Monthly Archives: March 2013

Marriage: A Defense

“Marriage is good for us, and divorce is not.” Jay W. Richards

“Same-sex marriage does not expand the meaning of marriage, but replaces its historical meaning with a counterfeit.”  Ibid.

“If people of the same sex can legally ‘marry’ each other, we will lose any rational basis for barring polygamy, group marriage, and incest, and for encouraging marriage to be exclusive and permanent.”  Ibid.

“Polygamous cultures (which are almost always polygynous—one husband with more than one wife) are much more competitive and unstable.  Where monogamy is the norm, a man—no matter how powerful, rich, or attractive—can have, at most, one wife.  With polygamy, he’s free to ‘collect’ as many wives as he can, leaving the less powerful men without prospects.  History tells us what happens to culture with large numbers of men lacking marital prospects.  Typically the men turn to prostitution and are more likely to prey on the society that has not made a place for them.  Polygamy also lowers the status of women, especially of the wives who must compete for the same man’s attention.  So rather than balancing the sexual competitiveness of men and women, polygamy makes the problem much worse.”  Ibid.

“Marriage…transcends every political system.  Since so many different cultures and religions have recognized and protected marriage, we should conclude that’ it’s based on human nature and is not merely a social convention that ‘we’re free to change once progressives capture the Supreme court or the Congress.”  Ibid

To Defend Marriage

By: Jay W. Richards, Christian Research Journal, Volume 35, number 4 (2012)


No good Christian apologist speaking at a state university would step to the podium and offer the following as a proof for God’s existence:

Premise: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

The argument, given a couple of plausible assumptions, is valid. And since the first premise is true, it’s also sound. But it’s still a bad apologetic. Good apologists appeal to publicly available evidence—that is, evidence already known or believed by the target audience; and from that evidence, they use reason to try to make a persuasive case for, in this example, God’s existence.


This point seems obvious when the subject is the existence of God. Unfortunately, too many Christians forget the lesson when dealing with so-called “social” issues in the public square. Instead, they will often cite a biblical text. In debating marriage law, a popular pastor in the Seattle area likes to tell skeptics, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” No one is persuaded. Continue reading

Marriage as a Cornerstone or a Capstone?

“We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life.”  Mark Regnerus

“I am thankful that I married before going down that road [weighed down with educational debt, etc.]. Now as a college-educated, doctorate-holding woman, I can attest that marrying young (at age 19) was most beneficial: to me, to my husband, and to the longevity of our marriage.  Our achievements have come; I am convinced, not despite our young marriage, but because of it.”  Karen Prior

The Case for Getting Married Young

Karen Swallow Prior, The Atlantic,  March 22, 2013


A compelling case can be made for the advantages, particularly for college-educated women, of delaying marriage until after the mid-twenties, as Eleanor Barkhorn recently wrote here. As a math-phobic English professor, I’m not one to wrestle with statistics, but I believe a robust case can be made, alternatively, for young marriage.

There are costs to delaying marriage, a phenomenon that has reached a new threshold, with the average age of marriage for men reaching the historic high of 29 and women 27. New research from Knot Yet, a project that explores the benefits and costs of delayed marriage in America, points to some of the risks of waiting so long to marry. While delayed marriage does have economic benefits for college educated women and is credited with bringing down the overall divorce rate, the news isn’t all good:

  • While men and women are waiting longer to marry, they aren’t waiting quite so long to have children. The average age at which a woman first gives birth (25.7) is now earlier than the average age of first marriage (26.5), a phenomenon Knot Yet calls “The Great Crossover” and which brings with it all of the well-documented concerns that surround the rearing of children outside of wedlock.
  • Unmarried twenty-somethings are more likely to be depressed, drink excessively, and report lower levels of satisfaction than their married counterparts. For example 35 percent of unmarried men say they are “highly satisfied” with their lives compared to 52 percent of married men; among the women that report being “highly satisfied” with their lives, 29 percent are cohabitating, 33 percent are single, and 47 percent are married.

Of course, the basis for marriage has changed considerably over the course of history, and the changes in the ages at which people marry merely reflect these shifting foundations. For much of human history, marriage was based on economic expediency, its purpose being political and financial maintenance or gain. Then in the modern age, as an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation and its emphasis on the individual, the ideal of the companionate marriage arose. The basis of the companionate marriage was neither “romantic love” (a la the Arthurian legends and Romeo and Juliet) nor economic and political expediency. Its foundation was a “reasonable love” that made two people well-matched partners (companions) for marriage, one which carried with it obligations including, but also going beyond, the temporal realm of the private household. Central to the companionate model of marriage was the revolutionary idea that a woman should have a choice in whom she married because of the indelible role her husband would have on her faith practice for the rest of her life. Influential Christian writers such as Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson advanced this model of marriage in their works, effectively popularizing the idea of women choosing their marriage partners for themselves so as to wisely fulfill their Christian vocation in marriage.

