Perceived barriers to marriage, meanwhile, are getting higher — prompting greater marital delay and fewer marriages overall.
Add to that Christians’ elevated standards for marriage and you have a recipe for wholesale retreat. It’s an expression of love for same-sex attracted people.’] Young Christians are suffering the bruising effects of participating in the same wider mating market as the rest of the country.
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.
We overestimate how effectively scientific arguments secularize people. PETA asks them to consider vegan bake sales instead.
It’s not science that’s secularizing Americans — it’s sex. Follow Acts of Faith on Twitter or sign up for our newsletter.
Critics might claim that this is nothing more than the standard age effect on sex visible from time immemorial — that older Americans have always been less permissive about sex than younger ones.
There have always been forces that have pulled marriages apart.
But it is the forces that push people together that are growing increasingly rare.
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.