater and greater pressures for a boy to never grow into a man because of the massive load of laws and rules that don't allow him to make mistakes, which are the very situations that make him mature. The concept of marriage today is nothing like the biblical relationship, or for example, the Roman concept of monogomy would have no place in our arguments (or has everyone forgotten that Israel himself had two wives?). Basically, the entire institution has been so loaded with unrelated concepts that the original purpose is destroyed.

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Matt Thompson

July 31, 2012  11:33am

Martin Luther would agree: "Now, I speak of this in order that the young may be so guided that they conceive a liking for the married estate, and know that it is a blessed estate and pleasing to God. For in this way we might in the course of time bring it about that married life be restored to honor, and that there might be less of the filthy, dissolute, disorderly doings which now run riot the world over in open prostitution and other shameful vices arising from disregard of married life. Therefore it is the duty of parents and the government to see to it that our youth be brought up to discipline and respectability, and when they have come to years of maturity, to have them married in the fear of God and honorably; He would not fail to add His blessing and grace, so that men would have joy and happiness from the same." (Large Catechism, 6th Commandment, 217-218) http://www.bookofconcord.org/lc-3-tencommandments.php

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KV

August 14, 2009  8:57am

I think that growing together is a wonderful thing and essential in a good marriage. However, two people must grow as individuals FIRST. You can't have an immature spouse and one mature one; you need two happy and healthy adults that are ready for the commitment. You cannot gamble and hope people will fall in love deeper through dilemmas; yes, problems can make it stronger, but they must be able to deal w/ the problems! You need people to be rational, ethical, and serious about the institution before getting married. They must be compatible and share core values - they need chemistry and not just going through the motions. God wants us to be happy. A sacrifice occurs when you give up a higher priority for a lower one...there should be _no_ sacrifices when you talk about your spouse or children b/c nothing (not even that great football game on Saturday) should be a higher priority in your life! Marriage is far too serious to put words like "risk" or "gamble" anywhere near it...

What about society?

August 14, 2009  4:23am

I agree with the case for early marriage, but it is more than just a sexual issue. Although it was touched on, there is the case that earlier marriage lets couples grow together, as opposed to just joining together. Society also benefits - one comment said the twenties are for having "fun", as if marriage is nothing but a chore. But now "fun" is moving to the 30's - because all the "fun" is leaving people more immature. God did not mean for people to be shacking up, staying up late partying, spending adult life playing video games, and all the other "fun" people in their 20's are having. The Churches could do more to support young marriage - including more intergenerational events, making sure young married couples have older married couples to socialize with (many young married couples are influenced by single friends to keep up the "single lifestyle)", etc. They could also do practical things like subsidize married student housing at secular universities - which is in need.

ATAT

August 14, 2009  12:09am

This is so incredibly irresponsible. Young people aren't skeptical about marriage because of secular divorces, but because of divorce within the church, by their own pastors and parents. And then he claims that marriage is glorified? No - weddings are glorified. Everyone wants to have sex and a big party, but no one's actually interested in the whole sacrifice aspect till they've had fun in their 20s. Which is what your 20s are FOR. Heaven isn't guaranteed. The idea that two people should marry intentionally *because* they are both immature is ludicrous and could have extremely damaging consequences for the young people who get pressured into this (and then either quickly into a divorce, or into a life spent unhappy, which is a life wasted).

CM

August 13, 2009  3:19pm

Part of the bonding process occurs in the early years while you struggle, while you get established. There is an interdependence that develops and deepens as you struggle together. It is part of becoming one. During that struggle you learn to yield to each other, and to prefer each other, sometimes setting aside what you want/need to allow for the spouse to have what he/she wants/needs. That is sacrificial love, and if one waits to be completely established, one might find it harder to bend for each other. Trees that are planted very close together, such as the lilac in my back yard, intertwine and sometimes merge as one trunk. Trees allowed to grow to maturity without affecting each other may eventually have branches that touch, but that intermingling and shaping of the trunks to accomodate both happens when one is young and flexible. It's not a perfect analogy, but illustrates how growing together when young and flexible can establish a firm bond. Happily married 23 years

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PJ

August 13, 2009  12:04pm

Let us teach young people why the psalmist wrote, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. ” (Psalm 42:1-2) We are not “battling our creator’s reproductive designs”, we are battling our sinful nature’s desire to find fulfillment in something other than Christ. Our hearts were designed to be filled by God first. In His time, and in His strength, we want to be led into marriage.

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GH

August 13, 2009  8:27am

I am a 38 year old Christian man who has practiced sexual abstinence all my life and who, until very recently, has also wanted to be married all my life, but for various reasons have never succeeded. I have repeatedly tried to enter relationships with women and repeatedly been turned down, sometimes kindly, sometimes rudely. While I am under no illusion that I am without flaws and sins, I get a little tired of the constant refrain that the problem with marriage in the church is all about the men. Sometimes things just are what they are, and we find ourselves in places we did not expect to be in life. Why does it have to become a matter placing blame? Also, the claim that it is unreasonable to expect people to wait to have sex seems far more shaped by modern secular assumptions than it is by biblical ones. Dressing it up in spiritualized language about "fighting our Creator's design" doesn't change this. Have we totally lost any sense of spiritual formation in the evangelical church?

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Torben

August 13, 2009  8:22am

What I find interesting in this article is that - as almost always in Christian writing about relationships - it fails to mention (one of) the main reason why so many Christians end up having sex before marriage. Paul explains very clearly in his writings that the law will create opposition, and the fact is that the American churches, much more so than most other churches internationally, have created the opposition (people having sex before marriage) by focusing so much on sex, abstinence, etc. in youth groups and among young adults. When you focus solely on the NO and not the YES of wanting to live a life that's really worth living (abundant life) which does include abstinence when you're not married, the church at large has created a situation where people of all ages choose to rebel, because our flesh (Romans 7) convince us that since such emphasis is placed on sex it must be the greatest experience and something we have to try NOW and not wait...www.abrokencup.wordpress.com

Amy

August 13, 2009  12:03am

A good article, but Elusive Wapiti... "before [women] acquire bad habits"? "only to later build a career that you are just going to take a time out from anyway"? Why does being a Christian woman mean that you need to serve only your family, and not offer your God-given talents to the world at large? Why do women not need practical worldly maturity? Why can a woman not be financially established?

Julie

August 12, 2009  5:59pm

I highly suggest that everyone read The Theology of the Body commentaries of Christopher West. Pope John Paul II was a brilliant man and filled with the Holy Spirit. The TOB are from a series of talks he gave at an earlier age as pope. Therein lies the answer to your dilemma. I have seen his dvd's and if you google him you can find much on this topic. The answere are straight from God. It is "deep" but worth examining. If all people learned this truth, the devil would no longer have a foothold on sex. Enjoy!

r b-j

August 12, 2009  4:00pm

I feel some affirmation with this article. I married just before I turned 30, my spouse nearly 6 years younger. I was *very* unhappy about my marital state throughout my 20s. I was feeling unloved (by a woman) because I wasn't being loved (by a woman). Advise from Christian friends and "siblings" (in our church community) that my recognition of this fact reflected only impatience and immaturity and that I should be content with the state I was in all rang hollow. When my fiance and I started to set a wedding date, we were repeatedly counseled to maybe wait until the next summer and have more premarital counseling. We didn't follow that counsel. Some doubted our marriage would last. Nearly a quarter century later (and two kids) it continues, with some blessings and some problems. It may not be the *perfect* Christian marriage, but God blesses it and our commitment trumps our compatibility (or lack thereof).

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Elusive Wapiti

August 12, 2009  3:59pm

Regnerus is right on when he advocates for earlier marriage. Mid 20s is probably a good time for men to consider marriage--as they are more financially established and have acquired some practical worldly maturity--but women should aim to marry much earlier, in their late teens or early 20s, before they acquire bad habits through serial dating, become too old to easily learn interdependence, and acquire tons of needless debt for a degree of questionable market value. If marriage and family is their objective, women should marry earlier and have their family first when they are more physically able to cope. There will be plenty of time for college and career later, why waste the best years of your life in a worldly college environment, only to later build a career that you are just going to take a time out from anyway? I gave this article 2 stars because of all the anti-male shaming language. Women are 50% of the marriage problem, focusing solely on men doesn't solve the problem.

Mrs. Lewis

August 12, 2009  9:35am

I found this article honest and fortright. In our church there are young men who lack the desire to get married i've always wondered why well now i know from this article; the women on the other hand are getting older and single. I feel for them and i pray that the Lord will provide. I got married at age 28, my husband was 27; a year and a half ago. We dated for five years because we just couldn't afford to get married before then; our parents were'nt in the position to help either. It was hard to abstain from sex and we made out quite a lot to compensate. We are happy and in love; my only regret about marrrying so late is that we had to start thinking about starting our family before i hit 30; bummer. I'm pregnant now. And just a side note sex is NOT great on your honeymoon, when your'e a virgin. We need to stop telling young people that lie. As the article said we had to "learn" to make love.

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Cybro

August 12, 2009  9:01am

This aritcle is full of the usual male shaming language that women love to hear. Listen ladies if you want to be married in your lifetime you better do it young. The reason most men have fled marriage is because we see it for the scam that it has become. All benefit to women and all risk to men. You can call us imature all you want and it will only serve to drive off the few that are still left listening to your whining. Forget about all of this waiting on the Lord business and get off your high horses before you turn thirty, before you are past your expiration date. Most men have seen the carnage of the family divorce court system by then and want nothing to do with marriage. Nothing is being said about any of this in any church so men keep slipping under the radar while the rest of you pine away about no good men being left. All the more reason why women need to marry younger. The competition only gets worse for you as time goes on.

Lucy Goosey

August 12, 2009  12:39am

Just to remind singles: The article is titled "The Case For Early Marriage" and NOT "The Case For Get a Man or Woman Quick Because Your Biological Clock Is Ticking." In many responses on many Christian blogs about the topic of early marriage, older singles seem angered in their response, and understandingly so...as if the second "article" subject matter is included in the article on this page. People can follow God into a marriage and NOT follow God into a marriage...people can follow God into singleness and NOT follow God into singleness...whether married old or married young...whether single old or single young...Married Young doesn't equal Holy no more than single old equals Sinful.

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Gretchen

August 11, 2009  11:04pm

Today is my 19th wedding anniversary. I am also 39 years old. My husband and I were both 20 when we married, and both were (and are) devout Christians. Marrying young was the best thing for both of us. But I would like to add that while my husband and I are also personally fiscally conservative in our home because of economic adversity, we are also socially progressive because of it. Perfect love may cast out fear, but living for years without health insurance and desperately hoping that an unexpected illness, accident or even pregnancy occurs doesn't help a young married in any way. While we were fortunate to have nothing catastrophic, we did not always get medical treatment when we needed it, and that has caused long term issues. We knew many young married Christian couples who truly suffered both personally and together due to the combined strain of economic and medical struggle. So please think about this when you talk about health care right now. It's that important.

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Dana

August 11, 2009  10:49pm

I don't think that for a Christian early marriage should be the best solution, rather then the motivation of staying pure for the sake our your Lord. I agree that in these days there is so much pressure on young people and the society encourages them to experience the premarital sex. But it's still possible, when the Lord is on your side. I was raised in a christian family in Romania and I waited until the age of 41 for God's timing in my life. It wasn't easy...but it was worthwhile. I am so happy and blessed now and I want everyone to know that IT'S WORTH WAITING FOR THE LORD. HE KNOWS WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND HE WILL REWARD YOUR WAITING, BUT IN HIS TIME. JUST BE PATIENT, TRUST IN THE LORD AND KEEP YOURSELF BUSY DOING HIS WILL....and then watch what happens. I am so happy and blessed and I wish you all have this happiness!!!

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Ryan

August 11, 2009  10:00pm

This was a great article, but my favorite part was near the end, the reference to Christian marriage as a symbol of God's covenantal faithfulness to his people and how it should be a witness of the gospel in the world. I am a single male, 29, and I have never even kissed a girl because I'm waiting for my wedding day... but I have struggled with lust since I was 14, that's 15 years of trying to resist temptation, wanting sex but not doing anything about it. I suppose I'm in the small minority: young Christian men who are actually waiting until marriage, yet struggling to stay pure. I'm one of those who's still trying to get a career in place before I seriously seek a mate, but it's not easy and who knows how long before I'm "successful." It seems so complicated and it really shouldn't be.

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Lee-Ann

August 11, 2009  9:51pm

The link I just gave leads to the Theology of the Body Institute - an amazing educational resource on the subject of sexuality and the Church. Thanks for the article.

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Lee_ann

August 11, 2009  9:48pm

I really liked a lot of the points that were brought up. However, I think there's an elephant in the room that no one seems to want to discuss, and that is the issue of contraception. In our culture, the contraceptive mentality has led to first, the separation of children from sex, which subsequently has separated sex from marriage. The modern mind no longer considers the procreative dimension as integral to the marital embrace. For good reads on this topic see http://www.tobinstitute.org/default.asp or Holy Sex by Gregory Popcak Another thing I'd like to mention in response to this article is that we are not to "suppress" our urges, like the author suggests. Libido is an urge given by God that must go outwards, although we must harness it. It drives us to connect with others whether it be emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc.. It stems from the same part of our brain in charge of hunger and anger, drives that also must go outward and be harnessed constructively.

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Dr. Sue

August 11, 2009  4:19pm

I haven't read all the comments, though I skimmed a good number of them & no one seems to have brought up the point which troubled me most about this article -- that is, the author's blithe acceptance of the fact that Christian women will be pressured by their boyfriends (presumably even their Christian boyfriends) to have sex before they are ready. What's worse is his implication that they should give in rather than lose the boyfriend! He creates a false dilemma -- give in now & keep your boyfriend, or say no & wait for someone who won't pressure you by which time all the marriage-minded men will have been claimed & you'll be stuck with a pool of losers. I have other problems with the article, but that's my main one.

Wanda

August 11, 2009  2:06pm

Thank you for this article. How absolutely true and sad that many wait and get involved in one relationship after another as they look for the perfect mate. I want to add that I think delayed marriage is the number one cause that young Christians lose their relationship with God. Pre-marital sex and guilt about sex causes a separation about God... the power of this sin is very real and powerful. I know many friends who were committed Christians at 18, even 21, but lost their zeal and fervour for God in their mid twenties as they struggled with this one perpetual sin in their lives. Simple answer - lets make it okay to get married young. I'm 32 female single. Wish I would have married at 22 instead.

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Amethyst

August 11, 2009  12:48pm

Thank you so much for this article. We brought our son aged 20 up in an evangelical church (UK) hoping that he would both abstain from sex before marriage and wait to get married until he at least graduated from university. What happened? He got his 19 year old girlfriend pregnant during his first year. He scraped through his first year exams and now faces entering his second year as not only a married man (no problem with that) but also as a new father of what will possibly be a 2 week-old baby. Looking back, it is quite probable that they wanted to marry sooner but didn’t dare mention it as early marriage goes against all the expectations that were placed on them. Possibly they were not as prepared with birth control as they would have been if they had felt able to get married. The line “when people wait until their mid- to late 20s to marry, it's unrealistic and battling our creator's reproductive designs to expect them to wait that long for sex” is absolutely spot on.

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Tiffany

August 11, 2009  11:46am

I really enjoyed reading this article. I'm going to use this article the next time a friend tells me to wait to get married, because I'm too young and I need more time to find myself. By the way, I'm 23 and I'm certainly not getting any younger. Also, my friends tell that more and more women are having children in their late 30's and early 40's. Well, good for them but that doesn't mean I have to do the same thing!

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Melanie

August 11, 2009  11:21am

I really appreciated this article. Thanks

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Jon

August 11, 2009  8:45am

I enjoyed this article. I'm in my mid-20's and have been married for 5 yrs. So, I may be a little biased toward embracing it's primary thrust. I would say that I have seen the truth of this article bear out in my life. My wife and I certainly exhibited some of the dangers of early marriage, but enough cannot be said of the maturing effect of marriage when a good support system is in place and both partners are committed to seeing the marriage grow. I think that both of those things should have received attention. They have been irreplaceble in my marriage. Our support system has been key when we've had differences (which have been strong at times!), and our committment to life long marriage was thorougly discussed before we were ever engaged. It does help that both of our parents have been married for 30+ years. So, truth be told, my wife and I are in an ideal situation: great family support, great examples of marriage, decided committement. Regardless, I feel this article is excellent

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Eileen Pressler

August 11, 2009  7:38am

This idea has merit but, nothing is 100% applicable, except God's word. I do believe that casual dating is a real problem, as well as early dating. Even if you only stick to someone who you could be equally yoked, it leads to emotions being stirred up that are not meant to be stuffed on a shelf while you finish college, save for a house or whatever the world has youl thinking to put of marrying. If you do not want to fall in love, do not date, especially do not single date. I do believe that if you are in love, you should get married. You can just as well build your life together, go to college, whatever you feel God is leading. As well too many Christians are willing to say "Oh, it's not realisitic to expect them to wait for sex, we need to teach them to protect themself if they slip up." Not good. The most important thing in a marriage is having a good start spiritually and morally with your mate. Not how much money, or degrees you think you should have before you marry.

