MR or MRS Degree? Ask Jesus!

Looking for more than just an education?  For those who hope to find a life partner as part of their college experience, it seems like a Christian college might be the way to go.

In Religion News Service, Katherine Burgess reports on a recent Facebook survey.  According to those findings, of the top 25 colleges where men are likely to meet their spouse, all are Christian.  For women, sixty-four percent of the top 25 husband-finding schools are Christian.

Twelve of the schools that appear on both lists of top-25 are Christian:

  1. Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary,      Ankeny, Iowa
  2. Harding University, Searcy, Ark.
  3. Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.
  4. Bob Jones University, Greenville, S.C.
  5. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
  6. Freed-Hardeman University, Henderson, Tenn.
  7. Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Watertown, Wis.
  8. Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa
  9. Baptist Bible College, Springfield, Mo.
  10. Oklahoma Christian University, Edmond, Okla.
  11. Kentucky Christian University, Grayson, Ky.
  12. Johnson University, Knoxville, Tenn.

This makes sense.

College, after all, is about much more than academics.  Where people go to school—especially when that school is strongly associated with a certain cultural identity—says a lot about who they are as people.

It also fits long-standing stereotypes about Christian schools.  As Jeff Schone, vice president for student life at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, told Burgess, “There’s a Lutheran boy for every Lutheran girl.”

Marlena Graves reflected on this syndrome recently in the pages of Christianity Today.  As a counselor at Cedarville University, Graves lamented the fact that so many young women seem to neglect their own personal growth in their race for a spouse.  “I can’t even count,” Graves wrote,

the number of times I’ve heard, “My mom and dad told me that if I don’t find a husband now when there are so many to choose from, then chances are slim that I’ll find one after college.”

This isn’t just true for Christians, of course.  As Charles Murray argued controversially in his recent book Coming Apart, those who attend elite schools tend to marry other people from those same elite schools.

In her Christianity Today piece, Graves quoted a letter to the Daily Princetonian by Susan Patton.  Patton gave Princeton women the same advice heard by so many young Christian collegians:

Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal….there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Higher education, for many non-Christians as well as many Christians, seems to be seen as the place to find suitable life partners.  My hunch is that this trend is exaggerated at schools that attract students from self-identified subcultural or countercultural backgrounds.

This marriage tendency can help us understand the durability of cultural notions.  Why are so many Americans creationist, for instance?  It helps when creationist kids go to creationist colleges, marry other creationist kids and start creationist families of their own.


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  1. Patrick

     /  October 13, 2013

    I had to laugh at this post, because I’ve seen this happen so often…you can count me in, in fact, because my wife and I met at a small Christian college, married after our junior year, and graduated together at the top of our class with Bible degrees. But we’re also an example of a family whose beliefs have changed over time, because while our college was very anti-evolutionist and took a pretty exclusivistic denominational stance, over the past decade or so since graduating we’ve both become open to theistic evolution and are now pretty broadly evangelical. But having come from the same background, it means we’ve been rethinking our ideas together and makes for an interesting journey together with lots of theological discussions.

    Also–you didn’t bring this up, but I’ve noticed at least in my own experience that conservative Christians get married sooner than other groups, at least in my generation. By the time I was in my late 20’s, it seemed like the vast majority of my friends from my Christian college were married, while hardly any of my unchurched friends from high school were. There seems to be a huge difference out there in how marriage is viewed between conservative Christians and those who aren’t, which was surely a major factor in the survey results.

    • Patrick, Thanks for sharing. Your experience also messes with Charles Murray’s overall thesis. He argues that elites tend to be culturally and politically liberal. You show that lots of people who are getting married, staying married, and having successful careers are not recognizably “liberal.” As you say, if conservative Christians are getting married early and building up financial and cultural capital, it upends Murray’s warning that white society is becoming split between liberal elites and everyone else.

      • Patrick

         /  October 13, 2013

        That’s an interesting observation about Murray’s thesis. I’d add to my experience, however, that because I grew up in a “SuperZip” (Fairfax, VA), and a number of my classmates went to places like William & Mary and Princeton, I think they’re more likely to end up as elites (measured by where they live and work and how much money they make) than my classmates at my rather obscure Christian school, where most students were from significantly less affluent places. Furthermore, not being married or having children yet has enabled my high school friends to pursue more education than my college friends. So I am very interested to see where everyone is in 10 or 20 years (I’m still only 30), such as how many of my high school friends are married at that point, and how Murray’s thesis plays out then. Having said that, maybe I misread Murray’s thesis, but I don’t think he was associating marriage with liberalism as much as he was associating it with economic status. And I think his point about the lower class at least still holds true, because he also argues that they are not getting married and also that they are not religious.

  2. There was a huge pressure for us to “find a good husband” because it was our “last real chance” to meet and marry the “perfect” Christian Science boy. I met my husband at my small, conservative “Christian” college (not everyone agrees if Christian Science is “Christian” or not). We married the year after I graduated (we were 23). In the time since we’ve been married we’ve both de-converted from Christian Science to what we termed “Christian out of convenience” and are now predominantly atheist, but we do enjoy the calendar holidays which bring presents, chocolate and festivals.


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