Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny And Young Marriages

Last summer Deb and I caught the first glimpse of what we believe to be a new trend within "certain" Christian circles — young marriages.  We began to address this topic last week in the post Why We Blog.  Little did we realize that September 2, 2008, would become an important date to us.  On that day Deb and I met with a deacon and three pastors to clarify what a particular church’s policy was on young marriages.  We had heard from reliable sources that the pastors working with the college and singles groups at the church were pushing short engagements, young marriages, and immediate baby production.  Our goal then, as it is with everything we write on this blog, was to ascertain the facts.  We were in hot pursuit of the truth.

In preparation for our meeting, we conducted extensive internet research on the topic of young marriages.  Here's one of the many resources we found by searching "young marriages" and "getting married early".  It's an article at a Southern Methodist University web site entitled, "Marriage is a grown-up thing!"   It begins as follows:  "Forget all the controversy over gay marriage. There's a much more pressing matrimonial issue facing students: getting married too young."  To read more, follow this link: 



The above article concludes with this recommendation:  "But if there's any doubt in your mind, or if you suspect you're getting married for the wrong reasons, then do the rising divorce rate a favor and wait."

Rising divorce rate?  Here's the link to some startling statistics provided below: 


Marriage Percentage of Marriages That Fail
Age Women Men


Under 20 years old 27.6% 11.7%

20-24 years old 36.6% 38.8%

25-29 years old 16.4% 22.3%

30-34 years old 8.5% 11.6%

35-39 years old 5.1% 6.1%


The above statistics were our primary reason for meeting with the pastors.  Didn't they know that those getting married before the age of 24 face a greater risk of divorce, and why in the world would they be setting young adults up for marital failure as these data indicate?  As the meeting began, the pastors shared with us their perspective on marriage.  They claimed that too many singles, especially males, are spending time playing video games and eschewing traditional courtship and marriage.  They also claimed that premarital sex was rampant among singles.

Deb and I listened intently to what the pastors were saying and tried to integrate their thoughts with other points of view, particularly our own.  One of our greatest frustrations in discussing marriage with these pastors was that two of them were much younger than we are.  One pastor's oldest child was 8 years old (at the time of our meeting), and the other pastor's three children were all preschoolers.  Deb and I had children in college who are quickly approaching the time in their lives when they will be making important decisions regarding marriage.  Clearly, our life experiences as parents were much different than two of these pastors.   

Toward the middle of our conversation, the pastor sitting to my left suddenly looked directly at me and said, “You look disgusted."  His comment caught me off guard because it was completely out of the blue.  Deb, who was sitting to my right, was absolutely stunned!  My immediate response was, “Huh? I was just thinking…”  Deb shot me a look to reassure me that the pastor's remark was completely unfounded.  

Deb and I would soon discover that this pastor had implemented a psychological technique called "Demotivational Management", which is being used by hyper-authoritarian leaders to "control" their followers.  You see, they don't want anyone challenging their "authority".  If you do, YOU are the problem and rest assured your questioning will not be tolerated.  (Please read our series on spiritual abuse).  Unfortunately (for this crowd), I am not easily intimidated, and I had to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing at such silliness.

What's so sad is that the subject itself is no laughing matter.  Coercing young couples to take on the responsibilities of married life before they are mature enough to handle them is serious business.  Deb and I became increasingly concerned with the rationale the pastors were using to justify their framework.  Clearly, their justifications did not come from the Bible.  They used fractured theology and faulty sociological “data” to defend their position.

As I left the meeting, I was frustrated.  Not only was the theology of these pastors shoddy, but their attack strategy (you look disgusted!) reminded me of Elmer Fudd trying to entrap Bugs Bunny.  Egads!   Why can't these guys just have a decent discussion?  What in the world are they teaching in seminaries these days?!

After reviewing what had been discussed in this meeting, I realized these pastors were making a category error in their justification of young marriages. They were using average age instead of length of marriage to justify their new “teaching.”  What do I mean?  I wrote them the following e-mail.  Only the names have been  changed.


Dear Budding Patriarchs,
I wanted to thank you all for meeting with me to clarify the new thinking within your church, as well as the SBC, on young marriages.  I have no wish to belabor the points made but I wanted to make some final statements on my perceptions.