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Jeannette

August 11, 2009  2:11am

Just under 80%?! based on what I've seen at my church, that seems high. I am a 28 year old single Christian female who has never had a boyfriend. In the past, I would've seen this as me being denied something, but now I see as a protection. I could've very easily fallen into the 80% statistic if I had been in a relationship earlier on in life. God knows what my heart can and cannot handle. Personally, I don't rely on statistics when God's doing the matchmaking. God really can perform miracles, while I found it interesting Regnerus poo-poos this a bit when talking about the gender gap. I'll admit, the "Where Are All the Christian Men?" section really hit home, and it was very depressing to read. I agree with some other commenters that we shouldn't fully blame young men for this gap, and women are certainly not perfect either. Young people, especially young singles, need more mentoring, inclusion, and attention from the church.

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Carrie

August 10, 2009  10:19pm

God led me to this article several days ago. The comments have been extremely fascinating to read--good points have been made on both ends of the article. No, you shouldn't marry for sex. Yes, sex is good and was made for in the context of marriage and we shouldn't be afraid to talk about it. I teach youth, I know...too bad marriage isn't talked about and esteemed more. Too bad. Delight yourselves in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. When you marry is less important--follow Him, pursue the desires He gives, Commit your plans to Him, Seek Him First and Knock and you will find. Nothing on earth will fulfill what He was meant to ever-we are meant to long for something more. Since life is hard, having an earthly helper is NOT a sin--sometimes serving is taken to a greater level when there is help--we are made for relationships--I fear for the lie being planted in many... 1 Tim 4

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Janine

August 10, 2009  5:16pm

I'm troubled that Regenerus makes no mention of the Biblical injunction (but great challenges) of honoring our parents. What do we do when we (young people in love) are evangelicals but our parents are not? The "Early Marriage" is often put off because we cannot afford (or our parents are not comfortable with) an "early wedding." To what extent out the "the early wedding" to be about us and our readiness to have sex and be in a committed relationship, and to what extent ought it be about our families being honored? I'm currently struggling against my Catholic family that wishes we (both 26 years old) would restrain our sexual desires longer-- or have sex as an engaged couple--so that we would have an "honorable wedding" (with all my mom's the cousins and all their children) sometime eighteen months to two years later than we originally planned. Is Regenerus falling into the evangelical individualism that says you should do what "feels right" for you and leave behind "traditions"?

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Cheery

August 10, 2009  4:01pm

The one main thing missing from this article and a lot of the replies is underestimating any human's ability to control themself. There are many many Christian people who marry later and are virgins, because they practiced self-control and boundaries. It's possible for everyone. (not easy, but possible.) The problem isn't when we marry, the problem is young Christians not taking seriously enough their love for the Lord and commitment to Him, and taking the necessary steps to protect their sexuality.

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trisha

August 10, 2009  3:00pm

If i could sum this up I would say that virginity is not the most sacred gift of marriage-it is a heart dedicated and committed to God and spouse in a covenant relationship. The problem with all the hype about virginity is that a person (usually a woman) feels she is "owed" something special by staying pure-a better husband, a better marriage, fertility, etc. I think Christians are more disappointed by marriage than many non-Christians. They have been sold the usual legalistic junk-you did this and God does that. Somewhat magical but not Biblical thinking.

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bill

August 10, 2009  2:14pm

It's refreshing to read an evangelical thinker who does not ignore reality. But, im my experiene, evangelicals will offer support for condemnation of a black and white pracitce (premarital sex) murch more easily than they will support shades-of-gray, messy, one-size-does-not-fit-all solutions. Perhaps more emphasia on successful and long-term marriage and less on breaking the rules? I agree with the idea that we parents should be more willing to give fianancial support to our children if they make a sensible decision to marry early. Why don't more of us say: "I think your wish to marry is sensible, and we will give you the same amount of money as we are presently providing for the next two years, which is how much more college you have anyway. Since your are old enough to marry, you are also old enough to spend the money wisely, so we promise not to interfere in your financial affairs."

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Happy mother

August 10, 2009  8:47am

Thanks for a great article. My convictions exactly. Our son just got married two weeks ago at age 22. We encouraged him to marry his 22 year old sweetheart for the very reasons you stated. His wife is a godly woman and they were able to remain pure until marriage. Her purity ring was melted and used in his wedding band. We couldn't be happier that they chose to get married when they did. Her parents got married when they were both 22 as did my husband and myself. Both couples have remained married -- they for 30 years, we for 32. Some people questioned their young age of marriage, but they know that when God brings two people together, a long lasting marriage can begin young. The success of a marriage is determined by godly choices, not by waiting until the "right age".

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Debbie

August 10, 2009  12:31am

This article is too wild! I've been convicted of this very idea for the last couple of years. Then when I share these types of ideas with friends and or family (mostly all christians) you see their a little perplexed at the thought of earlier marriage. I have a 12 yr. old son, a 15 yr. old daughter and an 18 yr old son and I am truly starting to believe that if God were to bless them with a deep loving relationship with another mature believer, that I could (with God's strength) bless them marrying sooner than later. I mean that is a part of excercising faith in God and not myself! If I believe my plan for my children is better than God's than I am a hypocrite as a believer. So, I believe that getting out of God's way and supporting a young christian couple to marry earlier would allow them to grow closer to God as a couple. Let's face it, their relationship is between them and God so I think we need to stop trying to be their God, so they can grow and mature in him.

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Lucy Goosey

August 10, 2009  12:15am

I guess I'm more concerned about the many children growing up under such non-idealistic conditions than whether someone should marry early. Those children will grow up into adults. WHO will teach them about sex and marriage when noone else has. I do appreciate many peoples' marriage testimonies. Those testimonies are AWESOME, but they are still about YOU. I'm single and a Christian living for God as an elementary teacher. That is AWESOME, but it is still about ME. I'm wondering how we, as Christians, can affect the fatherless and abused as they come into their adulthood. Could those factors be a reason for such horrible statistics in Christian marriages or marriages in general?

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Basil

August 09, 2009  6:53pm

Look's like ABC news has caught wind of this debate. Here is the link http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=8288034

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Anonymous

August 09, 2009  6:18pm

Please wait. There are men who love Jesus who are out there. My wife lost herself in loving God and loving people before I met her. Her towering inward (and outward!) beauty stood far above the others. The glory of Jesus Christ is so much greater than our desires being fullfilled. Yes, Jesus satisfies desires in ways that glorify Him. God didn't write the Bible to be a suggestion to man kind. It is to be obeyed. It carefully describes the grace that God has given to us in His Son for those who believe and have repented of their disobedience. If God's Word is not something you value more than your desires...it would be a good idea for you to question whether you really are a Christian. Many members of my family claim they are "Christians" yet want nothing to do with many of God's commands for their life. (ie: "Anyone who lusts with his eyes committs adultery in his heart"~Matt. 5:28) All Scripture is God-breathed...you will find your heart's answers there. :-)

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Meagan

August 09, 2009  5:18pm

As a 28 year old single, Christian woman, I find it is unreasonable to ask someone to wait until marriage. My grandmother waited and my mother waited, but they were 19 and 21 years old. I've had a chance to learn about who I am these last few years, and I believe that will work for me when I do get married.

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Anonymous

August 08, 2009  11:02pm

Think about this ladies and gentlemen... I am not discouraging early marriage, I even go as far as to say that a person could be "missing it" if they didn't. All I am saying is check out the thesis to the article in the first paragraph. The thesis concerns marrying so as to refrain from years of sexual frustration and possible immorality. What a romantic proposal, "Dear, will you marry me, because if you don't I could potentially bust on another lady soon (excuse the crudeness)." Guys the Holy Spirit is stronger than that. If you marry young marry because you are following Christ. If you marry old marry because you are following Christ. If you don't marry don't because you are following Christ. This doesn’t mean I am right, or have nailed, but let's check our motivation. Consider the God of the universe wanting our intentions (Heb 4) to please Him. Paul also finishes the passage by saying, “I do not say this to lay any restraint on you.” Be encouraged

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C.K.

August 08, 2009  10:56pm

Jesus through this church that they marry each other cont'd- quickly than continue to humiliate Jesus on earth, being His image bearers. Also notice Paul's continual qualification at the end of the comments on marrying so as not to be "sexually immoral", he tells them that it is better to be single, or at least stay as you are. NOT SAYING "DONT MARRY", BUT MAYBE SAYING WHY ARE YOU SO DESPERATE FOR SEX, ISN'T JESUS ENOUGHT? Also notice Paul says you should marry "if you lack self-control." We skim over that so quickly. Think about it. ARE YOU COMPLETELY OKAY WITH BEING TOLD YOU HAVE NO SELF-CONTROL, DO YOU REALIZE THAT SELF-CONTROL IS A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IN GALATIONS? Paul also says marrying to refrain from sexual immorality "is no sin". Not that it is righteous or totally pleasing to God, almost as to say this "doesn't totally displease" God...

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C.K.

August 08, 2009  10:55pm

TOGETHER...Okay so i know you want to mention 1 Corinthians 7. Let's go there together. I genuinely encourage you to grab that passage and hold it next to your computer and allow God to teach you and I the passage together. I held my Bible up next to the article. Now, Paul clearly says it is better to marry than be aflame with passion, I agree. Let's consider the context; check out chapter 6. Right before our famous sex/marriage passage, Paul is rebuking the Corinthian church for walking into the temple nearby, full of prostitutes, and waltzing in to have sex with the women as an act of worship...hmm..Sounds like a bit of a problem. Paul is concerned about the picture of Christ this church is giving to the world. He commands them to not "join" (sex) "the members of Christ with a prostitute." They were crazy! Now, does the famous passage following make more sense. He had to get their sexuality under control. Better for the image of

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C.K.

August 08, 2009  10:53pm

cont'd- the attitude of the Pharisees and Sadducees- they wanted to know the definitive "law" from God, simply so that they wouldn't "sin" or totally displease God. They didnt want a God of the heart that they had to have a relationship with: that causes to much commitment, understanding, and love. If we know the blanket rule we just have to abide by that with no strings attached; but, when God wants us to love Him sometimes that causes us to go above and beyond the "rule". Guys there is no rule God gives us concerning what age to marry. Some are FOOLISH to marry at 20 and some may be FOOLISH to wait; you see, no rule we simply have to want to please God and that looks different for all of us. I am not so much concerned with all of our conclusions I am concerned with our motives behind them. HERE IS WHERE I AM GOING TO GET UNPOPULAR by the way: there was only one thing in the garden not called good by God in the beginning, many will say Adam was without a mate! Nope, the Scriptures say

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C.K.

August 08, 2009  10:38pm

Notice that most of those in agreement with the article are not just people theorizing but people who have lived out life from an early marriage standpoint, or otherwise those who have been negatively affected by anti-early marriage extremists (in every area of life there are extremists). Yet, I hope that our thoughts don't merely flow from our emotional hang ups, as mine would have if I had commented when I first read the article; I hope our comments flow from a deep desire to understand the issue and please God accordingly. Notice also how young people such as myself have the tendency to agree with any "doctrine"/ belief that makes the yoke of Christ just a bit lighter (whether that belief is true or false/ just a thought). Thank God for the singles that are pleasing God, and those that are madly in love with their wives as Christ loved the church at the age of 20...WE CANNOT PUT AN OLD TESTAMENT LAW ON EVERYTHING. Remember the old testament, and also - cont'd

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C.K.

August 08, 2009  10:35pm

Hey guys. First off, I just want to thank God for all of the open-ended discussion and debate, because none of us have necessarily nailed it, although we may be under that impression. We are all simply providing our input, some out of strong biblical conviction, others comments clearly coming from elsewhere. Let me thank God for those of you that genuinely wrestled with the article. I also want to thank the author for doing his research and making the information so accessible to us. This article has been encouraging and enlightening; I also believe this article literally has the potential to set some could-be, would-be "marriage considerers" free. So, if you wrestled with the article digging deeper into the article and comparing your thoughts with the Word- you have done well. That is awesome and I'm encouraged, but I do want to present some considerations to you. Before you continue reading my comment check out how the other comments were scored (I don't know my score.) cont'd

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Jodi

August 08, 2009  10:35pm

BRILLIANT! Thank you for capturing the conversation I have as a single woman in my 30s on a near-daily basis with my other single Christian women friends. You are an incredible writer, you have clearly done your research, and you speak a voice in the evangelical Christian world that needs to be heard. FRESH and TRUE and well thought-through. Thank you.

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K.

August 08, 2009  9:43pm

What a nonsense story. There are far more serious topics for Christianity Today to tackle, like violence in our society. Every time there's another mass shooting in the US, CT says absolutely nothing.

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Emily

August 08, 2009  8:43pm

My husband and I were married when he was 20 and I was 19. We've been married for 6 years now and it has been work but it's been amazing. Both of us were raised in evangelical homes that taught abstinence and that marriage is sacred and not to be entered into lightly. Because we married young we have been able to grow and mature together spiritually. I am encouraged by this article that I'm not the only one who advocates for early marriage. I think we need to teach kids to grow up and take responsibility for their own actions and that marriage is not the killjoy of freedom. I pray I can raise my boys and girls to know this and look forward to marriage and sharing a life with another as God intended.

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Leo Perkins

August 08, 2009  8:17pm

The focus on chastity within the religious communities not just the Christian community has lead to unrealistic expectations of marriage, and to people marrying for the wrong reasons. There are biological urges that while not uncontrollable, take a lot of strength of character to fight, especially in the context of modern western society. As a society we have weakened the ability for children to develop an internal strength of character. There is another societal problem with leaving marriage until later in life that hasn't been covered in the article. Many western cultures around the world are facing a housing crisis. Most of this, at closer look I partly attribute to the large mis-match of housing stock designed and built for families and married couples, and disproportionate lack of families living together and married couples. This also has creates inflation pressures in the economy and increased pressures on governments providing services to the public.

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Robert

August 08, 2009  5:50am

I completely believe in early marriage. The problem in our culture is that the age of sexual maturity comes much earlier than the age of emotional maturity. Children generally have no real responsibility until they graduate from college. This lack of responsibility fails to prepare them for the duty and work involved in marraige. If the culture can return to the early maturity of years past, marriage will naturally return to an earlier age.

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Sean McHugh

August 07, 2009  11:38pm

A great article, I agree with it completely. I met my wife when I was only 15, a holiday romance, we lost touch over the following years, and reconnected when we were 18. By 19 we were 'going out' but we both intended marriage to be the goal even then or we wouldn't have bothered. We married at 22, we we both 'stayed pure' and celebrated sex for the first time together only on our honeymoon. It was great then and still is now, we're both nearly 40. When we married I was still a student, and my wife was in her first year of work, our marriage was a simple affair, but we still had over 200 guests the reception was a bring a dish affair our parents and church al chipped in to make the celebration happen. We took Paul's advice to marry rather than burn with passion, and it is the best advice we have ever received!

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Julie

August 07, 2009  9:52pm

I enjoyed the article with the exception of one point. I think it is a bad suggestion to say on the one hand marry younger and also to say its okay to marry someone older. I do not think it is a good idea for 18 year olds to marry 30 year olds as he suggested by the 12 year age differance. I think young people should marry in their own generation so that they can live a long and happy life together.

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Celesta

August 07, 2009  8:26pm

The author is right. I cannot understand why paents who are supporting a college student think they should not continue to support that college student if he or she marries. What is the difference???? I think the bonds young lovers form is stronger than later bonds. Perhaps this is due to a lot of dating history and perhaps some of that is sexual history, but never the less, it seems to be true. We were designed to be monogomous and extending the timeline for marriage is unhealthy. We need to "get them to the church on time" as Dr. Donald Joy has advised.

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Megan

August 07, 2009  8:09pm

This is a realistic and centered Christian Article! I think this is the diagnostic that most of the churches in the world are facing in the modern life. As a young christian of 26 years I can say that my parents where one of those who said wait, get well educated and do not hurry to marry. By the other hand, society pushes you to have early sex... So, is very difficult to handle both things. Is it against nature to keep virginity after mid 20s? What to do? People who are raised like me, pushed to keep virginity until marriage no matter what age you get married, have sexual fears that will be reflected later in marriage. We should keep in mind that we are not only soul and spiritual beings. I agree with bible, but also, I have to live this Century. The paradigm goes on, and young christians keep confused about that.

