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Social reinforcement of marriage from sources such as the workplace, the law, entertainment and the education system is fading rapidly or has collapsed completely.
The church, by which I mean institutionalized Christianity in the United States, is increasingly alone in its formal privileging of marriage and family.
Congregations are coming face to face with questions of just how central sexual ethics are to their religious life and message.
The new Nashville Statement on marriage and sexuality — and emotional reactions to it — newly demonstrates just how live and poignant the tension is.
However, exceptions to Farrell’s age effect are apparent among married evangelicals, meaning that under-30 evangelicals who were already married were notably less permissive.
But the age at first marriage of evangelicals is climbing, in step with — about a year earlier than — the median age of other marrying Americans (27 for women and 29 for men).
“Meeting people where they’re at” becomes challenging.
In step, many Christians’ expectations about marriage have dimmed. Many Orthodox Jews and Mormons have eschewed the wider mating market, while Christians in their 20s and 30s have not. Sex often follows, though sometimes after a longer period of time — a pattern that confuses them more than most, because premarital sex remains actively discouraged, but impossible to effectively prevent, in the church. Online dating treats human beings as rank-able commodities and speeds up our ability to circulate through them.
Whereas only 37 percent of the least religious never-married adults in the 2014 Relationships in America survey said they would prefer instead to be married, 56 percent of the most religious never-married adults said the same. These Christians’ narratives are seldom radically different from nonreligious Americans. Moreover, plenty of American Christians have taken breaks from the faith, been burned, returned and then struggle to navigate new relationships in a manner distinctive from their previous mating-market experiences. It can be navigated for noble purposes, but its baseline principles can’t really be reformed.
But if trends in sexual norms hold, most who once claimed neutrality eventually drift toward the more permissive position.
Cheap sex, it seems, has a way of deadening religious impulses.