Floyd and Mary Beth Brown

The abstinence message is coming through loud and clear to Christian youth, but another message promoted in many Christian churches is undermining it.

Mixed messages bombard all young people in America, putting them in difficult and conflicting situations, often leading to tears and heartache. But no conflict is more insidious than the conflict faced by Christian youth. On the one hand, they are taught abstinence until marriage, and in the next sentence some are told they should wait until age 32 before getting married. At least that is the advice our 14-year-old daughter was given recently.

Young adults are taught they must meet certain "requirements" before marrying. They are told they should experience travel, finish higher education, have some fun, own a car and maybe even a house before marriage. And don't forget the big, extravagant wedding; they must save for it, all before marriage. No wonder the urge for premarital sex often wins out.

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A comment in a recent blog posting at datingish.com captured the idea this way, "In your early-mid twenties you are dramatically changing as a person. If you can go through all of that and you and your partner still love each other for who you are then I think it's okay to get married.I'm a firm believer that waiting until you're older to get married is the best option if you are looking for a successful marriage."

We feel fortunate we didn't face such pressure. In our early twenties we had a modest wedding at a local church followed by a reception with cake, nuts, mints and punch. After a three-day honeymoon we started working. Our first child came two year later.

The trend to marry older has increased since 1970 by five years when the median age for first marriage for women was 21 and 23 for men, to 26 for women and 28 for men. "Christians have made much ado about sex but are becoming slow and lax about marriage," which is more significant, says Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of "Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers." According to Regnerus, "We are marrying later, if at all, and having fewer children."

Floyd and Mary Beth Brown

Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are both bestselling authors and speakers. In 1988, working from their kitchen table, they formed Citizens United.
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