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Smitty

August 07, 2009  2:44pm

Abstinence is not the issue, sin is the issue. If we begin to deal with it as such & educate our Christian singles the ways of the Bible we will begin to see change. James 1:13-14 clearly states that lusts come from our OWN evil desires. We are sinful, busted people and without Christ everyone is capable of every detestable act imaginable. Once Christians gets the correct view of themselves (sinful, selfish, self righteous, etc) Christ becomes HUGE and need for HIM and HIM alone is discovered. Your viewpoint of shifting from abstinence to marriage is nothing more than switching idols inside your heart. Until someone truly submits (lays down his life, dreams, family, marriage, etc) they will continue to fail. Christ did not come with a "Do and Don't" list, He gave HIMSELF as the sacrifice we needed to have fellowship with the Father. Get rid of the virgin pledges and "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

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amy

August 07, 2009  2:23pm

This was wonderfully refreshing! Clear, logical, Biblical argument against the worldly view of marriage that so many Christians in America have adopted.

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Milton

August 07, 2009  1:00pm

Hooray for this article! This is what I have noticed for years - but no one talks about. I see two issues: 1. Where are the men? And where are the men who WANT to marry? 2. I always thought that God made our bodies mature NOT so we would live in frustration for ten-15 years. That makes no sense. Living Godly should center about giving yourself in love - and marriage should be at least a consideration in living out His Will for over lives as followers of Christ. No?

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Matthew

August 07, 2009  9:40am

No. This is yet one more technique, something to do, to change a heart issue, and it never works. It is another pointing to societal trends and saying the solution is to go backwards. Why should we expect that telling people to marry younger will solve sexual and marital issues any more than telling kids to just say no solved the drug issue? We're not dealing with statistical and intellectual issues. We're dealing with a behavioral issue, and if there's a behavioral issue, there must be heart issues underneath. There are conflicting and mismanaged desires and beliefs that are going ignored. We must have a means of dealing with the heart, of affecting those desires, emotions, and deep potentially unconscious beliefs if we truly expect that behavior will change for the better. An external step that is unenforceable will not ultimately change an internal position. We need to invite people to go with Christ into the heart, not merely marry earlier than they want.

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sally

August 07, 2009  7:56am

Wonderfully said, Phil!

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Phil

August 07, 2009  4:15am

Shannon, what has "breeding children, overpopulation, money, elected officials" have to do with the premises and conclusions of this article?? Seems like you're onto something else. Please write something relevant and intelligible, rather than bashing around other Christians.

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Shannon

August 07, 2009  4:05am

Yeesh...evangelicals put into office elected officials who deny us healthcare, make life harder for anyone without a million dollars in their bank account, and then they turn around and wonder why people are having less children. Duh! They're having less children because they're making less money and spending more of it than ever! In case you haven't noticed, it costs money to raise kids. And then there's the environmental impacts of overpopulation to consider. Of course some haughtily pronounce "breed all you want..the Lord will provide". Think about what Jesus said when Satan dared him to jump off the cliff.."do not put your Lord to the test". In other words, He just might let you go splat for being such a sanctimonius jerk. Faith is NOT an excuse for irresponsibility. Why are evangelicals pushing for more kids anyway? Has their message become so repulsive and out of touch with Christ's truth that the only way they can attract new followers is to breed them?

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Phil

August 07, 2009  3:41am

I am a Christian man, 24, just completed my graduate studies, and about to begin my first job. I have been preparing myself for marriage rather proactively. I agree on the practical conclusions of this article and on the need for young adults to intentionally pursue marriage (not just bf/gf relationships). The one thing I would like to point out, however, is that waiting for sex until marriage is not about chastity pledges or moralism et al. It is about God. It is about living in Christ, and walking as Christ walked. The sexual urges are real. And so is the Holy Spirit. The length of the wait for the life partner does not in any case justify sexual sin, if it happens. Again, I agree on your conclusions. However, our lives are for the glory of God. The "waiting challenge" can be an opportunity for us to experience true sanctification - which is possible only by the Holy Spirit when we walk in the Spirit - and the meaning of offering "our lives and bodies as a living sacrifice...."

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Kelli

August 06, 2009  10:57pm

THANK you, thank you, thank you! Unfortunately, secular humanism has crept into the church and is affecting how we view marriage and children. Thank you for writing this article and giving us all something to think about! Marriage is NOT something you "settle for" once you've had all your fun and experienced life! God help us! Marriage should be what we TRAIN our sons and daughters for. If God calls them to be single, that's fine, but at least they'll be ready for a mate!

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Anonymous

August 06, 2009  9:47pm

This article makes me feel like a failure because I didn't marry in my early 20s. Things aren't looking good for me to get married in my late 20s either. Churches should support good, strong marriages...regardless of the age of the people getting married. Not everyone can get married young.

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Babs

August 06, 2009  6:40pm

Just this past weekend, my 22 y/o son was married to his high school sweetheart. Although they are a good match spiritually personally and are both mature and responsible young adults, I still felt a little sadness watching them say their vows. After talking this over with my friends whose children also recently married I think I know why: 1) It makes me feel old to have a child that is married. 2) Our son's marriage means a permanent change to our nuclear family of 5 as it has been for the last 141/2 years. Of course these were not good reasons to discourage our son from marrying, and so we gave them our blessing and will continue to support them in any way we can. But my guess is that these emotions are part of the reason many parents today discourage their young adult children from marrying.

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Jack

August 06, 2009  6:20pm

I'm a youth pastor, 31 and still a virgin (straight, never kissed, no sexual expression of any kind). Parents this article speaks the truth. The sad reality is many parents and churches are sacrificing the purity of their children for an idol; go to college, get a career, make money then get married--the American dream. On a side note and shameless plug if you know any single lady who loves Christ show them my youtube I would like to get married some time :). My screenname is togetherforpeace. As a youth pastor and abstinence educator for a few years here in Seattle telling teens to abstain from all forms of sexual expression is a battle the church has not been winning. They date in junior high thru college. I can tell them not to date which is what I do but many parents see no problem. If they do have a problem it doesn't matter as their teen ends up dating secretly. There's some serious issues not being addressed by the Church and parents are being naive.

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Tiffany Logan

August 06, 2009  5:02pm

cont'd But they think this because it is what we have taught them. If we really don't believe that Christ has the power to deliver us from our sin and lead us in righteousness, then what are we toting around bibles and going to church for? Why are we wasting our time? That is the ultimate insult to the one who gave everything for us. And now the church doesn't even have a credible witness anymore because there is nothing different about us. The world is hungry and they are looking for someone who has something to offer. How about we take the word at face value and let Christ work in us and live through us so that we can liv e a righteous life. then our children will see what we are doing, not just hear what we are saying, and they will follow in our footsteps!........Just a though

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Martin Johnson

August 06, 2009  4:58pm

This is a discussion well worth having and congratulations for CT for opening this up. In the church community I am part of, early marriage seems to be the norm. Whilst us parents sometimes jokingly say that our kids only got married young so they could have sex, provided they are committed Christians and know each other over a number of years, this is a great celebration of the joy of marriage. The 90% figure is scary - not sure what it would be here in Sydney, but about the same probably. We do tend to 'follow' America in most things (sadly).

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Tiffany Logan

August 06, 2009  4:58pm

I don't see anything wrong with early marriage if it is for the right reasons. But if young adults marry just to be able to have sex, then the focus is off from the beginning; it is on self pleasure. Marriage cannot survive if both partners are not willing to commit to a life of selflessness. This is the kind of marriage called for in the word of god - a marriage built on agape love which is a self-sacrificing love. It is the same kind of love displayed on the cross when Jesus died for our sins. I think a better idea to help prevent fornication would be for Christians to stop telling their children to obey the Word of God when they are not doing it themselves. This is what is responsible for the breakdown of today's society. We have taken the Word of God, re-interpreted it 200 times until we came up with a version that would excuse our sin, and continued to call ourselves disciples of Christ. We have confused our young people. They think that they cannot control themselves. cont'c

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Mark R.

August 06, 2009  4:09pm

"Chastity Balls"... is that some kind of slang for that painful and unchristian vasectomy procedure

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Ally

August 06, 2009  3:44pm

I've been thinking about this article for a couple of days now and reading comments by other readers. Early marriage may for some people but not for all. It is not a cure-all for fornication. If it were, there would be no adultury or infidelity. It's as if the author and quite a few readers don't believe God can work in one's life without a spouse. Our Lord was single. So were many leaders of the early church. Did God not give them the grace to live pure lives? Yes, he did. And he can give it to us as well. It's not easy being celibate in a world obsessed with sex. But that energy can be channeled in other areas and we can accomplish things and go places married folks can't. I do not believe for one minute I am out of the will of God for not having "lots of babies for His glory" (one of the most ludicrous statements I've ever seen, BTW). If I allow Him, God can use me mightily as a single woman. I celebrate my single status. God is all I need.

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W

August 06, 2009  3:28pm

Props to encouraging the dialogue. I'm your typical young male eager for sex but freaked out by the commitment of marriage. Sometimes I wish I didn't even have a girl friend because I feel so constrained by our relationship. I don't even mean this in a sense of promiscuity, but in a sense of regular personal choices. Every decision I make has to consider how she'll respond. When I was single I even felt more available to serve. I can volunteer to leave the country and help the poor for months, if I was married I would have to work and pay bills. I think of marriage as the end of hundreds of opportunities and the end of freedom. However, I still deeply value marriage! I grew up in the typical evangelical abstinence instilling household described in this article. I practiced abstinence and burned inside. I've simply come to terms with the fact that I am not mature enough for marriage. I am not arguing against abstinence or for it. I am just an example of the young men you described.

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Stephen

August 06, 2009  2:42pm

I think that this article is long overdue. It has caused me to do some real thinking about the messages that I ,as a high school teacher in a Christian school give to young people. The message in the past was abstinence and purity, but wait for marriage until your mid twenties. How ridiculous is that? Young people must just shake their heads at the conflicting,but well meaning, messages they are sent by parents, pastors, teachers etc. I agree that we have put such emphasis on getting financially secure and set before marriage, that we forget that early marriage can be a great place for the young couple to grow together; financially, emotionally and spiritually.

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E.

August 06, 2009  2:16pm

A thoughtful and well-reasoned article. I married young (I was 20 and my husband was 22) and have not regretted it, despite my parents being a bit worried (financial things, mostly). My husband and I have benefitted from the years we have spent maturing together and I don't know any couple our age that is closer, more in tune with each other, or shares as many interests. We have come through our early immaturity (financial things, mostly) with flying colors. :)

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Kathryn

August 06, 2009  1:56pm

I am one of those couples that married when we were older, I was 29, my husband was 37, it was the first time for both of us. Would I have liked to have been married earlier, yes, but if I had married my college boyfriend, it would have much different--I would have been a doormat for him. The confidence that attracted my husband grew out of being independent for several years after college. If we had met earlier, niether one of us would have been in a position for a healthy relationship. God's timing is perfect--he brought the 2 of us together. While not all of the our married years have been smooth (older does not mean no struggles), I am marrried to my best friend and we are committed to making this work. We did meet at the church single's group, but even having a single's group, the women still out numbered the men. I liked the article, as others have pointed out, there is no "one size fits all" solution.

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Stuart

August 06, 2009  1:46pm

I agree with the idea that marrying early can be a good thing, however, I have a serious problem with one point made in this article. You said, "....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." Two problems: 1) It is wrong to assume that God has a normative age by which we must marry or be overcome by our hormones and 2) with this logic, one could say that a late 20's individual who loses their virginity has actually committed no sin because they unwittingly "battled our Creator's designs." I think this sufficiently dismantles this argument for early marriage.

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Lucy Goosey

August 06, 2009  11:58am

As for the "Case For Early Marriage"...some (even Christians who champion early marriage) may think that early marriage is exempt from the call of God on one's life. Just like any other path in life, many people get married without seeking God. I'm sure there are early marriages and older marriages in which people have not sought God for. Do I disdain "early marriage"? No, I disdain when man forgets that God can make a barren woman pregnant, an old woman bare children, and much more than I could possibly write here. Yes...there are statistics that say how rare things can be. But weren't many things rare in the Bible? I'm wondering if, for these times we need to have faith for our own lives and not lean on statistics as our faith. As a single, I have to have faith that God can still work something out for me despite statistics: large number of single women + large number of black single women + some people don't prefer black women + ratio of women to men.

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Joyce

August 06, 2009  10:50am

I agree with the idea to marry young. Depending on the maturity of the couple and the stabiliy they will have in a marriage. (can they support themselves?) I was married at 18 and just celebrated my 30th anniversary. I encouraged my 19 year old daughter to move up thier wedding plans exactly for the fact that they would keep their verginity. Why put off and let them be tempted for a few more years just because they are not what society expects to be old enough. I feel if you have strong Christian values you will be commited to your marriage, sure you will struggle at first with lack of money and have to work hard, but that just brings you closer and more determined. Again it all depends on the maturity of the person.

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Sharon

August 06, 2009  9:28am

I think you are so out of touch. To promote marriage at a young age is stupid...have you looked at the stats concerning that one??/ By the way, once you lose your virginity, you CAN NOT EVER get it back. I think you need to get a grip. You are a sad example of putting your mouth(pen) in motion, before putting your brain in gear. My daughter waited till she found he right man. She was married at 27 and so were a lot of her friends. he few who maried early, are now divorced. Just because you can't control your libido, doesn't mean all should marry at 18, so they can get their rocks off without going back on a prmise...what about the young couples, who marry and go back on THAT promise and it happens a lot

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Tenerife

August 06, 2009  9:02am

Regnerus makes some good points, but how specifically would the early marriage program be carried out? What is the ideal age to marry by, and the ideal age to start dating? I was very shy, insecure and a bit fearful of opposite sex peers as a teen girl, and stayed that way through my 20's. There are many factors on an individual rather than societal level preventing a young person from marrying early - such as late puberty, shyness, lack of social skills, physical unattractiveness and strict parents. And overcoming a gender imbalance, if that is in fact the case, is a major problem. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, and the proponents of "everybody marry young" have to consider that too as they advance their agenda.

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Rachel

August 06, 2009  8:49am

I also think the blanket statement by Anonymous below (and others below that) that people who do not marry young are being selfish is an unloving, uninformed judgement on brothers and sisters in the church who hoped to marry young, assumed they would, and are grieving the losses associated with that disappointment. Before making sweeping statements, study church history, engage with global Christianity, build many friendships outside your demographic, and please consider that your own life story is not the template for every other Christian.

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Rachel

August 06, 2009  8:45am

Lynn, I'm not sure why you think abstinence past physical maturity is un-Biblical or "too difficult", considering it is the model of Jesus Christ and Paul, most conspicuously. And that some of the most fruitful members of two millennia of Christianity have been life-long celibates. And that there are many single adults who are successfully practicing chastity - a lifestyle that has been radical ever since Jesus practiced it, more radical, in fact, than young marriage and parenting, which has been and is still the norm in most parts of the world today. Not to mention, difficulty should never stop Christ's followers from obedience to his commands. Marriage can be a great good in some circumstances, as can not marrying - either state of life merely points to our ultimate union with God, whose call on our lives takes myriad forms within the bounds of orthodoxy.

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Lynn Barton

August 06, 2009  8:22am

I loved this article. We should be encouraging marriage, and at a young age. It's too difficult to stay abstinent for a decade or more past physical maturity, and it's not even biblical. Personally, I'm not a fan of purity balls and rings and pledges and such, and I could never say why until the answer recently came to me. It's that it's not the main point. It puts the focus on sex. It's like a Christianized version of the cultural obsession with sex. Instead, we should teach marriage as something God blesses and even commands, teaching it especially to young men who tend to be more resistant to growing up and taking on adult responsibilities. That would put the focus where it's supposed to be. You can't get much more radical these days than by getting married young and having lots of babies for the glory of God. Thank you so much for this article and the whole section on early marriage this month.

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Anonymous

August 06, 2009  1:20am

Re above - should be full star rating !

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Anonymous

August 06, 2009  1:19am

I completely agree that God's timing is perfect( and often confusing): however in a society that has distorted God's view of marriage and sex, we need to take back the Christian vision. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that birthing children late, delaying marriage, allowing for a myriad of post modern excuses to do what we"want", has done little to encourage stability or foster commitment between adults, and responsibility toward bringing up children. In fact the opposite: for every celebrity whose stance is one of not "needing" to marry, are a dozen other couples who find themselves in dysfunctional relationships, with out of wedlock children, financial stress and no way forward. As believers we need to take hold, in faith, of God's optimum plan: within marriage we can procreate, enjoy sex and thus glorify His plan to keep us both safe and satisfied. Maybe sooner than later, in the best case scenario.

