Christian fundies are getting their knickers in a knot over abstinence and marriage

Christian fundies are getting their knickers in a knot over abstinence and marriage August 11, 2009

IN modern Western societies, people tend to marry later in life – a fact that’s making the abstinence industry’s message all the more difficult to swallow.
So now some evangelical Christians are promoting earlier marriage, nudging young adults toward the altar even as many of their peers and parents are holding them back.teenagebrides

According to this report, young couples are caught between two powerful forces – evangelical Christianity’s abstinence culture, with its chastity balls and virginity pledges, and societal forces pushing average marriage ages deeper into the 20s.
The call for young marriage raises questions: How young is too young? What if marriage is viewed as a ticket to guilt-free sex? What about the fact that marrying young is the No 1 predictor of divorce?
The conversation is spreading from what pastors say is a relatively small number of churches and ministries that promote early marriage to the broader evangelical community, with the latest development being a Christianity Today magazine cover story this month titled The Case for Young Marriage.
The article’s author, University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, argues that evangelicals “have made much ado about sex” but are damaging the institution of marriage by discouraging and delaying it.
Regnerus is not saying that premarital sex is OK. But he does suggest that abstinence has its limits, and that intensifying the message won’t work. When people wait until their mid- to late 20s to marry, he writes, it’s unrealistic and “battling our creator’s reproductive designs” to expect them to wait that long for sex.
Regnerus observed:

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 the Bible says so. Yet that simple message didn’t go very far in shaping our sexual decision-making.
So they kicked it up a notch and staked a battle over virginity, with pledges of abstinence and accountability structures to maintain the power of the imperative to not do what many of us felt like doing. Some of us failed, but we could become ‘born again virgins’ …
‘Sex will be so much better if you wait until your wedding night,’ they urged. If we could hold out, they said, it would be worth it. The sheer glory of consummation would knock our socks off.
Such is the prevailing discourse of abstinence culture in contemporary American evangelicalism. It might sound like I devalue abstinence. I don’t. The problem is that not all abstainers end up happy or go on to the great sex lives they were promised. Nor do all indulgers become miserable or marital train wrecks. More simply, however, I have found that few evangelicals accomplish what their pastors and parents wanted them to.

Statistics show that few Americans wait. More than 93 percent of adults 18 to 23 who are in romantic relationships are having sex, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. For conservative Protestants in relationships and active in their faith, it’s almost 80 percent.
The median age for first marriages in the US is about 26 for women and 28 for men, the highest figures since the Census Bureau began counting. Solid data on evangelicals is not readily available, but research suggests they marry only slightly younger, Regnerus said.
Many young adults today view their 20s as a time for fun, travel, career-building or finding themselves – not for settling down.
Jimmy Hester, co-founder of True Love Waits, part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Resources, disagrees with the argument that abstinence past a certain age is too much to ask.

There are too many examples of people who have done it. And not out of their own strength, even, but out of a relationship with God who gives them strength.

Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin, who studies families and public policy, said young marriage is a tough sell. A half-century ago, when people married earlier, fewer people attended college, high school graduates could get good-paying factory jobs, women became mothers right after school and families were larger, he said.
“Most evangelicals, as well as most Americans, realize how expensive it is to raise children these days,” Cherlin said. “The most important rationale for early marriage – having a larger family – has disappeared.”
Skeptics, meanwhile, suspect early marriage backers want to turn back the clock on gender roles, and take women back to the 1950s – or even further back in time.

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  • Ivan

    In a spirit of helpfulness towards our religious friends, perhaps I could suggest to Christian evangelicals that they could go all fuzzy and ecumenical for once in their lives and take a lesson from their Muslim counterparts in countries such as Egypt where early marriage is impossible on financial grounds. In these places, young males work out their frustrations by having sex with each other.
    There, that was easy. Problem solved. Or am I missing something?
    *thinks*

  • If only they were capable of embracing reality instead of trying to warp it to fit their dogma.

  • stoneyground

    Buffy, that was my sentiment exactly. These people don't seem to realise that living in the real world is sort of compulsory. By basing their morality on a kind of fantasy world from their own imaginations they screw up people's lives. The same thing applies to these idiots who want to cure people of being gay, I so wish that we could let their victims know that it is religion that they need to be cured of, then they could hopefully get on with their lives and live life to the full.

  • CybrgnX

    I find it amazing what some people (women) will put up with (Xtian & islam) just to not make a decision on their on. I can sort a feel sorry for these idiots but they VOLUNTARILY live this life style. If they weren't so scared that they will loose 'heaven' (with NO proof that it is real) the young adults can tell the others to piss off and leave. I told one catholic complaining about the rules, that the will not change so if you don't like them —- QUIT!!!!
    Other then the black tent for women, what is the difference between these idiots and the muslims???
    Oh I remember the muslins are also tortureing and bombing. But hey give them some time and the Xtians will catch up.

