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Social reinforcement of marriage from sources such as the workplace, the law, entertainment and the education system is fading rapidly or has collapsed completely.The church, by which I mean institutionalized Christianity in the United States, is increasingly alone in its formal privileging of marriage and family.It’s able to poke holes in the “sacred canopy” over the erotic instinct, to borrow the late Peter Berger’s term.Perhaps the increasing lack of religious affiliation among young adults is partly a consequence of widening trends in nonmarital sexual behavior among young Americans, in the wake of the expansion of pornography and other tech-enhanced sexual behaviors.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. [Why even conservative evangelicals are unhappy with the anti-LGBT Nashville Statement] It’s not only in the diminished numbers of returnees that mating-market dynamics are affecting congregations.Long-standing Christian sexual ethics are making less and less sense to the unchurched — a key market for evangelicals.
But it is the forces that push people together that are growing increasingly rare.(It’s not easy to raise the price of sex.) To be sure, there are those who hew to a more orthodox path — that is, dating without sex, followed by marriage in a timely fashion. Alternative online dating sites geared specifically toward Christians often disappoint, because their underlying template is no different. [Reverend and rabbi: Removing symbols of racism isn’t enough.Just like secular Tinder or Ok Cupid, the Christian sites are guided by market-driven questions: What does he have to offer? We need policy action.] As marriage rates among Christians begin to decrease, additional change is afoot.But Christians are hardly exempt from wider mating market dynamics.Sex has become cheap — that is, not hard to get — because it’s much less risky and consequential in the era of birth control.