Of course, the social and religious motivations behind these models of marriage have been in decline for some time. As Derek Thompsondescribed here recently, there is now less economic incentive to marry than ever before. The religious framework for marriage is also crumbling. Marriage has become, therefore, to use Thompson’s apt term, “hedonistic,” based on the exponential amount of pleasure—material, emotional, sexual, familial, you name it—that can be derived from the coupling of two individuals.

Under the hedonistic model of marriage, it makes sense to stay single long enough to accumulate the things that can be brought into an eventual union as a kind of experiential dowry. Knot Yet’s study confirms this:

Young adults are taking longer to finish their education and stabilize their work lives. Culturally, young adults have increasingly come to see marriage as a “capstone” rather than a “cornerstone”—that is, something they do after they have all their other ducks in a row, rather than a foundation for launching into adulthood and parenthood.

Interestingly, in a 2009 report, sociologist Mark Regnerus found that much of the pressure to delay marriage comes from parents who encourage their children to finish their education before marrying. One student told him that her parents “want my full attention on grades and school.” But such advice reflects an outdated reality, one in which a college degree was almost a guarantee of a good job that would be held for a lifetime. This is no longer the case. Furthermore, with so many students graduating from college with knee-buckling debt, they have worse than nothing to bring into a marriage. Indeed, prolonged singledom has become a rolling stone, gathering up debt and offspring that, we can be imagine, will manifest themselves in years to come in more broken, or never-realized, marriages.

Looking back over a marriage of nearly three decades, I am thankful that I married before going down that road. Now as a college-educated, doctorate-holding woman, I can attest that marrying young (at age 19) was most beneficial: to me, to my husband, and to the longevity of our marriage. Our achievements have come, I am convinced, not despite our young marriage, but because of it.

Our marriage was, to use Knot Yet’s terminology, a “cornerstone” not a “capstone.” Once that cornerstone was set during the semester break of my sophomore year of college, I transformed from a party girl into a budding scholar. I earned my college degree then two graduate degrees. My husband made music, built things, earned a teaching certificate, and became a teacher and coach. We lived in several towns, two states, countless apartments (and—for six long weeks, a relative’s basement), owned a junkyard’s worth of beat-up cars (including two, not one, but two Pacers), and held down numerous jobs on our way to financial and social stability. We were poor in those early years. Not food stamps poor, but poor enough to be given groceries by our church without having asked. The church gave us $200 once, too (which is exactly what that second Pacer cost). We held down terrible jobs and then got better ones. Like all couples, we worked and played and worshipped and prayed and travelled and fought together. And sometimes apart. We planned and prepared for children that naughtily never came. We offered our home instead to needy animals and stray college students, and eventually to my own aging parents. It was not the days of ease that made our marriage stronger and happier: it was working through the difficult parts. We learned to luxuriate in the quotidian, to take wonder in the mundane, skills that have become even more valuable in our prosperous years. We invested the vigor of our youth not in things to bring into the marriage, but in each other and our marriage.

I don’t present my story as some sort of textbook case of the exception that breaks the rule. Indeed I know of many marriages more like than unlike ours. The research cited here, as well as the example of my marriage and many others, points to a model of marriage that is more than the sum of two selves, and at the same time advances both individual and societal good by transcending procreative, economic, and hedonistic purposes. Such a model of marriage reflects the conclusion Regnerus drew from his research,

Marriage actually works best as a formative institution, not an institution you enter once you think you’re fully formed. We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life.

It’s important, of course, that people enter into marriage with some level of maturity and self-possession, for one’s own sake and that of the other person. But the greatest gift of marriage—even beyond financial security, children, or career success (because for some, these may never come)—is the formation that occurs through the give and take of living in lifelong communion with another.

The Antarctic – Gaining 2.1 trillion tons/yr

“Using a new technique, a recently published study indicated that the estimated temperatures from Antarctic ice cores are more in parallel with estimated CO2images concentrations that prior research had indicated with changes in temperature leading changes in temperature by about 800 years plus or minus several hundred years.

“Dr. S. Fred Singer [Emeritus Professor, U. of Virginia; President of Science & Environmental Policy Project] suggested three questions for staffers to ask global warming/climate change/extreme weather event advocates.

“One, please explain to me why there has been no warming for more than a decade, even though atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to rise.  The question was supported by graphic evidence.  The follow-up was a quote from Phil Jones of Had CRU admitting there has been no statistically significant surface warming for at least 15 years.

“The second question was: Can you explain why the Antarctic has been getting colder and GAINING ice? (2.1 trillion tons/yr for the past 150 yrs)?  The scientific articles supporting the question were cited.

“And the third question was:  Could the Sun (or cosmic rays) be responsible for the major warming of 20th century?  A graph by E. Friis-Christensen and K. Lassen, published in Science, shows a strong relationship between the temperature anomaly (departure from the normal) and the sunspot cycle length while the relationship between temperature anomaly and CO2 concentration is much weaker.  The follow-up is an admission by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPSS) appearing in the Second Order Draft of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) that cosmic ray changes can affect earth’s clouds and climate.” Ken Haapala, Science & Environmental Policy Project, (see March 2, 2013