In the morning of June 22, 2007 ABC News Online reported a story about a young sixteen year old girl who married her forty year old high school track coach (ABC News). The story is interesting not only because of the age difference of the couple; but also the circumstances around the legality and legitimacy of this marriage. Many questions are begging to be asked, none the more poignant than, “how did this happen?”

In 2004 the WB network (now the CW) launched a show that is at best described as Beverly Hills 90210 on steroids – “One Tree Hill.” The show follows the journey of two estranged brothers (essentially the same age, with different mothers) and their journey to reconciliation and graduation; focusing on the backdrop of High School basketball in the Carolinas.

Among the controversial topics the show has covered, homosexuality; teenage sex and pregnancy, alcoholism, drugs, stalking and assault and even a student holding a high school hostage; the most played down and benignly dealt with is the marriage between two of the shows central figures – at age sixteen they married before there junior year in high school.

“One Tree Hill”, which is purely sensationalistic and banal, pushes a paradigm of general relativism and cultural liberalism in how it deals with controversial subjects. From the acquiescence of parents in allowing their teenage kids to engage in dubious activity to the mocking and eventual breaking down of those who choose a more modest approach to those issues (“Clean Teens”), the show promotes and celebrates behavior which can at best be called questionable.

While things seem to be working out for the two kids who chose to get married at sixteen – purely a function of fiction – the show lacks a real world aesthetic that is proving to be somewhat ironic.

The ABC News story reports that the parents gave legal permission for their daughter to be wed, however they granted permission out of desperation – not out of support. The reality seems to be that the two parents felt it was the only way to hold onto there daughter. That is a tough thing, do you do something that could be wrong to hold onto someone that may or may not want a continued relationship with you?

This story holds a two fold interest to me:

First, despite the appearance of having a life based in faith, the parents acted out of desperation to “save” there relationship with their daughter (this, I feel, is something that would be difficult not to do – but I would seriously have to question whether or not it was right to do so….) – rather than to set appropriate boundaries, But can you blame them?

Second, the article indicates that the church was involved in trying to resolve the situation – yet either did nothing to intervene or was unsuccessful in there efforts. The authorities that were sought out by the parents most likely operated within the context of law and could not take action without evidence. It is a safe conclusion to reach that there was nothing but circumstantial evidence of any legal impropriety by the coach prior to the wedding – but once the parents signed the consent form, the legal right to prosecute was forfeit.

So I am left with this – the apparent failure of both the parents and the church to give the care and attention this girl needed. If this can happen, almost in concert with the acceptance of this behavior through popular culture, then what chance do we have to provide the structure of our children and the children our churches have been charged with protecting?

This is the battle we face; this is the burden we all carry. What then will we do to step up and to make a difference? That is the question I will be asking myself the rest of this day and every time I look at my daughter.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18 NASB

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