  • William Harwood

    If an omnipotent god endowed humans with the capacity to experience ecstatic pleasure from consensual coupling, and then ordered them not to exercise that capacity, it would have to be a sadist. If a creator god exists, then it must regard the accusation that it issued such a sadistic order as the ultimate blasphemy.
    I hope the people who accuse their deity of being a sadist that gets its rocks off savoring the masochism of self-inflicted abstinence are used to a warm climate. According to their own belief system, there is no air conditioning where they are doomed to spend eternity.

  • My wife is friends with a Jehovah's Witness, and thereby knows half the Witnesses in my town…. Her theory is that they all marry really young so that they can have sex. The church completely shuns and kicks anyone out who is living in "sin"…. and those Witnesses sure have a racket–every one I know has a lot of money… One of the Witnesses I know was married off when she was quite old–almost 21!!! An old lady by Witness standards. The wife's friend just got married to the man she was living with as they had kicked her out of the congregation (and money train) and she wanted to get back it… her sister just got married to a man she has only known for a few weeks so that she could have sex and not be shunned…. __And don't start on the Mormons… they give their daughters away….

  • That must not be "haram" as the clerics must all do it–now as long as they keep their gold teeth and bling to a minimum…

  • Aren't we required to practice driving before we can get our license? Why should we wait until the deal is sealed before we f*ck? I'm not buying a car until I've given it a little drive.

  • It's a well-known fact that a lot of these sect members are very well-off. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that all forms of entertainment are considered "sinful", including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, so they save themselves a packet there! Many even refuse to read any books except those produced by their own publishing house. This brings me to the mext point: their unwillingness to engage in the educational process. this is considered far too corrupting for their children – indeed following most academic disciplines would be well-nigh impossible, so they leave school early.

  • It's a well-known fact that a lot of these sect members are very well-off. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that all forms of entertainment are considered "sinful", including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, so they save themselves a packet there! Many even refuse to read any books except those produced by their own publishing house. This brings me to the next point: their unwillingness to engage in the educational process. This is considered far too corrupting for their children – indeed following most academic disciplines would be well-nigh impossible, so they leave school early.

  • It's a well-known fact that a lot of these sect members are very well-off. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that all forms of entertainment are considered "sinful", including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, so they save themselves a packet there! Many even refuse to read any books except those produced by their own publishing house. This brings me to the next point: their unwillingness to engage in the educational process. This is considered far too corrupting for their children – indeed following most academic disciplines would be well-nigh impossible, so they leave school early. (Cont)

  • This, far from being a handicap to them economically, is a big advantage, as they more often than not enter either the family business or one operated by another cult member. Again, the reason that so many are in business themselves, as with immigrants, is that they are in many ways "outside" of mainstream society. In their case, this is deliberate, as they are told to keep contact with unbelievers to a minimum, and many are forbidden from joining unions or even professional bodies. However, relieving unbelievers of their cash is considered a most worthwhile occupation, and I knew of more than one member of the Plymouth Brethren involved in the grocery/cash-and-carry trade, who saw nothing wrong with making money selling cigarettes and alcohol to the public, even though they inveighed against the evils of both themselves!!

  • So true. Insulate yourself against those nasty heathens and take all their money–the highway to heaven is paved in unbelievers' cash….

  • William Harwood

    I have two cousins who married virgins, and an aunt who was a virgin bride. All three ended the marriages when they discovered that, if they had tested their sexual compatibility first, there never would have been a marriage. I am acquainted with two couples who have been married for fifty years. Both couples were cohabiting and pregnant at the time of the marriage.

  • Has anyone noticed that in Asian run corner shops the magazine rack often has the most interesting and varied top shelf?

  • They're the only people who stock them now – or so I've been told, of course! And one of them in Swindon was prosecuted just a couple of years ago for selling illegal material, and had his stock confiscated. I wonder what Mohammed would make of all this, being such an upright, moral and prudish person?

  • There's another point that occurred to me, and is also germane to this topic. Most of these cult members tend to have extremely large families – by modern standards anyway. One reason for this, as I have mentioned elsewhere, is that without this constant supply of new blood their organizations would surely die out. I well remember the large group of "young people" of which I was a member back in the Sixties (they LOVE Young People – all those impressionable and gullible minds just ripe for indoctrination!), and I can say with absolute confidence that practically the only ones who still profess to have any faith are the children of "believers", and many of them attend more mainstream churches now (possibly just to keep up appearances), not the group to which their parents belonged. A corollary to this observation must be the fact that, without the indoctrination of the young, religion would be a spent force in society.

  • David

    Damn Straight!!! we give just about everything a test to see if we truly want it, even sex. this whole virgin bride thing is ruining marriage, because of all the divorces.