to Reuters, Iranian president Mahmoud Admadinejad said the best age for girls
to get married is between the ages of 16 and 18, and the best age for boys to
get married is between 19 and 21.
Although my reasons
are completely different than his, I think he’s right.
We have artificially
prolonged adolescence in our culture, aided and abetted by our president who
wants children to be able to mooch off their parents’ health insurance until
they are 26.
Many honest high
schools students will tell you that their senior year was pretty much a waste
of time, and many will say the same thing about their junior years as well.
Stories abound of students who fritter away their college years and then return
home to live with mom and dad until they figure out what they want to do and be
when they grow up.
We need a massive
overhaul of our culture, our thinking about adulthood, and our thinking about
marriage. It will be a decades-long project, which means I am not advocating
that we encourage our teenagers to rush out and get married tomorrow. They’re
not ready for it, and that’s our fault. We have not expected them be be, think,
and act as adults, and so it should be no surprise that they are fulfilling our
We need leaders at
every level - family, church, education, public policy, business - to begin
sending a new message to our youth: we are going to expect you to assume adult
responsibilities while you are still in your teenage years. We’re not going to
baby you and coddle you any longer. God has designed you to accept mature
responsibilities in your teenage years, and we’re going to expect you to
In Jewish culture, a
bar-mitzvah is celebrated at age 12 or 13. The phrase “bar-mitzvah” literally
means, in Aramaic, “a son of the law.” In other words, when a boy turned into a
teenager, he was expected to meet all the adult expectations of the law. For
the purposes of the law, from that day forward he was to be treated as an
A Jewish male who
was 13 was no longer to be considered a boy. He was to be treated as a young
man, and would be expected to act like a man. This is why, by the way, Jesus
was found in the temple in Jerusalem when he was 12, as Luke records in Luke
2:40-52. That likely was his first trip to Jerusalem for one of Judaism’s three
main festivals. Why was he there at age 12 for the first time? Because every
adult male was expected in Jerusalem for the great feasts, and he was now, at
age 12, considered to be an adult male.
The Jews had it right,
and it’s past time for us to begin ratcheting back the age at which we treat
our young men and women as adults.
implications for juvenile law enforcement, by the way. Any individual over the
age of 12 should be held personally responsible for violations of the law. We
shouldn’t punish his parents, and we shouldn’t impose softer penalties just
because of his age. Young adults are adults, and should be expected to behave
as adults and accept the punishment we dish out to adults who break the law.
implications in this for our system of education. We should roll back secondary
education to the point where our students are graduating from high school by
age 16. We can teach them everything they need to learn at the secondary level
by then, and prepare them for the next stage in life, which could be further
education, apprenticeship, or vocational education. We should expect them to be
launching into some kind of career trajectory by the time they are 16.
With advances in
online education, it’s perfectly possible for a student to begin his college
education at 16. My good friend, Steven Thayn, a state representative in Idaho,
sponsored a law which is now in effect which enables students to complete their
high school education by age 16 and spend what otherwise would have been their
final two years of high school working on a college degree, with a scholarship
from the state. This is the kind of innovative and creative public policy we
implications in all of this for the institution of marriage. By idolizing
adolescence, we have artificially prolonged the age at which people enter in
marriage. The average is now, according to 2007 figures, about 27.5 years for
men and 25.6 for women.
But the young men
and women whom God has created become sexually mature by their mid-teens. The
bodies that God has created are ready for sexual intimacy by the time they are
16. Unless God has made a mistake in the way he has designed our sexuality,
then we need to rethink our whole understanding of the optimum age for entering
We know that sex is
good, and that it is designed by God for marriage. It is his design that all of
our sexual energy be channelled into the marriage relationship. Now if God has
designed our bodies so that they are prepared for sexual union by age 16, then
perhaps he is telling us that we should be emotionally, mentally, and
spiritually prepared to enter into marriage at about the same time or shortly
Otherwise, he is
consigning young men and women to a decade of sexual frustration, with impulses
that cannot be satisfied in a life-giving way.
Am I saying that
16-year-olds should run out and get married tomorrow? Of course not. That would
be a cultural disaster, since we have mired them in immaturity and
We are looking a
cultural re-orientation project that will take decades to complete. We must
begin at earlier ages to teach our young men and women about the nature of
marriage and what to look for in a mate.
Am I saying that
young men and women should engage in promiscuous sex just because their bodies
are ready for sexual expression? Of course not. Men and women have remained
sexually pure in their singleness for thousands of years, and millions of
teenagers are practicing abstinence even today.
But I am saying that
we should launch a massive, culture-wide education campaign to encourage our
young men and women to see themselves as adults and begin acting as adults in
their teenage years rather than postponing adulthood, as our president wants us
to do, to our late 20’s.
It is widely
accepted that the mother of Christ was likely in her mid-teens when she was
engaged to Joseph, conceived her child through the Holy Spirit, and
subsequently got married. If God believes that teenagers are capable of the
adult responsibilities of marriage and parenthood, who are we to argue?
noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect
the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)