An Ocean of Sorrow

Biological maturity signaling cultural adulthood has been the norm for most ages of human history.
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The following article is part of Christianity Today's cover package on "The Case for Early Marriage."

The legal age for marriage in most states is 18. I wouldn't push that any lower. But if Christians want to be in this world but not of it, they might seriously entertain creating a culture in which their children can marry much younger than the current norm. Regnerus makes a laudable argument that penetrates the surface of what is, beneath the numbers, an ocean of sorrow.

Imagine a species that, for the first 5,600 years of recorded history, arranged its cultures so that when youth began to grow the bumps and curves that signaled biological adulthood, the culture said, "You are an adult now," and welcomed them to adulthood's responsibilities and freedoms. If you were a boy, you could read in synagogue. Medieval women, for instance, could marry at age 12. Biological maturity signaling cultural adulthood has been the norm for most ages of human history.

Now imagine that species enlightened by the blessings of the Industrial Revolution. Advances in media and technology made a way to achieve longer life spans, lower infant mortality rates, and 2,300-square-foot homes with more tvs than children. With biology the mother of neither necessity nor economic life, it soon lost its role in religious and political life as well.

Born into this vast technopoly, today's child understands her world primarily through mass media. Thanks to media's total-disclosure nature, she will be a world-weary 72-year-old by the time she reaches 12, but won't have the maturity of a medieval 12-year-old until about age 36. Ages 12 to 22 will be spent in mandatory survival training called higher education. Regardless of her primary course of study, her secondary ...

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