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Why young Christians aren't waiting anymore
A young Christian at an purity rally spreads the word.
September 27th, 2011
08:39 AM ET

Why young Christians aren't waiting anymore

By John Blake,  CNN

(CNN) –True love doesn’t wait after all.

That’s the implication in the upcoming October issue of an evangelical magazine that claims that young, unmarried Christians are having premarital sex almost as much as their non-Christian peers.

The article in Relevant magazine, entitled “(Almost) Everyone’s Doing It,” cited several studies examining the sexual activity of single Christians. One of the biggest surprises was a December 2009 study, conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which included information on sexual activity.

While the study’s primary report did not explore religion, some additional analysis focusing on sexual activity and religious identification yielded this result: 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex - slightly less than 88 percent of unmarried adults, according to the teen pregnancy prevention organization.

The article highlights what challenges abstinence movements face. Movements such as “True Love Waits,” encourage teens to wear purity rings, sign virginity pledges and pledge chastity during public ceremonies.

Yet many of these Christian youths eventually abandon their purity pledges, Relevant’s Tyler Charles concludes in the article. Tyler talked to people like “Maria,” an evangelical woman who said she wanted to wait until marriage to have sex.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

But she said she started having sex with her college boyfriend when she turned 20 because nearly everyone, even most of  her Christian friends, were having sex.

Maria:

It seemed everyone in my life, older and younger, had “done it.” In fact, I waited longer than most people I knew and longer than both of my sisters, even though we were all Christians and came from a good home.

Relevant theorizes about why it’s so hard for so many young Christians to wait, including the saturation of sex in popular culture, the prevalence of pornography and a popular “do what feels good philosophy.”

Yet the article also asks a question that rarely comes up in discussions about abstinence movement. Relevant notes that in biblical times, people married earlier. The average age for marriage has been increasing in the U.S for the last 40 years.

Today, it’s not unusual to meet a Christian who is single at 30 - or 40 or 50, for that matter. So what do you tell them? Keep waiting?

Scot McKnight, author of “The Jesus Creed,” and "One.Faith: Jesus Calls, We Follow," acknowledges that young, single Christians face temptations that their counterparts in the biblical age didn’t face.

He  tells Relevant:

Sociologically speaking, the one big difference – and it’s monstrous – between the biblical teaching and our culture is the arranged marriages of very young people. If you get married when you’re 13, you don’t have 15 years of temptation.

So what should a Christian parent or youth pastor do? How do they convince more young Christians to wait until marriage, or should they stop even trying?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Culture & Science • Culture wars

soundoff (5,768 Responses)
  1. Christopher Berry

    Q. "Relevant theorizes about why it’s so hard for so many young Christians to wait..."

    A. Because if feels really, really good. Next question please.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  2. JamesRaynor

    Nah,

    people in GENERAL who live an honest life and expect nothing in return are not stupid. They represent the best of human nature, the hope of our species, and the reason I believe in virtue, DESPITE religion. How can you disagree with this?

    September 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  3. JamesRaynor

    Nah, Atheists who live an honest life and expect nothing in return are not stupid. They represent the best of human nature, the hope of our species, and the reason I believe in virtue, DESPITE religion.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Sheila

      Can a human being be virtuous simply by their own effort ? If so...what happened ? America is a mess !

      September 27, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Bryan

      Yeah atheists hitler, Mao and pol pot....great crew

      September 27, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Anon

      ^ They didn't kill in the name of atheism, because that would be utterly retarded.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Colin

      Hitler? Hitler an atheist? Dear god, man, you have to be kidding.

      "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness,
      surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of
      the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no dutyto allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that dailygrows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people."

      -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)

      Also Stalin was educated as an Orthodox monk and Pol Pot attended Catholic school

      September 27, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  4. JamesRaynor

    Nah, Atheists who live an honest life and expect nothing in return are not stupid. They represent the best of human nature, the hope of our species, and the reason I believe in virtue, DESPITE religion. People like you make me so sad.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Colin

      Indeed James. Ten Signs You Know you are an Atheist.

      1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.

      2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.

      3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.

      4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.

      5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.

      6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump off a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.

      7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.

      8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.

      9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.

      10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Nah

      james: "They represent the best of human nature, the hope of our species, and the reason I believe in virtue, DESPITE religion. People like you make me so sad."

      The "best" of human nature? "Best" by what standard, pray tell? Your own subjective standards that are linked (of course) to your own desires, feelings, hopes and wishes?

      "the reason I believe in virtue, DESPITE religion."

      And where does "virtue" come from in your decidedly atheist universe?

      Even on your own account you're merely doing "good" because it brings you pleasure, and avoiding what's "bad" because it brings you pain. That is, avoiding punishment by society or by your conscience.

      So, that begs the question: how are you any better than the Christian who does "good" out of fear of punishment from a god?

      In fact, doesn't it make you worse? After all, the only reason you have to do good is if it makes you happy or helps you avoid pain. It stands to reason then that if doing wrong can bring you pleasure, you ought to do it, doesn't it?

      September 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Nah

      colin: "Indeed James. Ten Signs You Know you are an Atheist."