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Barbara J.

August 06, 2009  12:30am

I've been told that for many married people, sex can be a blessing .For single people, sex is a curse. For some married people, marriage can be a curse. Lonliness can be found in the midst of marriage AND singleness.

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Sarah

August 06, 2009  12:20am

This is the most honest and real article I've ever read!

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Anonymous

August 05, 2009  11:33pm

Thank you for your words... they mean A LOT!

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Lucy Goosey

August 05, 2009  11:18pm

Also: I wrote "Perhaps there are things that we do that keep it from happening earlier, but he is still faithful to us." I'm not even equating "earlier" with "younger" though...one would be younger per se. But earlier could be 40 rather than 50 or 20 rather than 30. In all...it's all down to God's timing and our obedience.

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Jan

August 05, 2009  10:41pm

I am not against early marriages, I myself was 18, and had 3 kids by 22 and finished college when I was 43 and have been married for more than 50 years to my best friend, and we did grow up together mainly because we never left the church, every Sunday of our marriage we have been in church and it made all the difference. However I beg to differ with some of your assumptions. Did you think by encouraging early marriage, they would not live together and would be legally sexually active, and the kids born of the marriage would not have all the traumas of the live together parenting. You also encouraged helping financally the couple. No one ever gave us a penny, bailed us out of our traffic tickets, or even took care of our children. It might have been nice but our children knew our love always even when we didn't have money, and didn't have all the trappings of the good life, nor did we get our first house or car easily, since he was often laid off. God must be the center.

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JSF

August 05, 2009  10:31pm

Thank you

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Lucy Goosey

August 05, 2009  10:23pm

By the way, I think its fine that people get married WHENEVER they do...whether young or older. I believe that God can do anything with us at any point in our lives. Perhaps there are things that we do that keep it from happening earlier, but he is still faithful to us. A lot of the arguments via the article seems to be people doing a lot of defending themselves about the places they are in their lives (earlier marriage, later marriage, education then marriage, single and happy, single and unhappy, etc.) rather than God being the one who guides us to where He wants us to be. Seriously, I'm tired of people feeling they have to defend their state where God has them. Just like I'm tired of stay-at-home moms feeling like they have to defend that or working moms feeling they have to defend that. It just becomes us arguing back and forth and missing out on a faithful God.

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Lucy Goosey

August 05, 2009  10:16pm

Perhaps, I am confused about who these people are who should marry early are. Who are they? Do they HAVE a boyfriend/girlfriend and are 20+ years old AND are both CHRISTIANS? Do they NOT have a boyfriend/girlfriend and are 20+ years old and have NOT been dating and ARE CHRISTIANS? It might be the second group that gets ticked off by those articles, because they might feel like someone is telling them to hurry up and get married so they don't mess up and become sexually active. Perhaps, all single Christians 20+ have been put in one group.

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Heather Zayachkowski

August 05, 2009  9:45pm

I got Married when I was 19yo. This is very rare in the area I am from. But now I have been married for almost 10 years. One thing I have found is that our society has forgotten that the majority of growing in a relationship happens AFTER one is married. They think they need to know everything about the person before choosing to marry them so they can make the perfect choice. There is no perfect choice (though mine is close!).. and we seem to lack the ability as a society to teach people to love each other and to grow together and work out their lives in Marriage. I am SO THANKFUL I got married young. Life wasn't perfect. But God has blessed it. Every young person I talk with now is shocked and Always think they aren't close to ready at the age I was. GOOD ARTICLE... Very thought provoking!

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andy tuck jesus1

August 05, 2009  8:45pm

Thank you Christianity Today.Wait for mr or miss christian right. Look at your complaints(sin or not sin) and pluses. Sin or not sin.Possesed or not. Talk to God to cast out. Is their reasoning for happenings .And a big aspect. It is submissive to listen to GOds righteous laws not selfcenteredness. You all are probably looking for the word and commands of think and or write the words DESCRIPTIVE aspects. And then match yourself. Single is not bad. Well let you go. Thank you for reading this. Rev 12:9.Gal 3:3. 1 corinth 14:26. psa99:9-pray. Smuggle christian info. Rebuke multi armys! Be careful. Thanks to christian musical stars for producing. Come on stars gospel gansters,la symphony,zion, azusa pacif, christian dedicated ,stop listen for God and pray in east IL. Help the dedicated christians plans. Wo to you anti christian, religious politicians.

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NS

August 05, 2009  8:24pm

This was a great article. It seems to me that most of the negative feedback has arisen from not carefully reading the whole article. The author is not saying that everyone should get married young, that teenagers should marry, that people should just marry the first single person they can grab, or that abstinence isn't important. Rather, the author is debunking common misconceptions about young ADULT marriages and suggesting that we give them more serious consideration. The critical posters need to wake up to the fact that there is nothing "natural" about adolescence being prolonged longer and longer into the mid-20's. Furthermore, the Bible does not saying anything about marriage age. Frankly, as someone who married young a few years ago, I quick grew tired of the raised eyebrows from people who found out our decision. I had outright derogatory comments put to me. I don't know why, because I can name about 8 or 9 married friends who also married young and are doing fine.

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Andrew Corbett

August 05, 2009  7:48pm

Great article Mark! Very practical wisdom for parents, pastors, singles and those married. As a pastor I have been increasingly concerned with the dire lack of godly young men for our single girls. I have also been concerned that while we have politicized marriage, we have not promoted marriage. My wife and I married young. I like your advise to ideally marry in your early twenties. Scripture speaks of "the wife of your youth" (Prov. 5:18) and it seems to support what you have said about learning to be married through the struggles of life. You have helped me to think better about some of these issues. Thank you. Dr Andrew Corbett helpingmakelifebetter.com

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ev no more

August 05, 2009  6:25pm

One last thing. Your judgemental attitude toward's your grandchildren's parents, regardless of the circumstances that might have caused their parents to divorce, is NOT going to help your grandchildren heal.

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Robert

August 05, 2009  6:23pm

This is total non sense. I would never tell somebody to get married earlier. The later the better. Indeed, marriage and kids is not for everybody. Many people are so much happier single, pursuing intellectual interests, hobbies, and traveling. This is terrible abusive archaic and damaging linear thinking.

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anonymous

August 05, 2009  4:56pm

Marriage and how we prepare for it and how we actually do it is probably one the biggest issues that the church needs to look at. I had so much confusion in my teens/early twenties about many of the things mentioned here, and I felt I had no one to talk to about it. I was still confused when I got married and am now going through the heartbreaking, crippling process of divorce. I didn't know how to do it and neither did my husband, and I think we had the makings of a potentially great marriage. I asked and asked for help but found very little. I am still trying to hold on, but the damage has gone on for so long. It is hugely important that we talk frankly about marriage and sex. I think that many parents, as their children enter their teens, take the approach of closing their eyes, crossing their fingers, holding their breath, and hoping. That will not work in the complex culture that we live in. Thank you for publishing this article.

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ev no more

August 05, 2009  4:45pm

So, premarital sex "rarely hurts anybody" huh? What a load of crap! So, you don't want grandchildren from a broken home, huh? Your afraid your grandchildren are "damaged goods" because their parents decided to divorce? You think that, don't you!!! I pray that if I ever have grandchildren, that their parents are never divorced, but if they are, I hope that I will be able to be there for them and to show them that God still loves them, and they are not at fault for their parents' actions, that Jesus loves them the same regardless of what their parents do. It is people like you that kept my own Mother out of church for a long time. I hope one day you will look at things differently, but I doubt you ever will.

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ev no more

August 05, 2009  4:22pm

To one of the previous commentors, divorce is not a sin. Fornication is next to murder in seriousness. Only Evangelical nut jobs think divorce is worse than fornication.

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Mordecai Lament

August 05, 2009  4:07pm

CT is quick to bash men for their supposed immaturity (a fact that CT does not have the ability to back up and is therefore subjective as opposed to an objective measurement)... yet for some reason cannot be called to hold women to account for the very same thing. What kind of madness is this? When will the church learn that "shaming" does not come from God? (page 4) We have failed to understand the difference between conviction of the spirit and shaming. One frees while the other shackles of guilt. Further, please kindly explain how marrying a guy for his paycheck is not objectification of the man as you seem to imply is perfectly acceptable? And then we wonder why men just don't magically appear on the church's doorstep. What reason do they have to do so? You've all but told them to check their freedom that God gave them at the door. You've told them they are good for one thing: "marriage stock." Men have responded: "No thanks. Not until you respect us as humans with free will."

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mom2many

August 05, 2009  2:35pm

@ Xino ~ OT, but... Sorry to burst your bubble, but not only am I an Episcopalian, married to an Episcopal priest, but I also use NFP. Shocking, no??? ;) My husband and I have struggled with BC choices, and have decided that *for us* we are tending almost to the "Quiverful" side of things. Is this for everyone? No. But it is a calling, and we are not kooks for choosing to let God be in control of that aspect of our lives, as well. He is Lord of ALL, is He not??? :) As for the article, I found that it gave me much to ponder. My husband and I married young-ish (23), and we went though several lean years, which built character, and gave us many wonderful memories. ♥ I think many of the points the author makes are valid, and has me re-thinking things for my own kids (my oldest is 14, so I've got a few years...). It makes sense that we at least let young people know that marrying young is a viable option, and isn't necessarily irresponsible.

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Lincoln

August 05, 2009  1:48pm

interesting article. Just had one problem with it. What he said for the median "every man marrying at 22, there's one marrying for the first time at 34" is not necessarily true. Medians work simply as the middle number (or average of two middle numbers). The the median could also show "for every man marrying at 22, there is one marrying for the first time at 29" Not a huge distinction but perhaps the scene is not as "old" as Mark portrayed.

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Xino

August 05, 2009  11:48am

Rachel, John's characterization of the Catholic Church as a "never-bending" institution is at odds with the history of a political institution that has cut plenty of deals through millenniums. The "Magisterium" has only ever "infallibly' defined two doctrines, neither of which are subject to any empirical proof. If the "Magisterium's" true followers only number in the tens of millions, rather than the "1.3 billion" figure that Catholic Apologists like to bandy about, then the RCC simply isn't a significant institution as a church - although it might be a very large CULTURAL institution among the spiritually-apathetic. Now in regards to birth control, you aren't a "kook" for using NFP. You're a "kook" if you try to convince us that God wants us all to use NFP when you have absolutely no evidence for that. You should also note that 90 percent of Catholics, 94 percent of Baptists, 100 percent of Episcopalians, etc. disagree with you. Your views are fringe, statistically speaking.

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Pru

August 05, 2009  9:09am

I'm not sure that aiming at one singular problem is really the answer. I'm frankly tired of band-aiding problems by saying, "it's birth control", "it's the fault of the true love waits campaign, sexuality, technology, blah blah blah"...it is many of these factors combined. I think Xino should not have used kooks, at least not in referring to one's choice for birth control. However, I have found that using contraceptives also "tremendously enriches marriage by increasing communication between spouses and helping us to express love in non-sexual ways" as Rachel said. I am just hoping that I hear less about being a sinner for using a different from of birth control...even as NFP also controls birth. Married sex lives should always entail expressing love non-sexually (as should all love for that matter) and involve communication. Frankly, I'd like to hear more from all Christians about adoption and taking care of the orphan and about nurturing a great sex life in marriage.

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Christian Madsen MD

August 05, 2009  9:03am

I can think of only one thing left out of this otherwise excellent and exhaustive work, Dowery. If the Brides parents were to spend 50-70% less on the wedding and give the newly weds the difference, this would nearly cancel the "poverty" that so many newly weds find themselves in.

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Rachel

August 05, 2009  8:48am

Xino, I believe John was speaking of "the Catholic Church" as the Magisterium, not Joe Q. Catholic, and the Magisterium -hasn't- bent on the issue. In the meantime, please don't characterize those of us who use natural family planning as "kooks." NFP is 99% effective, has no unhealthy side effects, is free, is easily reversible, and most importantly, tremendously enriches marriage by increasing communication between spouses and helping us to express love in non-sexual ways. If the Church decided tomorrow that artificial birth control was OK, I'd still use NFP. So kindly be polite when talking about the practices of your brothers and sisters in Christ. As for the article: This is food for thought. I do wish that it addressed the issue of college. Most people don't graduate until they're 22; given that it takes an average of 6 months to get a first job and you need to have been employed for a certain time to get an apartment, it's hard to move out before 23. Still, interesting.

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Glenn

August 05, 2009  8:19am

An excellent article; one I couldn't articulate half as well. I married at the age of 29 to a woman seven years younger. We have had many outside challenges over the past 11 years, but one thing has never wavered: our commitment to the covenant of marriage. I would have loved to have been married a couple of years sooner, and woulld have loved to have had children soon too but it was simply not financially feasable. I am a pastor and no pastorate that I know of allows for the wife to stay at home without raising a family in grinding poverty. We actually married during my wife's final year of college and had to wait another four years until she finished her accounting designation. In other words, we had a family as quick as possible. A recent census done in my country of Canada has shown that the average household income has stayed the same (adjusted for inflation) from 1980 until 2008. The difference? In 1980 the average household had one income earner; in 2008 it it had two.

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Xino

August 05, 2009  7:24am

John Holeck and others who take aim at birth control should consider the statistics - more than 90 percent of the membership of most Christian denominations, including Roman Catholicism, approve of artificial birth control. (John Holeck's assertion that Catholicism has never bent to popular culture is an absurd myth when you look at history - Holeck talks about the Roman Catholicism that exists in his own head, not the disintegrating, deeply-troubled institution that exists in the real world, chuck-full of "cultural Catholics." "folk Catholics," and others who deny the basic teachings of their own church, let alone the Bible.) There is NO debate among Christians about birth control - there is the vast majority of us, and a few kooks. People like this have fought every medical advance - organ transplants, antibiotics - as against being God's will. Birth control isn't the problem. The problem is an economic system that demands we postpone our natural development as people.

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John Holecek

August 04, 2009  7:07pm

Good article. What's really spoiled the show, however, is the Pill and other means of artificial contraception. Without fear of pregnancy, sex becomes easy. Evangelical preaching against artificial means of contraception is, as far as I know, nonexistent. That's why I became a Roman Catholic. 2000 years and the Catholic Church has yet to bend to the pull of contemporary culture, whatever that may be.

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Married young

August 04, 2009  6:15pm

At last an intelligent analysis of a phenomenon I've been observing over the past decade but that I couldn't have articulated as well. My husband and I married at 21, the summer after graduating from a Christian college. Although we were very poor and immature for a few years, we were able to change and grow together and to get to know each other for 7 years before having children. We are now in our 17th year of marriage. I have female friends, on the other hand, who have waited for Mr. Perfect....and waited....and are still waiting. One friend in particular ended 2 good engagements after deciding the men weren't spiritual enough and now at age 40 she remains single. The truth is you never know what you're going to get whether you get married at 20 or at 40, you can only work very hard to make it work or have the wisdom to know when to end it.

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Gina

August 04, 2009  4:01pm

"Age integration is one of the unique hallmarks of the institutional church"? Not in my experience. I wish it were true, and maybe statistically it is. But I've seen very little of the age integration that I'd love to see in church.

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Rick

August 04, 2009  3:57pm

I will add that I would put zero stars if possible for this article and I agree with Adam about the integrity of its content. How can someone who is regenerate through the power of the Holy Spirit, a new creature in Christ compose such an article that agrees more with the wisdom of man and what he thinks is right in his own eyes than the Scripture. This article reeks of being written by someone who is spiritually dead, some modern day aristotle, philosopher if you wish. Beware the dangerous shifting sands of human wisdom, build your life and your marriage only upon Jesus Christ the rock of our salvation and on He can give us the power to do so!! Be pure in heart and see God!!

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Rick

August 04, 2009  3:44pm

Sir, Your Ph.D is usless because much of it stems from the counsel of the spiritually dead. Why should those who are spiritually alive in Christ seek advise from the spiritually dead, should not a people inquire of their God? (Isaiah 8) Do not call those who admit to having sex before marriage christian. There is no such thing as a carnal christian who lives in continual sin. Be very very careful of how you define the church. There are many who have fallen in adultery and fornication and have no repentance and Godly sorrow in their hearts over their sin against God Almighty. And they will face Him on the day of Judgement and be cast into Hell for their sin. No one is a child of God if they still love what God hates and hate what He loves. The Bible says to flee youthful lust (2 Timothy 2:22). We are to resist the devil himself but when it comes to youthful lust we must flee. Throw away your books on social science, anthropology, and psychology and start reading your Bible!!