Over the past two months, Deb and I have spent an inordinate amount of time researching the current trends in the SBC.  Over the past 5 or so years, there seems to be an effort within the SBC to "turn back the clock" on a number of issues.  Of course, areas like feminism have gone too far.  However, in response to cultural trends, Christians can also go too far in attempting to recapture a past that no longer exists.  Female faculty in the SBC have been fired just because of their gender.  Somehow, it is perceived as sinful for a female Hebrew professor to teach a man how to write Hebrew.  The only woman at SWBTS, Mrs. Paige Patterson, is the professor of homemaking, a new "discipline."

The SBC has certainly made the news in the past years due to the appalling divorce rate within the SBC.  At the same time, the SBC is experiencing a precipitous drop in membership.  More worrisome is the 55% decline in baptisms.  That means that the SBC is not winning a lot of new converts.  Maybe this is the reason that Al Mohler has decided that getting married later in life is a "sin" and "rebellion from God."  Perhaps, we can get good Baptists married and having a "quiver" of kids and this will return the SBC to its previous high membership.  Yes, the average age of marriage has increased in the United States.  But, is that really bad?  You all pointed back to 100 years ago to the marriage age being a lot younger.  You even mentioned how young Mary was when she got betrothed.  Is the reason we are getting married later today due to laziness and rebellion or is there another factor in play?

In our discussion, I heard very little about the historical context of your argument for young marriages.  You see, in Mary's day, many women died in childbirth.  The average life span was in the 20's.  So, her betrothal at 14, would mean she was marrying half way through her expected life.  (Pastor B brought this up in the conversation).  100 years ago, the average life span was about 47 years.  If a man married at 18, that would mean that he had already lived about 38% of his expected life span.  Also, in centuries and millennia past, only the very rich could receive a college education.  Many did not even complete high school.  In Mary's day, they barely got an equivalent of a 4th grade education.

Also, in years past, it was necessary to have many children due to the fact that over half of these children would not live until adulthood.  However, that has all changed due to medical advancements, nutrition, and safety.  All three of my kids have survived childhood; something that would have seemed a miracle a scant 100 years ago.

Today, all can attend college despite income level, race or gender.  Both Deb and I have MBA's. We can also expect to live longer due to antibiotics and new surgeries.  My daughter survived a massive malignant brain tumor when she was 3 years old.  I rejoice in the realization that life expectancy for us is approaching 80 years old!  And, even better, we can enjoy an incredible quality of life for most of the 80 years.  I married at 26 years of age.  Assuming I live my expected life span, I married when I had lived only 32% of my life span.  This means that, percentage wise, I married younger than most would have 2,000 or 100 years ago.  So, we are not really marrying later.  In fact, an argument could be made that we are marrying younger!

I am now 54 years of age.  I, too, have watched with dismay as many Christians have divorced.  Interestingly, I have found that these divorces occur in those couples that had not yet figured out their life's purpose when they married.  Many of those had married a lot younger than I did.  For example, one couple that married in college had agreed that they would both go into missions.  The young man discovered, several years later into his education, that he had been gifted with an incredible talent that was not suited to the mission field. He felt God had called him elsewhere.  His wife felt betrayed.  So, she left him and went to work in an underserved  area. Had this couple waited until their mid 20's their conflicting life goals would have been made apparent.  There are many statistics that show that later marriages have a lower divorce rate than young marriages.

I also feel that it is short sighted to encourage a degree only in homemaking.  Today's women can look forward to a long life in which they can practice a career before and after child rearing years.  I have another dear Christian friend who is a pediatric neurologist.  Her husband is a cardiologist.  Their three boys, one of whom is handicapped, are now adults having been cared for only by their parents.  She worked one evening a week and Saturdays when her husband was home to care for their boys.  She has led many to the Lord as she cares for children with serious neurological conditions.  I know another husband/wife team who are dentists.  They started a practice in which they job shared.  They were the only caretakers of their large brood.  All of these families managed quite well without a homemaking degree.  It is also important to remember that Jesus was far more impressed with Mary listening to his teaching than Martha running around being a "good hostess."

My children have almost left the nest.  My education has opened a number of opportunities for me and I shall soon trade my homemaker role for something else.  I have a friend who is a family doctor.  She serves on the board of a well known Christian organization.  She felt called to practice family medicine but she also felt called to have a family.  She met her husband when they were both finished with their education and working.  They decided that he would stay at home and raise the children and that she would work.  He used his free time to build a successful one man computer company.  Their two daughters are out of the nest and serving the Lord.  This is a very happy family.

