There are reasons to believe that parents are not always capable of choosing what’s in the best interest of their child, and nowhere is that more obvious than the Christian homeschooling movement, where a debate is current broiling over the idea of a minimum age for marriage.
Evidence of a debate first surfaced with a Facebook post made by homeschooling advocate, right-wing whackjob, Christian theocrat, and leader of the Home School Defense League, Michael Farris. However, some researching shows a problem that runs deeper — straight to the rotten core of that entire subculture.
“Seduced by the spirit of anarchy”
Michael Farris made his post over the weekend; in it, Farris expresses government has some uses, and those uses include setting a minimum age for marriage.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Farris is somehow a good guy. Farris’s organization has gone to bat for child abusers in the past. This is a case of the barrel realizing it has no bottom.
In his post, Farris observes that a there was a “recent discussion on a friend’s FB thread” that revealed “a very serious problem that I see surfacing in Christian and conservative circles.” He continued:
The issue under discussion was setting the proper minimum age for marriage. The question quickly led to the recitation of the emerging mantra “it should be no business of the government.” So long as parents’ consent, marriage should be lawful at any age—many on this thread contended.
The way we test the propriety of a proposed legal rule is to take the rule to its extreme and see how we like the results. So I asked whether a parent should be permitted to give their permission to allow a 7 year old to be married to a 30 year old pedophile. The legal issue is the same whether or not there is a “dowry” (cash payment) offered by the “bridegroom.”
Though they are exceedingly rare, there are parents who would permit this kind of outrageous transaction. Such a plan is inherently evil and should be punished.
This FB discussion highlighted a growing tendency in the Christian and conservative movement to be seduced by a spirit of anarchy.
Government is instituted by God. We are wise to be very cautious toward government. And it is true that today’s government has far exceeded the bounds of its constitutional and moral authority. But we err if we think that government has no legitimate moral authority to punish parents who do evil.
Government is not the province of angels but anarchy is a tool of the devil.
In response to Farris’s post, one person, named Paul Calvert, said:
Why didn’t God give a minimum age for marriage to His people in the Law of Moses? Many Bible teachers will say that Jewish boys became adults at age 13 (this is not in the Bible, I think it is maybe more like Jewish case-law).
Maybe God wants His people (us) to make some judgement calls. Is there a moral difference between getting married at 17 vs 16 vs 15 vs 14 . . .
Many suggest that puberty is the most reasonable minimum age. I can’t find any Biblical principle to argue for or against this.
If God (being fully righteous) chose not to give instructions about a minimum age for marriage, why would we want our government (that is often corrupt) to set a minimum age?
Currently, very young children are allowed to consent to fornication with other children who are close in age, but they are not allowed to get married. I think that sends a pretty bad message. We allow children to consent to fornication (without parental approval) which is inherently evil but we don’t allow them to consent to marriage (with parental approval) which is generally good.
When the government is this out of control, I can see how God fearing people (like Hannah on my post) might suggest that it would be better to simply revoke government jurisdiction in certain areas even though it would allow for some children to be abused.
I don’t have a great answer for this question. But I think it is valuable to consider it and discuss it.
Calvert made a similar post on his Facebook page, which he mentions above. Farris’ post was a response to his, and upon following Calvert to his Facebook page, Libby Anne, the blogger for Love, Joy, Feminism, was able to screen shot some of the responses to Calvert. In them, fellow home school supporters debated the bottom age for child marriage. Their conclusion? Puberty, which they decide is around 13 or 14 years old (precocious puberty, like evolution and dangerous pregnancies, doesn’t exist in their world):
Morris Troglin: I had several women in my lineage that were married at 14 including my grand and great grand mothers. None ever were divorced. Different time, different society.
Josiah Dickens: Legally, the government has no business in making those rules. Logically, I would say any age after puberty that the parents approve of. Obviously parent approval would become obsolete at 18.
Paul Calvert: What is the basis for deciding that 16 is righteous while 13 is positively sinful? People tell me that Jewish boys were considered adults at 13. I realize that this is not the Law that God gave to the Isrealites.
Calvin Byers: After puberty?
Paul Calvert: That sounds like a very logical break-point. But a lot of people would scream blood murder if a 40 year old man married a 12 year old girl who had just reached puberty [Thamiel R: Do you think?]
E.M. Cavin Jr.: Puberty is the right answer. Culturally, it may not be popular at this particular point in time, but post-modern western culture has set up so many popular ideas about right and wrong that are based simply on fad thinking [Thamiel R: I’ll take postmodern culture over prepaleolithic culture].
A 40 year old man that is established and has run his course in sewing [sic] his wild oats is, in a lot of ways, a much better match for younger ladies than a young man who has yet to move past being daring and impetuous.
Paul Konrad: If she passes the flower of her youth. Scripture seems to allow any age past puberty, and at her fathers [sic] discretion. I would likely do everything within my power, limited by the state, to prevent my children marrying before they were physically, mentally mature and showing faith in Christ and spiritual growth.
The voice expressed by these men (they’re all men, notice that) is one not an alienated one in the Christian homeschooling community, either. This is a problem that runs rampant in that sick and perverse subculture.
A culture of abuse and moral decay
Josh Duggar’s abuse scandal, which broke last month, stems from this same subculture. Duggar’s treatment of his sisters and his parents’ treatment of their daughters, should surprise nobody: this is a subculture that sees women as cattle, no matter how hard Farris may try to deny it.
Earlier this year, at 20 years old, Jennyfer Austin was almost married off to a man older than she was by her Christian fundamentalist parents. While she managed to avoid it, the abuse in her story is not unusual; it came shortly after the story of Alecia Pennington, the woman who was left without any sort of identification because of her Christian fundamentalist homeschooling parents.
Last year, teenage Leelah Alcorn committed suicide by jumping in front of a tractor-trailer. Born Joshua Alcorn, Leelah identified as a woman nonetheless, but her parents — Christian fundamentalists — refused to acknowledge that. Leelah’s parents had taken her out of school and isolated her from social media and her friends. It ended with her suicide.
The stories go on. Some are more horrible than others, but they all have the same theme in common: no government regulation in the homeschooling community.
And until that happens, and the government grows a backbone and stands up to the near cousins of ISIS and the Taliban that exist right here in the United States, these stories are going to keep coming.
Featured image via Progressive Secular Humanist