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toi_li

August 04, 2009  3:31pm

this is a good insight into our practical theology that had been watered down by the values of the culture around us. There is too much individualism that is preached by parents and preachers alike. Marriage is forged in a community, and this support is what should encourage the young to marry and stay happily married. We have a long way to go to learn "koinonia". I agree that our talk about abstinence is pushing people beyond what they are designed to be. We must teach chastity as well as marriage, service vs. self-realization, modesty of lifestyle vs. the American dream. It is hard to be counter-cultural!

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Sally

August 04, 2009  3:21pm

My husband and I were married at 21. I knew him 6 years before we were engaged. We met in a public high school, where everyone knew my life was to please God. That scared off most of the classmates that weren't even good people. My dad took me to lunch to find out what I thought about a guy I had dated for 2 and a half years, and broke up with because I wasn't sure if he was right for me,"God's Will". My dad said if you love him you should marry him. I grew up loving and wanting kids. And he enjoyed playing with kids, and sometimes acted like one. Now, we have been married for 7 years. We have 4 beautiful children. I am thankful to have somebody here to share everyday with. Alot of my closest friends, that got married right after us have in the past year split up. By God's grace, it makes my marriage all the more stronger.

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Marjorie

August 04, 2009  3:06pm

My husband and I were married at age 20 and 23. We were both virgins and have been married 51 years this month! Marriage is about more than sex. It is about love, commitment, and it is not always simple. Sometimes it requires work, but with the presence of God as the third partner, it is well worth it!

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Nikki

August 04, 2009  2:16pm

This is a wonderful article. The author makes some wonderful points that people should really think about thoroughly. My husband and I were married at 19 and 20. We have survived the "odds" thanks to God's grace. We just celebrated our 15th anniversary and have 6 beautiful children. It was not always an easy road but we look back and wouldn't change a thing. We have grown up together and our marriage has "become beautiful". Thanks for the great read!

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Alex

August 04, 2009  1:29pm

While I understand the intent of this article is pure, I have to sit back and think "Really??? Because all this time I've just been brushing off all these great marriage options!" That hasn't been the case at all and I know it isn't for many others. Isn't this something that we can't really control? I'd love to find a wife, but it just hasn't been in the cards for me yet at the age of 28. If I'm doing something wrong, please let me know. I'd love to figure out the equation.

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Pru

August 04, 2009  12:35pm

Dear Jjoe, I'm not sure that giving into the culture's popular demand for sex before marriage is exactly the answer. I daresay that when I had it, it pretty much was a huge bomb and I am not married to those people, hated that I did it and now understand more that God's call for chastity is out of his uncanny love for us. However, I do agree that beating kids over the head with the purity message is destructive in its own way. It was hurtful to me and occupied a bit of the Spirit's healing over me, albeit not as much as the sex itself but it was still unhelpful. So, I hope we can figure out a way to uncompromisingly help youth be the new creations that God's created us to be.

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Eric in CA

August 04, 2009  12:25pm

This article is well thought-out as a concept, but where is the practical application? How will the church provide a community where Single Adults can meet and get to know one another? Too many congregations fail to provide a vibrant, supportive setting for Christian singles to connect. After many years of frustration at a mega-church without such a group, I had to turn to an online dating service, where thankfully I found a wonderful wife. Singles need to be a focus for churches, a place to invest time to prevent future failed marriages. My wife and I plan to do our part, helping to start such a group in our church this fall. I would encourage others to pray and carefully consider how they too can be part of the solution. Too many hunger for community, especially Singles. Leaders, please provide them a Christian alternative for finding a spouse, instead of the workplace, fitness center, or bar.

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Ally

August 04, 2009  12:08pm

I found it interesting that in the commentaries which accompanied this article, the woman, Ms. Colon, was much more skeptical than the two men. I also find it of interest that the author would so zealously advocate a practice encouraged by Mormonism and other cults. Then he goes on to lay guilt trips on parents who encourage their children to take responsibility for their own actions and suggests that it is the duty of married people to produce children. (I may be misinterpreting his words here) I'm very concerned about how this will affect young women, who could be pressured into early marriages with men and find themselves trapped in loveless or abusive marriages. I am also concerned for those who end up single in a Christian culture which no longer values the gifts of unattached people who never found someone to marry. I'm disappointed that CT gave this guy a forum. I too am concerned about the sanctity of marriage. Pressuring people to marry young won't solve this problem.

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Rachel

August 04, 2009  12:01pm

Regnerus seems to have the wrong end of the stick here. Christian kids fornicating is just one symptom, among many, of the ways the American church has succumbed to the wider culture's lies about sexuality as it relates to personal identity. Addressing that will take more than a band-aid solution like he proposes. All Christians are gifted with the grace to be sexually pure, and marriage does not automatically create sexual purity. How about Christians spend their energy on developing familial intimacy, shared liability, for one another, regardless of marital status? How about Christians truly come to share each others' burdens to the point where we can effectively help a brother or sister hear God's call on his or her life, rather than just judging out of our own experience? How about Christians encourage lifestyles of temperance and generosity? How about Christians love one another so well on a day-to-day basis that those outside the church can't help noticing and being drawn in?

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Jjoe

August 04, 2009  11:59am

Which is the larger sin? Sex before marriage or divorce? Sex before marriage rarely hurts anyone, while a divorce is like a bomb that destroys everything around it, especially the children. Call me Satan, but I'd far rather have my kid have sex before marriage and then get married when both parties are mature enough, than to have my kid get married at 18 and get divorced 5 years later. I'd like to have grandchildren who don't come from a broken home. I daresay many of the people posting here had sex before they were married, yet we expect our children not to? When you look back on it, do you see it as some kind of horrible shameful act or as intimacy with someone you loved at that point in your life? One huge problem is that teenagers who are taught that sex is some kind of mortal sin are far less likely to use birth control, for that means they are premeditating sin. So they let themselves be "surprised" by the passion.

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Gretchen

August 04, 2009  11:16am

Then there is the issue of love. If God does not introduce you until you are older to the one for whom your love will be deep enough to sustain years and years of the ups and downs, the beauty and the duress of marriage, why should we take matters into our own hands? The problem is, we do and that's why so many marriages end in divorce. When we let our hormones or our culture or our parents insist that we must get married young and start a family, we are taking the power of God away from God. My husband and I married at 29 and have been married for 28 years and will be for the rest of our lives. I'm a pastor and I often, in premarital counseling, discourage early marriages. I find this article to be closed to the working of God's hands. If God wants a couple to be married, they'll be able to also work through the financial challenges that come along regardless of age.

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Katherine

August 04, 2009  10:09am

Whether you marry early or late is irrelevant. God leads each of us differently. I wasn't trying to get married in my later twenties but that's when I met my husband. He didn't want to marry in his late 30s but had never met the right girl. I think the problem isn't WHEN you marry it's HOW do you perceive marriage? and WHO is at the center of it? There is too much divorce among Christians and it seems to me it's because people think their is a way out in God's eyes. It's time people started staying committed to their vows and obeying God's Word faithfully in His instruction to husbands and wives (i.e. I Cor. 7, Eph. 5). And don't don't divorce and remarry Christian people! It's ADULTERY!!!! (Matt 19:9) Let's not have ANOTHER bandwagon. That's all this idea about marrying early is. It's a fad idea. Just obey the Scripture.

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Xino

August 04, 2009  7:44am

If we're going to be serious about saving sex for marriage, then early marriage has to be encouraged. The author is totally right on that. Being celibate when you aren't gifted for it has serious psychological and physiological costs that translate into societal problems in the aggregate. The author makes that point well. However, the author fails to appreciate the fact that the United States isn't such a prosperous nation anymore (how he could have failed to notice this 2 years into an economic depression is beyond me), and the shrinking social safety net and loss of decent jobs has hit under-40 people the hardest. That's why many men aren't ready for marriage, and marrying earlier won't change that. The author also lauds childbearing, but we have to start discussing overpopulation AS AN UNDENIABLE REALITY, not as a "liberal lie." We need to seriously think about the theological problem of overpopulation, its effect on our ethics, etc. We look like fools if we don't.

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Rebecca

August 04, 2009  1:43am

I'm 21, been dating my first boyfriend for a year and a half, and we very seriously want to get married as soon as he can find a job and support us financially (I am a senior at a university). So much of what this article says is true: I have experienced first hand from my parents the pressure to wait until I have a career and lots of financial independence before I get married. The same goes for the way marriage is treated as anathema by my friends (mostly women. Ironically, most of the men I know can't wait to get married). And honestly, I don't think young people only get married for sex. As far as whether this article places too much blame on men, I did not pick up on that. It seems that young men really do take longer in growing up than women, but it's not necessarily their fault. Our culture is probably more at fault for the Peter Pan syndrome, just as much as it is for the increasing amount of women who want fun and freedom in their 20s rather than marriage.

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Ashley

August 03, 2009  11:42pm

This article is unbelievably true. I am a little speechless at the way Mark articulated his thoughts on this subject. So compelling.

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Henk v.Veen

August 03, 2009  11:34pm

Here Christianity could learn from its Jewish roots. In Judaism finding a match, making a couple is the highest heavenly commandment and calling. Children are a blessing, not a burden. The reason there is so much divorce is also tied in to birth control, people who are busy raising a large family simply do not have time or interest to focus on their own selfish "gotta be me" "needs". The church has got it all wrong, it allows divorcers to divorce for no biblical reason then does not discipline these lawbreakers. That makes the church, now filled with divorcers, birth controllers, and even baby aborters, just like the world. Goodbye church....

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Christian Man

August 03, 2009  9:47pm

This article misses on so many levels. It relentlessly tries to pin the bulk of the fault on men. The various deficiencies are either spelled out specifically toward men or to people in general. No mention is ever made of any areas where females need to improve. The writer points to lower income for young men as though this is some proof of irresponsibility. This trend has more to do with long-term economic trends, not some foolishness on the part of men. 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. Just maybe, women are in the wrong place talking about how mature they are and how deficient men are. This is not Godly talk. I will have no woman judge my spiritual maturity in light of her desires for a marriage timeline, income, or any other such childish metric. God is the head of Christ who is the head of Man who is the head of Woman. The word has rendered its judgment.

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Bill

August 03, 2009  8:12pm

As a single, never been married, virgin, male approaching 30, I think there is value to early marriage. But I do think that there still needs to be discussions on sex in the church. Marriage should not just be an answer to lust/sex drive, but remain as a commitment between two people. I am not single particularly out of choice, and it is difficult being a single male in a society like ours where sex outside of marriage and internet porn is the norm. I do feel blessed to have friends to help keep me accountable in this area. But I am also glad that I am not married yet, as I have had time to truly mature and find who I am in Christ. So I think that marriage is complicated, and tough. And I think as long as that is communicated, it will allow us as believers can make a better, prayer-guided, intelligent decision about marriage.

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Andrea

August 03, 2009  8:08pm

This article is brilliant! I loved it, and truly enjoyed the fact that Mark Regnerus wrote ways to help the youth today. I think it is very important to talk about this issue, but also find ways to solve or adress it.

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Bretto

August 03, 2009  7:11pm

Great stuff. I've thought this for a long time. In history past people would marry even as teenagers and succeed, but our modern age mainly produces immature young (and old) people. We need to teach and practice marraige in a biblical sense which is covenant in Christ. Churches are now pumping out self-centred Christians who care more about thier universaty degree and great job than hanging out with God and their wife in the garden. We've promoted a Tower of Babel lifestyle over an Edenic garden lifestyle and we know where marraige was formed and which place produces contentment in Christ. It is typical Christian legalism that makes marraige a thing for later life (despite our heart, soul and bodies wanting it earlier) then tries all sorts of human endeavours to beat off natural God-given desire, only to have the majority fall short and subsequently feel guilt and failure. Where is the biblical prudence in that? Not to mention grace, wisdom, honour etc Keep speaking this truth

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Stan

August 03, 2009  6:57pm

Even if the church can't bring itself to encourage, it would be giant step forward to be less discouraging!

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Amy

August 03, 2009  6:24pm

I'm a "20" something who grew up in the church admist of all the "True Love Waits", "wait until your married talks, etc." What you have to say is very valid, and I hope the church as a whole acknowlegdes this issues and does something about it.

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DJ

August 03, 2009  4:45pm

Early marriage is fine if all you are worried about is premarital sex. If on the other hand you are looking for the maturity to weather cancer, job losses, a child's suicide, and similar issues without running into divorce court and messing up the lives of many more parties, then you are better off to wait. I married at 29 and my husband was much older (his second, my first and only), and we're celebrating 25 years in October, despite even that I am a believer and he is not. We've weathered my cancer diagnosis, his daughter's troubled teen years and eventual suicide, and both of us getting laid off at the same time, among other crises. Age doesn't always bring maturity, that is true; but most people are more mature at 30 than they are at 19 or 20. There are worse things than (protected) pre-marital sex.

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More

August 03, 2009  4:32pm

If the only two choices are premarital sex or divorce, I choose the former. Neither are good. Neither are God's plan. Early marriage, as a goal unto itself, will prevent neither. If a couple is ready and committed at a young age, they certainly should get married. Why not? However, to encourage young people to get married simply for the sake of being married, will only intensify the "meat market" desperation present in so many "college youth groups," futher taking the focus from service to God and placing it (inappropriately) on rushing to the altar. The romanticized notion of marriage so many young people have is bound to be shattered by the day-to-day mundane reality of hard work. I've seen it happen many times. There is no "happily ever after." Realizing that would probably be a good step toward strengthening marriage.

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Diane

August 03, 2009  4:32pm

The article describes the sad fact that many of our churches are not substantively Christian in living, loving and sharing the Faith. Many churches under the veneer of Christian words and activity are really more deeply planted in the sad cultural trends of our time. The situation you describe is a call to conversion for all who call themselves Christian. Out of true conversion comes true committment to God's will and following true Christian beliefs leads to ture human flourishing. It seems the it really is a 'narrow gate'.

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JT

August 03, 2009  4:31pm

I wholeheartedly agree with the author's diagnosis of what is a very complex issue. My wife and I married when we were 23. We both waited until our wedding night to have sex for the first time, and while the first night wasn't the utopia that so many youth pastors promised, I am so thankful for our decision six years later. We have walked through financial hardship, graduate school, family tragedies, church transitions, and moments of frailty together. We have learned so much together. Waiting didn't make us love each other any more or less, but it sealed our relationship and helped to protect it during times of stress. The prevailing wisdom is that young people need should first sow their wild oats, then become established, and ultimately arrive at maturity before marrying. For me, life experience is even more valuable when shared with your spouse. By sharing doubts, fears, and hardships (as well as countless blessings and celebrations) our faith has grown together.

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EMM

August 03, 2009  1:24pm

Can early marriage in itself really reduce the prevalence of premarital sex? Most of the people I know (including Christians) started having sex of some sort before the age of 20. Even if they had decided to marry early but also avoided teen marriage, these people still would have been involved in premarital sex. Those few who did wait did often married early (22-26), and avoided premarital sex by avoiding dating altogether, usually marrying the first person they "dated". Others who have avoided or delayed (until their 30s) premarital sex have done so by altogether avoiding dating. It seems to me that current dating activities and the extent of romantic involvement during teen years lead to premarital sex and that marrying in one's early twenties cannot prevent premarital sexual activity if people start dating in their adolescence.

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http://ketch22.wordpress.com

August 03, 2009  1:20pm

Is it any more difficult for a hormonal boy/girl to abstain from sex than it is for a homosexual man/woman to abstain from lustful thoughts of the same sex? How about the difficulty of divorce? How about the difficulty of pride, gluttony, and all the other sins we repent of every day? The goal is not abstinence, but rather the attempt, with God's guidance, to be abstinent. If you fail, well it proves you aren't Jesus... but you are forgiven. We all fail every day, every minute. There could be thousands of articles on how to combat these sins as well, because we know each of us is going to fail. Sex before marriage may be a sin, therefore the goal should be prayer and giving it to God... not the abstinence itself... otherwise when we most likely fail, we tend to forget that we have already been bought despite it.

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S&S

August 03, 2009  11:38am

My wife and I are 22. We married last year at 21 after dating four years. We survived (thrived, actually) the transition from high school to college (although we didn't go to the same high school). We didn't wait for sex but did a darn good job abstaining during the 15 month engagement period. We got married with me having one more semester of undergrad and her working 3/4 time at two jobs. I loved how the article addressed the underlying assumption behind the "financially ready" objection: an unrealistic expectation of standard of living. We understood/understand that after you leave the house, you go straight to the bottom of the economic ladder. I see so many of my peers desperately chasing the standard of living that took their parents 25 years to accumulate. As for sex, of the 8 couples we know that are our age and married or engaged, we know four did not wait to have sex, only one we're pretty sure waited, and the others we don't know well enough. It's happening.