I think that we can embrace our culture today without losing sight of its pitfalls.  I, for one, am glad I live in this century.  I am glad that I can be a homemaker, mother, and wife as well as judiciously using the talents that God has given me in the marketplace of today.  I want all of my children to complete their education and clarify their purpose prior to getting married.  I pray that they will find a spouse who complements their gifts and talents.  Although it is good that they can choose a "homemaking degree", I hope that will also find a field of study that will captivate them for their lives.

As you can tell, I am not fully in agreement with the direction of the church in this area.  However, I am glad to know the "framework" of the singles and college ministry and appreciate the time you took to clarify your thoughts.

In His grip 


One might think that these pastors, who have received extensive theological training, would respond to my correspondence.  Incredibly, I only heard from one of them.  His short response came two weeks later.  Here it is in its entirety…


Hey Dee,
Thanks for following up.  We appreciate your concern for healthy marriages.
In Christ,
 Pastor X


Deb and I believe there is a self-serving reason for this sudden emphasis on young marriages.  It's no secret that the SBC is hemorrhaging members.  A few SBC leaders have been honest enough to admit that the denomination's membership roll is much less than is currently being reported.  If SBC pastors can effectively promote young marriages and a quiverfull approach to family planning, they might be able to turn the tide and boost the denomination's declining membership.  

Guess what?  It won’t work.  The SBC’s insistence that all Southern Baptists subscribe to their narrow interpretation of secondary and tertiary issues is the real reason for its marked decline over the last several decades, and the trend toward early marriages only highlights the dearth of intellectualism in this denomination.  We believe the "Conservative Resurgence" has only served to put the SBC in a tail spin from which it may never recover.

At the conclusion of our meeting with the pastors, we provided select information we had gathered through our extensive research.  It's highly doubtful that they took the time to read what we shared.  After all, we're women so what do we know? 

In case you're interested, here's one of the articles we gave them, along with the link.


Young Marriages Wind Up on the Rocks
By:  Erin McNanee (10/26/05)

“In a recent study, Good Morning America found the divorce rate is the highest it has ever been. The study finds that the rate has reached around 50 percent, meaning one in every two marriages end in divorce. The study also found more college students are getting married, and many ending in divorce within two to three years.

Young couples are at the highest risk for divorce. The statistic starts to drop when people are in their late 20s through 30s. It is possible that those who marry too young are still maturing and are not as equipped to deal with the stresses and strains of marriage and a family.

The biggest problem is getting married way too young and too early. College students fall into both of these categories. The marriage and divorce rate in the United States is higher than in any other country in the world. Divorce is so common in American society, there is even a magazine titled "Divorce."

There are college students rushing into marriage before even getting a degree. What is the purpose of this?

Immaturity and the inability to meet financial needs are two main reasons why divorce rates dramatically increase within the college-aged demographic. The responsibilities of marriage are just too much for a 19-year-old to handle.

College is a time when an individual is trying to, first and foremost, achieve academic success. The responsibilities with marriage would do nothing but decrease the ability to succeed in one's education.

Marriage takes time and commitment and one does not have either of these when attempting to balance studying as well as other college activities. Students often don't see the full responsibility in marriage. They can't see it because they aren't mature enough.

Many college students get married because they think it will satisfy physical desires and provide them emotional stability. They feel it will fill that emptiness in their lives. This also is a reason why so many marriages among young people fail. They are blinded by the stereotype that marriage will magically make all their problems disappear.

Students who marry while in school may be missing out on some experiences that would enhance their life experience and maturity. In their late teens and early 20s, people are still forming their adult identities and are still doing a lot of growing. Many college students are still relying on the support of their parents through college. Students going to school full-time don't have the job to meet the financial constraints that come with marriage. Unless of course you're married and living at home with mom and dad – which is a joke in itself.

What is the purpose of rushing into marriage? Why can't college students wait until they have a degree and a steady job? Is the ring or marriage certificate that important they must have it before a college degree? 

You would think with all the drama you see with celebrities divorcing and breaking up, students would get a clue. If you can't open a bottle of champagne and celebrate at your own wedding then you are far too young to be saying "I do."

Tune in tomorrow as we continue to look at the problems with the “Quiverfull” movement.

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