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Bishop Dag Heward Mills: ‘Forcing’ young people to marry is wrong

Why is Bishop Dag Heward Mills calling on the young people in his church to get married early so they can have sex?

Before I start this post, I’d like to start very clearly that I identify as Christian.

SIMPLY, I am a Christian, I may not conform to the very fanatic ideas expressed by some “papa”-following people, but I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and conform (ok, I try) to the Bible, thus I am a Christian.

With that out of the way, you know how you can come across a single tweet that would, for lack of a better phrase, make you wonder what the ‘tweeter’ was smoking. Yes, those kinds of tweets, I came across one yesterday.

From Bishop Dag Heward-Mills!

With an almost innocuous-looking photo of happy church members, the 21-word tweet got read by over 30K people, if @EvangelistDag’s Twitter info is anything to go by.

But take a second look at the tweet and you’d understand the deeper connotations it was trying to send across.

When you are a born again Christian you must desire to marry at a young age so you do not fornicate.

Let me break it down into two parts.

  • Dag Heward Mills is asking his church members to get married to prevent fornication
  • People should marry at a young age because they are Christians

Get it? No? Pushing young people into early marriage just because of the need to fulfill a sexual desire is already preposterous without throwing the whole idea of being a better Christian into the mix.

I want to believe Dag Heward Mills’ call for early marriage is based on the idea that young people “are not delaying sex, getting married and enjoying sex. They’re doing just the opposite. They’re having sex and delaying marriage.” This is a quote from Ted Cunningham, author of Young and in Love: Challenging the Unnecessary Delay of Marriage, a book which seeks to enforce the same idea of early marriage to prevent fornication.

What does the Bible say about early marriages and fornication?

Dear Evangelist, I have a principle from Scripture for you, since you seem to think that young people are frittering away their youth if they do not marry. “… If a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.” (I Cor.7:28) And v.34, “…The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

For most of us, our late teenage years and early twenties are about self-discovery, learning about who we are and what we believe and what we want to be.

And this is what they should be about. And whether you’re Christian or not, you need to know who you are before you become “unequally yoked” with someone on the basis that you feel a “burning passion” to have sex and you don’t want to. Yes, in I Cor. 7:9, the Bible says “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Keyword here, being the glaring “if”.

Many people, who marry young, end up splitting.

And this is understandable; after getting married at a young age purely based on a decision to “be able to have sex without the disapproving glare of the Christian society” most people learn that marriage is not all just about sex. Data from around the world shows, it is, however, a bit difficult trying to reconcile or even get data from Ghana. They’d probably realize they didn’t have so much in common after all after they became fully mature adults.

Some will continue to stay in their stale or unhappy marriages because their church most probably frowns on divorce. Some will truly get lucky and grow in the same direction as their spouse. But you cannot base an “eternal commitment” on the hope that you’d luckily grow to conform to the person you want to have sex with.

In the same vein, calling for young people to desire to get married so as to not fornicate is just as equal as calling for forced marriages.

According to Voice of Youth Coalition, “a forced marriage is a marriage that is performed under duress and without the full and informed consent or free will of both parties. Here also, young women are the most victims. Being under duress includes feeling both physical and emotional pressure. Some victims of forced marriage are tricked into relocating. Young women fall victim to forced marriage through deception, abduction, coercion, fear, and inducements. A forced marriage may be between young people themselves, a young persons and an adult, or between adults.”

Emotional pressure, coercion, fear and inducements”? Sounds like exactly what most young people, in a church where they lead pastor is calling for early marriage, would feel.

I am particularly concerned about Dag Heward Mill’s rather well-packaged and marketed Mandatory Marriage which has decided to use this a fight against fornication to promote its position. The evangelist is essentially trying to say here that sexual desires were created to drive people to marriage, and hence, the solution to the problem is to get people married at the peak of their sex drive, at around the age of 21 or 22.

The logic goes something like this. The age of median first marriage is higher than it has ever been. It is unreasonable or unwise for kids to have to wait until they are in their late twenties to have sexual relations. That is the reason why the premarital sex rates are so high. We need to start honoring marriage, and that means helping young twenty-somethings realize their duty to marry young.

Obviously, as you can already see, the problem with this argument is that it is overly simplistic. Sexual sin is not just an issue of sexual desires. If only it were that simple.

Marriage will not “fix” problems of fornication or an overly wild sexual drive among the youth! More than likely whatever is causing the youth to fornicate will just cause them to to fall into adultery after marriage!

Resisting temptation is not easy.

Why not teach young people to rather resist sexual temptation if you want to curb fornication, rather than show them a workaround it?

Believe me, I have and am tempted to do some things, but I have to be strong. Getting married to keep from fornicating will not solve the problem. When you get married, you will have a new set of problems coming your way and guess what? The temptations do not stop there.

What about financial commitments?

Unless, Pastor Heward Mills is trying to say that upon an early marriage, manna would fall to fortify the financial standings of any young person, I cannot fathom how one is going to deal with the extra responsibilities that come with marriage.

Rather than try to advocate early marriages as way to fight against “sexual immorality”, should Heward Mills not go back to the basics of preaching “delay sex, stay pure, get married, have sex, stay pure”? Obviously I have a very lax idea when it comes to sexual immorality, and so does the world these days, but as someone who has been able to stay away from sex, (mostly not because of religion, however, I just find the process of exchanging bodily fluids via intercourse rather gross and too involving), I believe the church should preach what the Bible asks for; don’t fornicate! Rather than propagate a cloaked call for the youth to become “sexually active”.

Why not preach a call on the youth to wait until they knew themselves; wait until their careers are established; wait until meeting the right person whose beliefs resound with theirs; wait to figure out what you want or don’t in a mate, and bring maturity and experience into a happy relationship.

Marriage is such an institution that requires people to be emotionally and financially prepared, a preparedness that most people usually don’t have in their twenties.

To each his own, but amid all the endorsements for early marriage, I just wanted to add my own endorsement for waiting: Find a mate who supports and appreciates your open mind and allows you to keep growing and evolving. Find someone who is honest and kind, and support their growth too. While this will not guarantee you won’t grow in different directions, if you treat each other with love, kindness, and respect, even a divorce can be an amicable opportunity for growth… for both of you.

But statistics show that those who marry later are more likely to stay married, and that’s my hope for my wife (when I do decide to get hooked) and me.

Come on Ps. Heward-Mills, and also talking about how ‘oral sex is a good and holy thing’ won’t help the youth in your church.

And if you feel like having sex, don’t get married just to have sex. It takes more than sex to keep a marriage.

Originally published at Pulse Ghana on March 30, 2016.

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