Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What chutzpah!

The following comment was quoted today by Andrew Sullivan:

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Your recent piece on the high rate of divorce in supposedly "family values" red states missed an important point, of which I was reminded by today's blog item on teen marriages. I've lived in the South for 30 years. Given the heavy religiosity in this part of the country, there's a cultural emphasis on "no sex without marriage." If you teach your kids to believe in Hell, and then teach them that they're headed there if they engage in sex without being married, you reduce marriage to not a well-considered bond between two adults, but a license for two scared kids to screw. Of course, any marriage entered into out of fear of the devil or of social condemnation typically lasts until the participants find out there's a lot more to life than fucking. Add to that the societal attitude that two kids getting married is a cause for celebration, rather than a life-ruining tragedy, and Christian fundamentalism pretty well foreordains the red states' high divorce rates. It's amazing they're not higher." - more feedback on the Letters Page.

I was taken aback by the tone (and content) of this comment. I can't speak for the Christian "fundamentalist" world, with which I have had little contact, but Orthodox Jews certainly believe that it is wrong to have sex before marriage and that you will go to "purgatory" if you do (there is no such final and permanent punishment like "hell" in the Jewish tradition). Nonetheless, among my numerous Orthodox friends I would be hard pressed to find someone who thought of marriage as a "license for two scared kids to screw." Actually it seems to be humanly possible for even teenagers to occupy their minds with activities other than sex, reach adulthood intact without engaging in it (or marrying to be able to) and find a life-partner at a young age (18-22, not 12 obviously) with whom they are happy and fulfilled. I can tell you that the most intense, stable and loving marriages I have ever observed invariably are between people who waited until after marriage to have sex precisely because "there's a lot more to life than fucking" and they were mature enough to understand that. If in many cases teenagers aren't that mature, I can't imagine that having indiscriminate sex is a better idea than what the commenter calls "no sex without marriage."

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