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MAR

August 03, 2009  11:08am

I, too, find those who would condone promiscuity for their kids in lieu of marrying the "wrong" person outright appalling. This is a really thought-provoking article...as a 31yo single guy now seriously "dating" (courting, whatever) someone under the supervision of my pastor and close friends, I think the dual emphasis on rampant immaturity and the foolishness of America's "rugged individualism" (and derision of "dependence") are spot-on. Not quite sure if this article is crassly pragmatic about morals...the goal of any theory of marriage is God's glory, not "good behavior" per se (although one will engender the other). But I think I like it.

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Michael

August 03, 2009  10:44am

Michael, I do have a hard time condemning the practice, yes. Since I know that God does not participate in sin of any kind, I must follow that to its logical conclusion. In my study of the topic, I researched the history of it and it became a "sin" hundreds of years after the NT was completed due to Roman cultural influences. Even Martin Luther condoned it! If you take the creation ideal as the only allowable way, then we'd all be nudist vegan gardeners who only married women who were taken from our sides. I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that God defines sin in His law - and it was never called sin or even discouraged. In fact sometimes it was mandated (in certain cases of levirite marriage). Yes it makes me uneasy to talk about it in this day and age, but God's word is true. Btw, do you know that Muslims actually mock Christians for our failure to address the problem of women who will never find a husband? God's word must change us, not us change His word!

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Michael

August 03, 2009  10:16am

@Joe, if we argued that way we'd also say that adultry, murder, unmarriaged concubines are good ways to go since godly men did this (David, Solomon, etc etc). God gave a clear command: *a* man and *a* woman leave and become one. Just as Christ and his bride - not brides. Anyway, I half assume your being silly but if in fact you are serious please consider carefully biblical exegesis -- I understand that the entire "polgyny" debate is a rather hard one to sqaure sometimes but the clear commands of Scripture are there.

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dave

August 03, 2009  10:12am

Two oversights regarding factors that are pertinent to "early marriage" discussion. One, if we're looking at encouraging a marriage age that will short-circuit sexual promiscuity, then we need to be thinking age 14. Look at the sexual activity stats related to high schoolers. Two, I would suggest that it is not a low view of marriage in the church that leads to delayed marriage, but precisely the opposite. Because the Christian community has a high view of marriage and family, we have a high view of vocation, and in turn a high view of education. Thus, godly parents look to enroll their children in Christian colleges. The average educational debt of the average Christian college grad is staggering. In marriage that number doubles! Hence, increasing numbers of Christian/Private college grads are returning to mom and dad's where they can live for little or nothing and pay down loans by working two or three jobs.

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Mitch

August 03, 2009  7:14am

In my experience, the American church simultaneously isolates you for being a single, making you even more impatient about finding a mate, at the same time it drops exhortations to be happily single "until God brings the right person along." And then it tries to figure out why young people are leaving the church.

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Aaron

August 03, 2009  7:02am

I like the article, but I have questions. What about abstinence protecting us from ourselves? Aside from the obvious reasons of disease and unwanted pregnancies, it also safeguards our spiritual lives and our morals. I wonder upon reading the article, are the statistics of 90% non-Christians having premarital sex similar to how they were 40 years ago? 50 years? How much of that is an influence of the idea that "sex can't be controlled, so we might as well do it" that has become steadily stronger over the years? Being a young man in my mid-20s from Asia, I would also question the author's thoughts on early marriage. While it's true that in first-world countries your social support infrastructure (healthcare, tax breaks, etc.) would favor a young married couple, what about countries outside of the USA? Not all places adhere to the same social structure and thus the same freedoms that are often unfortunately taken for granted in your countries are simply not available in others.

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Joe

August 03, 2009  6:07am

The author and several commentors have lamented the fact that there are many more marriagable Christian women than men. It may seem unorthodox to Americans to consider an unconventional thought, but I'll raise it anyway since it's a Biblical solution. Do you realize that almost half of the men in Hebrews 11 who were praised for their faith were husband to more than one wife? The fact remains that this ancient family structure was never once condemned and God Himself participated in it (Ezek 23:4, Isaiah 4:1, 2Sam 12:8, Deu 21:15, 2Chr 24:3-4). Both women and men find the idea barbaric today, however, it is a Biblical option which would be of tremendous advantage primarily to women (contrary to popular belief) and families. Though I don't practice it myself, I have received many practical insights that could not have been realized without admitting that Biblical family structures don't match our Western culture and God's ways are higher than mine. Study it honestly for yourself!

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Bridget

August 03, 2009  12:55am

I agree with the author's premise that later marriage makes it harder to remain a virgin. And I think, for all the reasons he listed, this is a problem. I also agree, that as Christians we must encourage young people not to put off marriage. There is something more that must be considered: The postponing of marriage, high divorce rate, and abortion rates have all risen with the introduction of contraception. Contracepting Christian couples have divorce rates that parallel those of their non-christian counterparts (higher than 50%). Christian couple who practice some form of periodic abstinence within their marriage (in the form of Natural Family Planning) have a divorce rate that is less than 4%. Contraception changes the nature of the marital act by removing the procreative aspect that is intrinsic to it. When this happens there is nothing essentially unitive about it, it's only about pleasure AND it becomes difficult for youth to see why the should wait.

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Jennifer

August 02, 2009  11:22pm

Excellent article. When I was 16, God introduced me to the man I would marry, he is four years older than I am. We got engaged when I was 19 and we married three days after my 20th birthday. When I got engaged, the number of negative responses from acquaintances was amazing! Many thought I was foolish to even be considering marriage at such a young age. Fast forward to the present day, we have just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary and are as happy as ever. I would do it all over again exactly the same way. We are the best of friends and are totally committed to making our marriage last forever. I thank the Lord that we did meet and get marry young! Of course we've had our ups and downs, like any couple, but we have grown together and learned important lessons over the years. I think you present your argument very well and I agree with everything you say.

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Amy

August 02, 2009  11:00pm

I married the week before my twentieth birthday - my husband is two years older than me and had just finished university. We celebrated our 13th anniversary last month and have an absolutely wonderful relationship. We often say that we are so glad we married, and had children, when we were young.

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Guy Rozario

August 02, 2009  10:25pm

I have to agree with the part of the solution. In fact if anything the writer and commentators seem to separate what God gave and what Paul said in God's word as choices. It is true that sexual urges are hard to resist and people will fall, but what about the grace that is given to us to resist and the way out that God promised in His word. Why not teach and demonstrate that to young adults. Moreover please make it clear that abstinence that was mentioned is more done by the parents and not the church. As a pastor in Malaysia, I would object to early marriages (21 and below) because of immaturity. A lot of young people as the author put it have grown up very positive ( but sometimes unrealistic, I might add) about their prospects in life. Romans 12 1-2 tell us to present our bodies that we know what God's will is. Could I explain that as walking in the word in order to prove His will. If anything the conservatives of the past have tried to stick as closely to the word as possible.

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Robin

August 02, 2009  10:18pm

I can't believe I just fell upon this article. There is no other explanation than God. My college age son, who has a girlfriend, asked me just a few days ago when I thought it was o.k. to get married. I replied "27" for all the reasons you criticize in the article. I have to rethink some things before we talk again. I have asked my husband to read the article as well. Thank you for a well written and thought provoking argument.

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Paul

August 02, 2009  9:24pm

I've been a youth worker for 35 years - I have come to the conclusion that the trend to delay marriage is the CAUSE of much promiscuity. Young men especially, are lost to the church as they fall to their God given natural desires for sex and fall away from God. Paul said it was better to marry than to burn --- God turns on the sex drive switch and we ask young people to not use it for 10 or 15 of the peak sexual years??!! That's not just a formula for failure - it's inhumane and the reason is often for MONEY - couched in "finish your education first" language. We are sacrificing our youth's spiritual and physical health on the alter of MONEY!! Marrying young does not lead to divorce when the parents are financially supportive until they finish their educations, children are delayed at least 3 or 4 years, there is good counseling available and the couple is matched for compatibility and is committed.

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MerryKate

August 02, 2009  8:57pm

I don't know what's more disheartening...the article, or the many commentators who apparently have discarded biblical sexuality because "it's not realistic". We're called to holiness - whether it's easy or not. Too many Christians are more concerned with being happy than holy, which is entirely backwards from what God has called us to. We should be teaching kids holiness rather than just abstinence. Mr. Regenerus is right that the lack of single men in the church is a problem; I wish he'd proposed a solution. No one ever does. It's just a statement of fact that goes unaddressed. My choice as an older single woman is either be resigned to remain unmarried, or go to the bar scene and seek marriage to a non-believer. I don't care for either prospect. My challenge to christian men in their 30s and 40s is to start accepting women their age instead of seeking only a "righteous fox" in her 20s. Yes, the numbers are in your favor, but don't use that as a means to sift out the "rejects".

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John

August 02, 2009  7:09pm

Are you a professional journalist? You write very well.

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KC

August 02, 2009  6:43pm

Amazing article! My wife and I were talking about this the other day! Praise God that you are putting the truth about marriage and sex out to a people that needs to hear it! My wife was 20 years old and I was 22 years old when we got married. Many people tried to talk us out of it, except for one amazing couple that encouraged us on - plus a couple single friends that knew us really well. We sincerely believe that marriage takes a strong commitment to Christ, and as people start to live for God in a radical way, then young evangelicals will begin to rediscover what a God-centered marriage is really about - the husband being Christ to the women, who is the Bride, and the Bride praising the husband (being his cheerleader). We had a small wedding in a park, and we now work full-time. Both laid aside school and "The American Dream" for a dream that seemed a little more Christ-like - a family that loves and serves God at any and all costs! Thanks for speaking out! This article made my day!

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Billy Reed

August 02, 2009  6:02pm

I teach high school kids so this was an interesting article for me. First of all it is God's will that we not have sexual activity outside of marraige-PERIOD. So if you do not agree with this idea go to another web site. My parents were raised in an agriculture-type culture. By the time you could walk well and carry things you were adding to the productivity of the family. By the time kids were in their teens they were mature enough for marriage. Today in our industrial culture we see young people in their thirties who are not "mature" enough for marriage. Whats the problem? We need to look again at how we raise out children. This is not a problem that has a soulution for people in their twenties, it is a problem that needs to be solved by parents of elementary age kids. We need to teach them from a young age to take on responsibility and learn. Is home schooling the solution? I really think so. I know of some home school kids in their early teens that are doing college level work.

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jesuslives

August 02, 2009  3:58pm

Amen to this article! Thank you for speaking about the issues that marrying so late bring into our lives.

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Simone Place

August 02, 2009  2:58pm

As a divorced, single Christian mother of four children (both girls and boys), I urge my children to strive for a higher education and financial independence before committing to a life-long relationship. I am an advocate for abstinence and maintaining purity until marriage. I, however, did not achieve any of those goals myself. I belong to a church that also is home to a k-12 school. Many of the students begin relationships in high school and subsequently get married in their early 20's. At times I have felt that our congregation actually promotes such young marriage - something that I have strongly been against. That is until reading this article. I value the marriage relationship so much and probably have become a little jaded due to my own divorce. The article is right on - age does not cause divorce. Teaching a couple to face life challenges as a "team" leads to a strong, godly marriage and also benefits our society greatly. I definately need to open my heart and mind.

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Rick

August 02, 2009  1:27pm

Many thanks to Mark Regnerus who gets this just right, and to Read Mercer Schuchardt who adds essential analysis. The culture surrounding the church worships the idols of self and technology, resulting in child-sacrifice as seen in abortion, abdication of parental responsibility for the education of children, and the ever-increasing postponement of marriage. In the church, we have a multi-generational mixture of ignorance and denial. Having had much of our education farmed out to institutions and the peer group, we don't know what it would be like to properly raise our children. And we like the "freedom" which comes from abdicating our responsibilities. Churches send missionaries to foreign countries, but fail to help parents who can't afford to home- or Christian-school their children, or young adults who want to marry. We raise our children according to the world, then wonder why they choose the world.

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Chuck

August 02, 2009  11:11am

One wonders if the author also intends to pray for the Sun to stand still in the heavens, which something rather more likely to happen than what he proposes. The answer to the question, "Where are all the young, Christian men?" is pretty obvious. They have read this article and decided to become Buddhists.

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Mark Brand

August 02, 2009  10:59am

As a pastor and a parent, I must say this is one of the most thought-provoking articles I have ever read. I believe the author is "right on." An interesting corollary is to consider the very different attitude by many pastors and other spiritual leaders in today's church toward the sensitive and difficult subject of masturabation than was the case throughout history. I have deep compassion for everyone who struggles with sexual addiciton of any sort, and my comments are in no way intended to convey any sort of condemnation to anyone, but it is striking to me to note that the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul prescribed marriage, not masturbation, as a godly remedy for sexual urges. If as a parent, my default response to early marriage by my children is that they should postpone it until they have finished their education and are best postioned for vocational success, I may unwittingly be saying to them that material prosperity is more important in life than moral purity. God forbid!

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BH

August 02, 2009  10:49am

We want young people to abstain from sex from the time their urges kick in-around 13 for boys-until they can financially support themselves and get married. That is about 12 years under the best of circumstances. It is not fair or godly. It puts money in an improper place in our priorities. We do not want them to get married because it might inconvenience us financially. Yet we expect them to do what few of us were able to do. We like to think our culture is more sexualized than ever before, but history shows us that 19th century America was a pretty bawdy place to raise your kids. Read The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager sometime for some perspective. None of my friends managed to abstain from sexual activity before marriage, though some may have been "technical virgins." Our attitude toward teen sexuality is one of the great failings of the church. Mark's article does a great job of describing the problem and God's solution-marriage.

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Maria

August 02, 2009  8:20am

Andrew, if you want to stop sinning with your girlfriend then get married. Yes, you or her would probably have to sacrifice something in order to get married. However, marriage is not about two single people living together. It's about two becoming one. If you want to live a single life then be single. If you want to be in a relationship which, I assume, is purposed towards marriage, then you can and should begin making those sacrifices. It's part of the marriage process, and it's simple economics. You've already sacrificed the possibility of dating other girls to date her, so why arbitrarily set the bar for sacrifice at education or study abroad? Besides, you said "God needs time in our singles lives to serve him." If you're in sexual sin, God would rather you stop that. It's easy too. Get married.

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VT

August 02, 2009  3:02am

Regnerus makes some good points but he also raises one which he doesn't then seem to consider in his conclusion. Having told us what many single young women like me already know - namely, that there aren't enough spiritually mature young men to go around - he then goes on to propose early marriage as a great alternative to abstinence ad infinitum. My feeling is: well, great, that would be nice, but where are the men? If Regnerus is not suggesting marrying a less mature man, isn't his suggestion of early marriage just a nice theoretical idea without much hope of becoming the reality of equally-yoked marriages?

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Anonymous

August 02, 2009  2:42am

Great article. The only thing missing was the role of artificial contraception in the societal factors discouraging early marriage. It's God's plan for sex to be in the context of marriage because among other things, God's plan for sex is to make babies. Without that, there is a huge disincentive for people to grow up and approach sex and relationships responsibly. I recommend reading Humanae Vitae from Pope Paul VI in 1968, it was quite prophetic on this very topic: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc _25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

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Andrew

August 02, 2009  1:21am

So as a mature young adult who is in a serious loving relationship I have to totally disagree with this article. While yes, it is good for some people to get married young, it is not okay to assume if they fit this criteria the Church should push for marriage. Marriage is sacred, and maybe younger Christians are starting to understand that more. God has many plans for me, and my girlfriend. It just so happens that they do not blend right away. God needs time in our single lives to serve him. Graduate school, moving abroad, and many other options. Just because we struggle with sin doesn't mean we should get pressured into marriage. Maybe if we were more open and honest about our sin, admitting it to one another, recognizing the grace we only receive through Christ, and putting our faith in him, we can then serve God as we should. Early marriage is not for everyone, but it is not for no one. helping stereotypes does not build the kingdom. That is what pushing early marriage does.

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cynthia curran

August 01, 2009  11:11pm

I don't know if crimmal charges for minors is good in all circumstances. Take a 17 year old and a 15 year, it isn't good at that age to have sex but I don't know if having the law involved with two teenagers slightly different in age is the best thing. On ther other hand 18 and 19 year olds with 12 to 14 year olds, probably is enoght of an age different in some cases to use the law. Also, parents should help young couples that are attending college to have their own apartment. In fact, afro-americans tend to delay married even more than whties. And this has led to a lot of children born out of wedlock. The church should help young blacks to form families if their family is to poor. This would even be a good suggestion to President Obama to changed the welfare state to help young black married couples to marry.

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Christian single female

August 01, 2009  8:36pm

Christian single man - every woman is now asking where is your church located LOL...

