Mark Regnerus, a sociologist from the University of Texas, wrote this piece in Christianity Today a few months back titled "The Case for Early Marriage". In it he points out the absurdity of promoting abstinence and delayed marriage for young Christians. This is something that I have felt for quite some time.
There are consequences to our current culture of wait, and as an economist I look for incentives. The incentives in delayed marriage not only make abstinence or chastity a longer burden, but it also changes the thought processes of young people.
If a young Christian woman believes that marriage is many years off, why would she limit her dating life to stable and pious men? Dating, without the expectation of marriage, is simply fun. Girls will be attracted to young men who are simply fun.
Unfortunately, what we are training young Christian men to be is anything but fun for young Christian women. We teach them to control their passions, making them dull. When marriage is many years off, what incentive do they have to grow up? Why put down the Playstation to study or get a job? Why have a girlfriend if you don't plan to have sex and don't plan to marry her?
Of course, these are generalities, and I don't want to focus merely on the deleterious effects of these incentives. There is the issue of passion and the human experience.
For thousands of years, most every society (any historians please correct me if I'm wrong) had young marriage. It was either young arranged marriage or young romantic marriage. Either way, they were young. Not only is it apparent from our physical urges and the lower birth complications for younger women, but the romantic notions in youth seem to imply we were meant for young love, young marriage, and young reproduction.
While the Evangelical Christian world is telling kids to wait for sex, the secular world is telling them to wait for love. Either way, the message is clear: Squelch your passions, and give into the dullness of sensibility.
These most powerful human sentiments can be the most wonderful and beautiful things. but we are told to crush them, subdue them, wait, wait, wait, and then wait some more. Wait until your heart is jaded and the love you find is pleasant but modest. Deny those sexual urges, and when you fail, feel horrible, feel guilty. Wait until you've established a career, because who needs love and passion when you can afford a comfortable lifestyle?
Where have all the real men gone? Where have all the true ladies gone? We bury them with wait.
C.S. Lewis in his book "The Abolition of Man" has a great passage that relates:
"And all the time--such is the tragi-comedy of our situation--we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."
Update: A reader has a blog mostly dedicated to the subject - The Unorthodox Marriage