Bryan Fischer
Ahmadinejad might be on to something
By Bryan Fischer
November 23, 2010

According 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 diminished expectations.

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 shoulder them.

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 adult.

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.

This has 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.

There are 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 need.

There are 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 into marriage.

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 thereafter.

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 irresponsibility.

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?

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

© Bryan Fischer


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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