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Todd

August 01, 2009  7:30pm

We need to restore the Word of the Lord to this Nation. Adultery and licentiousness must be made criminal again. Kids having sex should face serious criminal penalties. The nation needs to wake up and realize this is a serious matter!

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Basil

August 01, 2009  5:54pm

As far as sex education for those about to be married is concerned, shouldn't pastors teach that sex is a means to the end and not the end in and of itself? To Christian single man you make an interesting point. Some serious study of church singles groups in very much needed here. However there are some groups where the marriageable rate can be pretty descent. Years ago I attended a fairly large group for about 7 years. I knew a few people there and must have been invited to about 8 weddings.

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Christian single man

August 01, 2009  2:53pm

"Try counting singles in your congregation next Sunday. Evangelicals make much of avoiding being unequally yoked, but the fact that there are far more spiritually mature young women out there than men makes this bit of advice difficult to follow." I've read this statistic over and over again in CT articles... In all of the singles Bible groups I've been a part of, the ratio is usually more like 3/4 male: 1/4 female. Where are you Christian single ladies??? You're certainly not in the churches I've attended...

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JKelley

August 01, 2009  2:39pm

My husband and I just celebrated 10 years of marriage after marrying at the age of 20. For years I have said that it worked for us, but I wouldn't recommend it to others. Now, at age 30, I am surrounded by friends who are single (about 2/3 women, just as you said) and I want so much for them to experience the joy of marriage in their lives. I see now that the blessings of early marriage far out weigh the struggles. The struggles, all of the ones you brought out, have only made our marriage that much stronger. We are financially stable, we have great communication skills, and we have matured together allowing us to respect our roles in marriage all the more. Thank you for affirming the commitment we are still making daily to one another.

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RonH

August 01, 2009  2:03pm

"...the median age at first marriage [is] 28 for men... for every man marrying at 22, there's one marrying for the first time at 34" You can't conclude that from the median alone. The 28 for men just says: half marry older and half younger. Nothing more can be concluded from the median. For example, if half plus 1 marry at 28 the median is 28 REGARDLESS of when the other men marry. Maybe all marry at less than 28. Maybe all are older. Maybe half are older and half are younger. The Medan is still 28.

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GLS

August 01, 2009  1:25pm

Thank you for this. I have been trying to teach this within Christian church circles for years. God in His creation put certain things in motion and then we went a changed cultural norms. Young people have to spend 12 years in primary education, and 4 more years in secondary education before they should consider marriage. However, by the age of 13 young men are experiences NATURAL sexual urges and women are able to concieve. We want them to hold off these feelings for 10 years. Why do we believe that this is as God intended? Because WE want financial success and independence for our children? Like so much else in this country it is about MONEY. Maybe the answer is for families to encourage earlier marriages (by assisting with finances) and lessen this, for the most part, unattainable goal of a decade long abstinance. I've been married for 33 years and we married at age 20. Our parents AND the church helped and encouraged us. And having a wife and children drove me to my own success.

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Jham

August 01, 2009  1:00pm

I stand by the message. The key lies in helping young people get to that point in their lives successfully. Therefore families, churches and the educational system all play a crucial role in guiding would be adults to be prepared for the awesome responsibility of marriage. I didn't see anything in this article that advocates the lack of sexual self-control but rather the expression of a healthy sexual expression within the context of godly marriage. Of course we shouldn't encourage people to marry young just because they are you, but we need to recognize how God truly created us and build our lives around His natural design rather than going against it. Some things that could help are 1.) Establish a support system in churches and families, 2.) Develop more affordable dwelling places (apts. houses etc.) that help young people move toward financial independence, 3.) Cut out all needless curriculum that waste time in school so that people can forge ahead in establishing their lives.

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GW

August 01, 2009  1:00pm

Great article Mark. Exaggerated claims and promises and carefully selected (often exaggerated) testimonies from church leaders and pastors and church members is one of the reasons that I left Evangelicalism. I feel sorry for those men and women who feel that they can never meet up to the expectations placed on them with regard to marriage and relationships.

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Ed Holden

August 01, 2009  12:57pm

A refreshing article, but the reasoning for early marriage runs afoul of one fact about our God-given brains: they do not mature fully, and thus make mature judgements, until around 25 or so. A modern woman is faced with complex decisions, not just with those of a "housewife" of our Patriarchal past; add to this the fact that life was much shorter in the distant past when the age for marriage was close to that of puberty. She now desperately needs a mature forebrain, just as a male head-of-household needed his maturity back in the day. I applaud this article as a good part of the give and take dialog so much needed in this area.

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John

August 01, 2009  12:15pm

Good airing of an important subject, but downplaying the Biblical role of abstinence is off base. Before coming to Christ in my late 20s I slept around admittedly. But when I made a complete "I give you my life" comittment to Jesus and as my relationship with him grew, he gave me the strength to resist temptation and live a totally chaste life. There were no pledges to sign. Just the Holy Spirit taking over. Man, it's doable through Christ. Sure I struggled for five years before God gave me a beautuful, caring godly wife. But she was worth waiting for in His timing, and our marriage has been heaven on earth in every way. And please don't tell me about the pressure of society and the media. I had it all the time living and working in New York City and traveling internationally. Yet it wasn't me, it was my 24/7 dependency on Christ and following him. Through him we can be more than conquerors.

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Robert Morris

August 01, 2009  11:43am

Amen, amen, and well done! This is the most sensible essay on the marriage crisis (could we even say "relationships crisis" I have ever read. It discloses the real factors threatening the institution instead of red herrings like gay marriage (which is a totally separate issue) and the failure of abstinence. Little wonder too many people don't want to hear what the real issues are. So many superb lines: "marriages BECOME beautiful." After 40 years of the ups and downs of long-term relationship, my wife and I identify very much with your observation that a "rock bottom commitment to the sacredness of the institution" is at the heart, and that successful marriage is a matter of "practices." You've given me the language I need to share our own experience of a marriage that has had its breaking points and survived to thrive with great blessing as we grow older together. Many thanks!

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Finally Happy

August 01, 2009  11:39am

Don't lose sight of the fact that some of us, because of being abused growing up, were not marriage material in our twenties. It took me many years to rebuild the shattered person my mom had made me through her continuous criticism, shaming, anger that was focused at me and regular comments telling me I was worthless. Now in my 40's God has brought me a long way and I'm happy and content. But I'm past my prime and have no interest in marriage or fatherhood because of my age, though the availability of interested women isn't an issue. Mom reaped a harvest of her abuse of me. She has no grandchildren and likely never will. And she called herself 'Christian'.

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jamie96

August 01, 2009  11:21am

The main point has some power. Here's some additional historical context. The purity of marriages waiting to as late as age 23 or 25 was, until the mid-19th to early-20th centuries, guarded by parents whose adult children still lived with them in large family / work enclaves. Our current social structure, where we expect children to be on their own before marriage -- shoot, even after marriage ! -- is unusual globally and historically. Kids are needlessly stressed trying to amass economic resources and the education to leverage future earnings, and so of course they defer, defer, defer. Our suburban planning model has eliminated the family triple decker where the married kids could have a separate apartment. (Of course, as my husband points out, 'well and good if we should live with *my* parents, but what if we had to live with *yours* '!!)

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Sex

August 01, 2009  11:21am

The point that many miss is that sex is marriage. When you fornicate you become one flesh. And God made man and woman to become one flesh. So many people suffer from heartbreak when they have sex and it is not followed up by formal marriage contracts and weddings. Sex is never "just" pleasure or just enjoyment. A deep interpretation of Paul's encouragement for people to marry rather than burn means that if they have sex and not marry they might well burn in two ways: With lust if they abstain and with disease if they have multiple partners.

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Sherif

August 01, 2009  10:38am

A few points are essential for this discussion: 1. God: He is absolutely essential for good marriages. Moreover, loving Him is the ultimate love that many couples look for in vain in their relationships with each other, causing disappointment, heartache and heartbreak. At the end of the day, idols never deliver, whether the idol is called the "right man", the "perfect woman" or "a great marraige and family". 2. Obedience: it flows from the first point that we ought to do the will of God, for love for Him and because it is Good, not because it is expedient. Practically, promoting abstinence for societal reasons errs in its pragmatism. The point is not to do what will bring me the best reward, but to obey the will of Christ. 3. Discernment: accordingly, the Church needs to teach young people how Holy Spirit released in Jesus name guides us in all Truth, and the Christian body needs to have enough depth and width to mentor the young whether they are called to celibacy or marriage.

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Dave

August 01, 2009  9:50am

Perhaps churchgoing men are not pursuing women and marriage because they've seen male family members and friends who were divorced by their wives and devastated emotionally and financially because their wives got bored with the relationship? I've seen faithful husbands lose wives who found someone more 'exciting'. We men aren't the only ones making relational mistakes, ladies. And to the poster Praying for marriage, pray harder. For yourself. Your shaming language blanket comment that you ladies are waiting for men to "grow up" displays the bitterness in your heart. And trust me, any self-aware man will spot this extremely unattractive attitude in you a mile away. Some of us men DID ask out women in church only to be rejected because we weren't her 'ideal'. And we moved on. When she returned openly expressing interest we'd moved on and declined her interest. Women aren't the only ones who don't like having games played with their feelings.

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Doug Knox

August 01, 2009  8:39am

With the list of demographic facts and case studies, Mark Regnerus nailed the problem as articulately as anyone I’ve read. I’m convinced. But outside of brief comments like, “generosity, courage, dependability, compassion, and godliness live on far longer than do high testosterone and estrogen levels,” he was little on answers. My proposal: The local churches need to relearn Asaph’s manner of thinking. “I will utter dark sayings of old,/Which we have heard and known,/And our fathers have told us./We will not hide them from their children./Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD” (Psalm 78:4, NKJV, the equivalent of the II Timothy 2:2 dictum). How about this? Instead of segregating our youth ministries from adult ministries--which places an unbiblical wall between the two groups—why not encourage adult/youth discipleship relationships? Train the older men to guide the young men into biblical manhood (Titus 2:1-2, 6), and to look forward to fulfilling their res

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DC girl

August 01, 2009  8:34am

David, it is funny we both live in the DC area and see such different things in the church. I see women of all ages who want to be married, but a shortage of men who want to marry. Tell your guy friends to focus on women in their later 20s/early 30s – they are more likely to want to settle down. And yes you are right, we should be finding fault with women who are dating non-Christians. From what I see, women do this because they are lonely and Christian men are not pursuing them (while secular men are). It is not uncommon among Christian women these days to go years without being asked out by a Christian. That doesn’t make it right, but I hope it gives you some perspective.

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Praying for marriage

August 01, 2009  8:25am

Anonymous: I am single and VERY much in favor of early marriage. It is no fun waiting 5, 10, 15, God forbid 20 years, for companionship. I am part of an email list of over 300 single Christian women who are praying and fasting each Monday for marriages, and more specifically, that Christian men would feel called to pursue marriage. We single women may be building our careers and going to graduate school, but it is only because we have to support ourselves while we wait for men to grow up and realize they are finally "ready" to be married.

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Nancy

August 01, 2009  8:08am

Having just married off my soon to be 22 year old daughter, this article encouraged me greatly. My husband and I counseled them (unsuccessfully) to wait a couple of years for all the reasons stated in the article. Our job now is to love and encourage them, pray for them and give counsel (when asked!).

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evan

August 01, 2009  5:51am

RE: The education first factor... My wife and I were married at 24/25 and it already felt far too late. Since then, one undergraduate degree and one masters degree have been completed and one more masters is on the way. I'll be surprised if at least one of us doesn't pursue Ph.D work at some point. Here's the kicker: WITH NO DEBT. Why? Because we are married equals who support each other when the other is in school. We move when we need to, for school, and as a couple we are in this together.

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Samuel Odesola

August 01, 2009  2:40am

Thanks for opening the great paradox God will not ask us to do the impossible. He will not adjust His commandments to suit our testoron levels If we are ready to live with the consequences of disobedience st o be it. For as long as we allow serpents in our Garden of Eden(godless philosophies), the bad effects will continue to manifest in Church and society.The church has not learnt enough to live the example

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Diane

August 01, 2009  1:41am

As a 48 year old virgin and christian for 30 years it's really all about living a life pleasing to Jesus. I am also a abstinence educator. Lets face it, this really ONLY applies to people who belong to Christ. And I mean BELONG to HIM. Getting an STD doesn't stop anybody. Incidentally I work in health care so know of which I speak. I am curious about how some of the more holiness pentecostal like Assembly of God second and third generation folks fit into this. I bet they do alot better than the norm.

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single in houston

August 01, 2009  12:38am

The inner city kids that I volunteer with for 5 years has been trying to set up Mr Single for the Gospel. The kids understand that a wife plays the role of a help meet. This is from kids that are in very broken homes!!! What kind of example is being set for them? Taking them to church and they dont get to see Godly passion and dating lived out before them- How do we expect them to do better than shacking up with multiple partners? They shack up for surrvival, bills etc. I am going to say that the white church 30 and 40 somethings have missed the boat! My mentor in her 80's (single -Not waiting -well not for marriage anyway) Has always been of the wait God will provide school of thought. I maintain there is a reason God peaked our sex drive in our 20's, when it is easier to stay up all night with a baby and you have the energy to chase them. You are at the peak of health and beauty (those things that are helpful in finding a mate). There is also less hardness of heart.

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single in houston

August 01, 2009  12:26am

were you reading my mail? My parents wer married 45 yrs ago. Mom was 19 and Dad was 22. My brother came along 10 months later. If you get married when you are young- they grew up together and they didn't know any better. I was engaged at 35 and the possible future in laws were asking us if we had the answers to the "what will you do questions and what will you be when you grow up? Is there an answer for those questions- further more do those questions require an answer to be cleared for marriage even at the age of 35!! I just came home from a singles class social- where the host of the party claimed that it was nice to be in a group where it is ok to be single and 44. I feel what the host was saying, but it really ok?!! The host is a very successful Godly career man, but at what cost?! Meanwhile I have a male friend who is at camp with inner city kids this week -who in some aspects has been emotionally shacking up at the age of 47 (ie calling me everyday). What is up??!!

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TSB

July 31, 2009  11:57pm

As a father of 4 young adults (21, 20, 18, and 17; no jokes please on how close my kids are in age!) this article has caused me to rethink my attitude on "early marriages" for which I have been against; I am glad of the clarification that we are not taking about teenage marriages. My wife and I are both professionals and my bent is to tell my kids wait to be involved in a serious relationship until after your college education. However I know of and can see the benefit of going through the educational process together. If a couple got married in college then obviously the parents would have to help out in some regard if able or one of the spouses would have to work. Thanks for the thought provoking article.

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****

July 31, 2009  11:48pm

What age was Mary when Jesus was born? Did Paul say if you burn get married? What us God's purpose for marrage? In places and ages when marrages were most successful, what ages did they marry? What ages are the human bodies designed for reproduction? Could the problems in our schools be related to a system which has been designed in such a way that discourages marrage until an inopportune time? God Bless, Mike

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David

July 31, 2009  10:22pm

I live in a large urban area (DC), and it is the women who don't want to settle down early. I have heard *many* Christian men repeat this observation about 20-sometihing christian women in large urban areas. There's no shortage of young single men in DC area churches either - maybe the demographics (lots of military and IT jobs) skew it higher than nationally. In urban/suburban churches there is often an interesting divide in the weekend activities of Christian men and women. The men are more likely to stay at home while the women are more likely go out to bars and clubs. Our Church culture seems to find no fault with women getting involved with the non-Christian men they meet out and about - but seems to always to have room to condemn men. Is it possible the character crisis extends to women as well?

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Anonymous

July 31, 2009  10:07pm

Did anyone else notice that the people promoting early marriage are the ones who got married young and those opposed are single?

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Beth

July 31, 2009  9:56pm

"It is cultural b.s. to say that one has to be established in one's career before having a happy marriage. Those females who say they want to get established in their careers before marrying will probably screw around and never be happily married." This is a pretty harsh statement. I'm in graduate school working on my career. Of course I want a husband and a family, but I haven't had any marriage proposals. So, what am I supposed to do? Do I live with my parents until some one decides they want to marry me? Or should I educate myself and be self-supportive?

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Maria

July 31, 2009  9:38pm

A side-effect of Christian men's prolonged adolescence: Once they "have it all together" in their 40s, guess who they want to marry? Women in their 20s or 30s--purportedly because they want to start having kids. (Otherwise known as having your cake and eating it, too.) I've seen it happen many times, and it is very disheartening.

