A professor at the University of Texas is making his case for getting married early in life. According the the Austin American-Statesman:
If Christians aren’t waiting until marriage to have sex — and statistics show they aren’t — Mark Regnerus says he’s found the perfect solution: They should just get married right after high school . . .
His premise, in the Christianity Today piece, is that the evangelical emphasis on abstinence, combined with the growing number of adults who are getting married later in life, has created economic, biological and emotional problems for Christians. U.S. Census Bureau data show that the median age for marriage has been rising steadily since the 1960s, when the median marrying age was 20 for women and 22 for men. By 2007, the median age had risen to 25 for women and 27 for men.
Regnerus’ main argument is “that evangelical Christians have become too preoccupied with sex and turned their attention away from the damage that Americans are doing to the institution of marriage by discouraging it and delaying it.
I’ve got several quarrels with this premise. For starters, high school students need to be receiving comprehensive sex education. Comprehensive sex ed includes information about abstinence, but it also empowers students to actually say no by encouraging them to look at other options besides intercourse, such as masturbation and outercourse. It also teaches them how to talk to their partner about sex so that they feel comfortable having a dialogue. These are important life skills that even adults haven’t mastered. But I really believe that people need an opportunity to experience life, make a few mistakes, and learn from those errors before you end up in a marriage. The great thing about being single in your twenties is that you can pick up and go off to China to teach English for a year, or survive on ramen noodles for a month because you blew your grocery money on concert tickets. Once you’re responsible for another person, you have to take their needs into account before you make decisions. Marriage is great, but it’s more fulfilling after living the single life for a while, imho.
Secondly, students who graduate from high school need an opportunity to experience life on their own before they make a commitment to be married. Most high school students have no idea how to set a budget, balance their checkbook, shop for groceries, do the laundry, or handle a credit card responsibly. The great thing about your twenties is that you can make mistakes and figure out who you are. If you’re responsible for taking care of yourself plus a partner, it can make your twenties that much more challenging.
Third, what about queer Christians? They can’t get married in most states, so what are they supposed to do? Everyone deserves love and affection and a sense of belonging. Being with a partner can be very emotionally fulfilling. I am willing to guess that Professor Regnerus is opposed to same sex marriage. I’m also willing to bet that he thinks that queer Christians should practice celibacy. So let’s go back to his own statistics about sex and emotional well being – where does this leave queer Christians? Out in the cold.
Personally, I think the key to safe sex is education, not marriage. Just because you’re married, you can’t ensure that your partner will always be faithful. Sure, sex and marriage are both about trust. But let’s be real here – getting married early in life isn’t the key to staying together forever. Nothing lasts forever, no matter how good it is. If that makes me a skeptic, so be it.