Tuesday, September 27, 2011
A Countercultural View of Marriage
There is a fascinating and depressing article out that you can read here on that very issue. I'm not going to repeat it. Instead, I offer the following to go with the article.
1) For most of human history, people got married young. Sometimes it was out of economic necessity, or it was an arranged marriage or the brokering of a treaty. I'm not saying it was always ideal. I'm just saying that was the reality. In the past 100 years alone, the average age of marriage in men has risen two years for men and 4 years for women.
2) The age of puberty is much younger now than it used to be. In other words, children through most of human history were entering into sexual curiosity and maturity at a later date - sometimes much later. There is a lot of speculation as to why girls in particular are entering puberty at increasingly young ages, (the average age is 9.7 years now) but nobody disagrees with the fact that they are.
3) Historically, the struggle for Christians who wanted to have sex but had no biblically appropriate way to express this urge was usually short-lived. In Bible times, women were entering puberty at 13-14 and boys at 14-15, and getting married usually before they were 20. True love did not have to wait long.
In other words, there was a biblically moral sexual outlet available for most people not long after the onset of sexual desire; the time required to stay focused on the "wife of your youth" (as Proverbs puts it for the men, with the corresponding "husband of your youth" for the women) was challenging but brief.
So fast forward to the 21st century, where the average age of puberty has now dropped to around 10 for girls, and pornography is available 24/7, and every song on the radio seems to celebrate the hook up culture, and our idols live a life on Jersey Shore that celebrates a mind-boggling amount of promiscuity, and the overall cultural message of "choice" permeates EVERYTHING, to the point that a postmodern generation has a very, very difficult time committing to anything, while at the same time being told they should experience everything.
And we, the church, say: "Wait as long as you want to get married! Start a career. Follow your heart. Be sure you are financially ready. Date for years and years if you need to. Oh, and don't have sex or even mess around or watch anything with skin showing."
That's a terribly contradictory message. We have bought into the culture of choice, then wonder why our youth choose badly; we believe that self-determination and personal ambition is more important that commitment and self-sacrificial community, then wonder why people are so selfish; we have bought into the cultural lie that marriage stifles freedom and creativity, then wonder why no one wants to get married anymore; we have absorbed the mindset that the financial, physical and emotional drain of children can't possibly be a satisfactory replacement for the privilege of being adult adolescents, then wonder why our kids won't give us grandkids. We are so afraid that our children will marry badly that we encourage a life trajectory that ends just as badly more often than not.
My wife married me when she was 18. I was 21. I wasn't out of college; we were broke and naive about a lot of things. But our paren's said, "If you're going to get married, get married." Good call.