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Sarah

July 31, 2009  9:31pm

I have been saying this for years! It is sad how many young women have come to the front of my church confessing that they are pregnant outside of marriage. The abstinance message has resulted in couples not using contraception out of denial and pregnancies happen. We need to support young couples and mentor them through their marriages. My husband and I were married at 19 and are now in our 21st year of marriages. We have gone through serious financial crises, disability and medical crises. Frankly, I found a lot of evangelical marriage support/resources tryt and completely irrelevant during a major crisis and we spent $1000 on secular counselling and bought the John Gottman book. We made it through and our marriage is better than ever. So, it can be done but the church needs to do more to support marriages without condemnation, guilt and slipping into tired messages. It also needs to talk openly about sex because a great sex life takes work and time.

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Joshua

July 31, 2009  8:38pm

This article is thought-provoking but nonetheless dangerous. Early marriage should never be practiced to the detriment of better relationships. Late marriage is not the problem but rather how singles offer their lives for righteousness. This article subtly presents the idea that "if you don't want to commit fornication, marry early" which is equally dangerous. The author fails to realize that social contexts and needs change. This article can only be taken seriously by people who would like to have "quick fixes" in relationships.

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Patrick Gann

July 31, 2009  8:28pm

LOL @ Side Hugs. I remember those days. -- Full disclosure. I married at the age of 22, my wife was 21. We were virgins, of the "technical" variety. We tried very, very hard to keep our time together spent on something other than gettin' busy. But we had been dating 5 years and knew for certain that we WOULD marry...after I got out of college (parental stipulation, since they helped finance college, I had to choose my wallet over my heart ... and/or my "loins"). I think, had I not met my wife, it would be feasible for me to remain abstinent throughout adult life. BUT, if I had pursued a relationship, say, starting at age 28...I CANNOT IMAGINE how abstinence would work out. I think the case for "young marriage" is one that needs to be made, but not something that should be considered ideal for everyone. I have friends who married young, not knowing each other well enough, and are now divorced (WITH 4 KIDS!). This rhetoric is dangerous territory BUT Regnerus did a good job navigating it!

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Adam

July 31, 2009  8:27pm

I would say this article is not even Christian. The article seems to have more in common with pagan hedonism than with Biblical Christianity. God commands his people to not conduct themselves in passionate lust "like the heathen, who do not know God" [1 Thessalonians 4:5], and tells us that, in fact, one of the fruits of the spirit is "self-control" [Galatians 5:22-23]. To claim that it is "unreasonable" for people to wait until their late twenties to have sexual relations is to say that Paul was being unreasonable here. Also, 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 is talking about widows and widowers, and has nothing to do with virgins at all. Ultimately, I see in this article the same thing I see in the condom based sex education: "They are going to have sex anyways, we might as well give them condoms before they do it." Replace the word "condoms" with "marriage" and you have the position of this article. This article is more proof that even Christians are becoming hedonistic, just like the world.

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Tommy

July 31, 2009  8:10pm

Right on Linda!

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john

July 31, 2009  8:08pm

I think all this purity talk lacks of reality...how many of us are willing to wait for intimacy until we are 40? The church really lacks in the truth of how todays lifestyles work. I mean we are not all living in a small village, and marrying the first person we meet in the next village...

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Susan

July 31, 2009  7:55pm

I think we should encourage our children and those who are single to seek God first and obedience to His call on their life. Only then will they be willing to love and honor their spouse in marriage. Then their marriage will be grounded in Him.

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Linda

July 31, 2009  7:25pm

Those of you who have commented that it is better to screw around than to get married sure don't follow Jesus Christ. I know several people who have tried that Devilish behavior and wound up pregnant out of wedlock. Many of my friends married in college and may have had no money but enjoyed their early years of marriage without the big bucks. I married a wonderful guy the year I graduated and I was a virgin. It is cultural b.s. to say that one has to be established in one's career before having a happy marriage. Those females who say they want to get established in their careers before marrying will probably screw around and never be happily married. Careers come and go. Marriage and children are the most important things in life and have eternal significance. I had a major career and it means nothing to me now Saint Paul said it is better to marry than to burn with lust. This extended adolescence being promoted today just leads to major sexual immorality.

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Eric

July 31, 2009  7:23pm

Mark Regnerus does it again. Thank you for helping to usher in a much-needed paradigm shift, Mark.

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Roger - Australia

July 31, 2009  7:20pm

This is one of my greatest struggles as a Christian parent. Obviously, I want my children to save themselves sexually for their marriage partner. But I have seen Christian young people get married at a ridiculously young age, predominantly to satisfy overwhelming sexual urges. To be brutally honest, if it came to a choice, I would prefer my children to have safe, responsible sex before marriage, rather than rushing into a poorly considered, potentially disastrous marriage between to immature individuals. Neither is my ideal option, but a bad marriage can reck your child's life.

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Crystal

July 31, 2009  6:51pm

I wanted to comment on the statement that sex is no big deal for women. That is true in the sense that for many women, the first time is not that great. One thing that has not been stated is that men and women have different sexual peaks. Men experience their peak during their late teens to early 20's. Women on the other hand, reach their peak during their late 30's to early 40's. By that time, many men need enhancement products such as viagra and cialis to satisfy their wives.

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Crystal

July 31, 2009  6:39pm

I disagree with the premise of this article. With the current economy the way it is, the parents of both the bride and groom are not able to assist their children as the author states. Also, the job market is not kind to those without further education beyond high school. Also, there are more women in college and professional schools than men. Many women do not want to marry men that are less educated than they are. As a result, professional women accept the fact that they may never marry. They do things that married couples normally do, they buy homes and many of them either adopt or conceive children through in vitro fertilization.

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Nick

July 31, 2009  6:34pm

Liz's comments reflect exactly what the author has stated. Marriage has become less important than independence and the individual. The country has changed dramatically in this thinking. The attitude has as become "do by self" rather than thinking toward a union to work through life together. Education is first before relationship. Excellent in one sense, unfortunate in another. Relationships are sometimes all we have as they can prevail when our education will not help us -- if we become ill, infirm, unable to work as is the case for millions. In these marry-late cases educated persons may find themselves highly skilled and alone when they need relationship, care, love and nurture the most. Shall we trash our education in favor of a relational insurance policy? Hardly. But we really don't have to move around the country frequently. There are thousands of job opportunities that would never demand it. That is a big "what if" and I not hold off marriage for it.

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Anne

July 31, 2009  6:26pm

This refers clearly to the "fake" establishment of adolescence. It does not exist in third world countries or countries that are not wealthy. We have the money to insert years of college, training, and work that other countries cannot afford. In those countries people marry when sexually mature -- as in the case of Mary the mother of Christ who is estimated to have been 14. I don't know the answer to the marriage dilemma that seems to beset the country but there is obviously a casual approach to marriage -- a wait, wait, wait that seems incessant. Bodies are physically mature and sexually ready 10 and 20 years before marriage. Something is wrong with the timeline.

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Liz

July 31, 2009  6:17pm

I'm in my mid-20s with no prospects of marriage for at least 5 years, and I disagree strongly with this article. It's difficult to be a young woman who wants to be educated AND get married. Maybe marriage and education is possible at the undergraduate level, but at the graduate level being married and a woman is difficult. With higher education, comes the need to be mobile. For men, it's much easier to move his wife around the country. For women, it's nearly impossible. How many men are willing to follow his wife around the country while she works on her Master's degree, PhD, post doc, etc? Not many. So, this article reduces the woman's role to minimal education so she can get married and to become completely dependent on her husband.

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Bert Warden

July 31, 2009  6:02pm

Just a short comment. A good article in many ways but like so many others today no acknowledgement that the Bible teaches all sexual activity outside of marriage is SIN. Do we not teach this in our churches any more? Believing that was sufficient for most of my generation of believers to keep ourselves chaste (I'm 88). Don't tell me it can't be done!

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Mary

July 31, 2009  5:59pm

I agree with Billy that we not give up on sexual purity. I am a divorced woman. I have been single more of my adult years than I was married. When you place your sexuality under the lordship of Christ other areas of your life follow. I would like to add to Regnerus' many excellent points: -People expect marriage to make them happy when much work and learning about one another and developing a deep and abiding mutual respect is what eventually makes a marriage happy. -Young people don't date the way my parents did. My parents dated several people at a time and gradually chose one "steady." Today dating becomes exclusive too quickly. This eliminates the opportunity to compare the characteristics of different people simultaneously. (I am 58.) -Many young people today fear entering into marriage because they don't know how success is achieved. Young women want to establish financial security for themselves first, so they are not placed in a financial bind if their marriage fails.

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Alex

July 31, 2009  5:56pm

I abstained until I was 22, and now two years later I'm really glad I'm no longer a virgin. I realized that sex doesn't have to be overly glamorized, but certainly can still be special and a lot of fun with the right person. I am now with someone wonderful that I may end up marrying, and I have no regrets about previous partners because we communicate with each other, are respectful, and now know what we like. This article doesn't even mention the role contraception has played in changing human behavior, which is a very strange omission. Once and if male contraceptive hits the market, the discussion will shift even further. @menu - "Sex is not all that it's cracked up to be - especially for women" I'm sorry you feel that way, maybe you just need some practice.

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Jeanine

July 31, 2009  5:42pm

Regarding "Among evangelical churchgoers, there are about three single women for every two single men. This is the elephant in the corner of almost every congregation—a shortage of young Christian men." .... It's not just among evangelical churchgoers. All the men and boys I know got bored stiff and glazed over with sissified males going thru the motions of liturgy, sour "singing" by the leader up front who got his music degree in the shower, and little Suzie playing the flute flat, accompanied by the old maid wearing high-button shoes warbling while hammering on the piano. Thank the Lord we finally tried a growing non-denominational church where everyone is in jeans, SCRIPTURE TEACHING IS CLEAR AND RELEVANT TO DAILY LIFE, men do manly activities in ministries, and the JOY of the SKILLED rock music and soloists fills the air and people cannot stay seated. I know The Pious think this caters to "people looking for entertainment", but it's far more effective than being put to sleep!!

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Bob Baker

July 31, 2009  5:34pm

This is a teriffic article.

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Doug

July 31, 2009  4:58pm

I married at age 21 and went to graduate school. We had a child 1.5 years into our marriage. We subsequently had 4 more. Both of my daughters married just out of high school. I have two sons that are married in their early twenties. My youngest has a great gal and I'm praying he gets his head on straight and proposes SOON! The problem with sexual immorality in our society is we encourage people to marry too late. I think women can easily marry in their late teens, and men can marry in their early twenties. All my siblings married either right out of college or still in college. Besides having children is way easier when you are younger and have the energy to raise them!

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Billy

July 31, 2009  4:20pm

Some good points, but I'm also troubled by some of this. I do think that when a couple marries young, though they face financial challenges, at least they face them together. God helps us grow through struggle. The fact that a young couple starts out in a 1-bedroom apartment with a mattress on the floor becomes part of their story together and they tend to be stronger for it later in life. But let’s be careful with the thinking that, "It's unrealistic to abstain from sex." This is not from God who calls His people to purity, regardless of their situation. I would never trade my years as a single young man in which I struggled to master my sexuality and put it under the Lordship of Christ. I failed in many ways, but I sought God and learned to rely on the Holy Spirit's help. I learned about self-control and especially the grace of God. My wife and I were virgins when we married at age 24. God calls us to be pure. Let's please not give up on trying! And sure, get married younger!

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Single female

July 31, 2009  4:19pm

Mark Regnerus has it right, and I was cheering with every word. Many young Christian women are suffering because there are not enough Christian men to marry, and some women are tempted to marry non-Christians out of sheer loneliness. Many single men are passive about marriage and paralyzed with fear to ask a woman out. We really have a crisis and we have let the ideas of the culture infect how we view marriage (e.g., putting financial stability and graduate education before considering marriage). How I wish Christians would focus more on this issue. How I wish our churches would offer practical help to singles to help them marry -- mostly by mentoring and match making. Christian married men in particular need to step up to help single men move boldly with intentionality.

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Jane

July 31, 2009  4:04pm

I totally agree that people should get married young, and stay married... if at all possible. When young people are not married, they are about the business of attracting a mate and will act in bizarre, irrational, and unconventional ways to do so. Later, thinking back, they will wonder "What was I thinking?"

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Jennifer

July 31, 2009  2:25pm

Men may reach their sexual height long before 30, but at 30, women are just getting started. I dont think 30+ year old women have anythign to fear. Some of the older godly women in our church (60+) say that their married sex lives were way better from age 40 and up.

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CollegeGirl

July 31, 2009  2:17pm

This is awesome. I love the perspective of a man and woman growing and learning TOGETHER in marriage, not knowing exactly how to go about it before deciding to make a commitment. I know my relationship and other young couples would benefit very much from older Christian mentors who could help us through our struggles, not try to prevent them by prodding us to wait until an indeterminable future point where we will be "super human" and "super Christian" enough to handle a marriage.

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Paul

July 31, 2009  2:12pm

The whole discussion on sexual activity before marriage needs to shift. The age of first marriage has been increasing for a very long time mainly due to economic shifts that have made it necessary to continue one's education well past 21 and more likely to ages 25-26. Are we really expecting grown men and women who are 25-27 (average age at first marriage, respectively) to remain virgins from the age of 13. That's 12-15 years! People used to get married right after puberty, especially girls. Men didn't need to remain virgins, just women--which was an obvious double standard. Due to the new realities, there really needs to be "third-way" between the complete abstaining from sex (which is unrealistic) and the anything goes mentality.

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Ali

July 31, 2009  1:38pm

I'm 25, single, dating someone seriously, and looking ahead to marriage/sex. I'm a virgin and I've waited for many of the reasons listed above. BELIEVE ME, I realize our bodies are "made for their sexual height way before 30s". Waiting can really stink, frankly. But when it comes down to it, the main reason I'm still a virgin is to honor God--between me and Him, simply for the sake of our relationship. I've found that when I obey Him, things turn out all right. Especially because I have known people who have slept around and it usually ends in emotional pain. Period. I'd rather wait - even though it's one of the hardest things in the world.

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Sue

July 31, 2009  1:17pm

I could have married at a young age, but chose to wait until I was 30 to find the right person. What is the point in being in a hurry to get married? Why get married just for the sake of getting married? Many women and men have to "kiss a lot of frogs" before they meet "prince charming." I think with all the pressures on marriage these days, you need the maturity of a few additional years to handle some of the problems that come along with marriage. Marriage is not for inmature people who got married just so it would be "OK" in the Christian community to have sexual relations.

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Robyn

July 31, 2009  12:51pm

Great. More crap to make single people feel like they are not whole or worthwhile on their own. Marrying young is NOT the answer. It certainly won't make for fewer divorces. Marrying for the right reasons, with the right expectations, when the timing is right is a much better idea. I'd honestly rather my children had sex before marriage than married the wrong person for the wrong reasons and ended up divorced. And having an unlimited number of children is just completely unrealistic and potentially irresponsible, depending on the couple.

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elly

July 31, 2009  11:45am

Ah, but what causes a plane to crash is usually beyond the pilot's control - in my witnessed and practice experience, what causes a marriage to crash is usually quite the opposite. I married in 2006 at 21, having been out of high school for 5 years and away from home for 3, and in school at the time; my husband, 23, had just lived 1 year away from home. We dated for 2.5 years. I came from a divorced home, he a healthy one, both Christians since our teens. Sometimes we're happy, sometimes not, but 3 years feels like a drop in a bucket and I can't imagine those last 2 years of college without my husband to come home to / support me (not just financially). Mark is right: the key is being committed to the marriage itself. If we saw no import in keeping our covenant, we would've been just another pathetic 'starter marriage' divorced after 3 months because things were tough. We don't like each other every day, but since we can get past that...life is good. Wouldn't have it any other way

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menu-2

July 31, 2009  11:26am

...and furthermore, would you get on a plane that had a 50% chance of crashing. Seriously, are we that desperate?

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menu

July 31, 2009  11:23am

This article made a lot of sense but I want to add my two cents worth. Evangelicals marry too young because they want sex without guilt. They are not ready for marriage, they become resentful, then unfaithful, then they divorce. That's my first point. My second is like unto it. Sex is not all that it's cracked up to be - especially for women. Thirdly, whatever you do, don't settle. It's far better to remain single forever than to settle. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

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mwillaNC

July 31, 2009  11:21am

Finally! An article that supports union, acknowledges that it is not easy, but it is God's plan for many of us. I was married at 19. It was NOT easy, but thanks to encouragement through Sunday school class for young married people and God's grace we have been married 21 years. Waiting for late marrige is NOT assurance of success. Our bodies are created to have there sexual height LONG before our 30s. This would make me more inclined to think God created us to be sexual and reproduce during that time. I read somewhere that Billy Graham encouraged his children to marry early. It was a statement made by his daughter. I have been trying to find that book since to substantiate my opinion. I personally have not encouraged my children to marry early, BUT I have told them that it is very natural to want to be with someone and I will continue to support them through school if that is what they decide. Thanks for saying what I've felt for so long!

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