      Fallacious ad hominems pass for intelligence in your mind, eh?

      tsk tsk.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Anon

      Nah it's time for your psych meds.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • JamesRaynor

      "It stands to reason then that if doing wrong can bring you pleasure, you ought to do it, doesn't it?"

      No, because doing wrong does not bring pleasure. Your reasoning is so obscure and reta rded. You are obviously not an intelligent person and not worth my attention. goodbye.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Walking the Line

      Colin. You are amazing.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Danteg8son

    Sounds like the solution is to marry the girls off at 12 to Warren Jeffs of the FLDS.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Robert Johnson

      And just throw most of the boys out of the church to make more young girls available for the senior members.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  6. Colin

    Who is most likely to think they will live happily ever after they die in a magic place where only good things happen:

    (a) A seven year-old girl who has just read Cinderella;

    (b) a ten year-old boy who has just read Harry Potter;

    (c) an evangelical Christian who has just read the “Bible”; or

    (d) all of the above?

    September 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • mickey1313

      its C, because the other 2 are fiction, and the childeren are smart enought to realize it. The C answer is also fiction, but christians are to stupid to realize it.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Justin

      Who will most likely win the Biggest Hater Award for 2011?

      a) A baby who just had his/her candy stolen.

      b) A pimp who just found out another pimp is wearing the same cape as him.

      c) A bitter atheist who has to insult Christians in order to feel like s/he has a purpose in life.

      d) All of the above.

      b) A pimp who just found out another pimp is wearing the same cape as him.

      c)

      September 27, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Answer

      @Justin

      You left out the reference to bible thumpers. You need to correct that.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  7. JamesRaynor

    i take this message from Albert Einstein to heart
    "If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed."
    it speaks to the core of human nature.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Colin

      My favorite Einstien quote is from his 1954 letter to the Physicist Eric Gutkind: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."

      September 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed, that is why all thiests turn my stomach

      September 27, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Sheila

      Humans are indeed full of sin and evil. But they also have good. But good and evil cannot co-exist. The human that tries to live both ways will be in internal conflict, stressed, confused, and continually make bad judgement decisions. That is why Jesus died on the cross for us, to give us forgiveness and grace if we will turn to him and seek his ways. He will help us with what we cannot do for ourselves. But we have to be willing and accepting of his teachings. Then he can bring a turnabout in our lives. When you get tired of "being tired", worn out, used, abused, distressed and confused...pray to him.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Realist242

      I'm going to name my next parrot Sheila.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  8. BB

    If I thought the world was going to end soon I would be "gettin-et" as soon as I could.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  9. Scott - other

    Never forget Bristol Palin the poster child for a good Christian upbringing and an abstinence only education

    September 27, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Nah

      scott: "Never forget Bristol Palin the poster child for a good Christian upbringing and an abstinence only education"

      The lack of intelligence on CNN's comment boards shouldn't be surprising, should it?

      If Bristol Palin is proof that abstinence is wrong or doesn't work, is any teen girl who gets pregnant while using condoms and birth control likewise proof that condoms and birth control don't work as well?

      September 27, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Sheila

      Bristol needs further teaching that is true. But we must remove the plank out of our own eye first.

      So if you know what makes up a true and faithful Christian, and what is right before God, then are you doing these things ?

      September 27, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • gupsphoo

      @Nah – notice Scott only said "poster child", not "proof". Don't put words in his mouth.

      I'd say a better example of how effective abstinence works would be the huge number of pedophile Catholic priests.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • mickey1313

      It is funny, that almost without exception, the more adament that christianity is the right choice, the more of a hypocrite they turn out to be.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  10. Respect

    That's because many people are waking up to the fact that Organized Religion, especially zealotry, doesn't improve your life at all. The Catholic Church is shaking in their boots because a record number of people have left their flock, and enrollment is worse than the unemployment rate.

    When the bullets start flying, a mysterious make believe cloud in the sky is not going to protect you. Count on it. Jesus does not save. God is not all knowing.

    Instead, make your money, stay healthy, and protect your backyard. The rest will work itself out.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Sheila

      Jesus Christ does indeed save and is the only way one can be saved. He is the Truth of all things (aren't you tired of living lies and in a lying world ?) and he is the life. Anyone who desires life must go through him for he holds the keys to Heaven and Hell, Life and Death. God cannot only destroy the body, but he can destroy the soul. This latter is the "2nd death" which the bible speaks of.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Truthhurts

      Count on it, when you die, you will face God.

      God cares, helps, protects and there is plenty of proof.

      I hope you repent.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • mickey1313

      bingo, to all of the people here who think your belief in a magic spirit will protect you, look again. Even for arguments sake, IF there were a god, IF he alowed the world to be such a pit of sadness, THEN I would not worship him regardless. Only a being that helps protects and enlightens humanity deserves to be worshiped. The tetragramaton DOES NOT DESERVE OUR WORSHIP AND PRAYER.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  11. sean

    God I'm feeling the need.....

    September 27, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • JamesRaynor

      the need... for some LOVIN, baby *turns on Marvin Gaye's let's get it on*

      September 27, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • JamesRaynor

      i take this saying to heart from Albert Einstein
      "If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed."
      it speaks to the core of human nature.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  12. Colin

    Which of the following groups bases their 21st Century social outlook on $ex on a collection of Bronze Age myths from the Middle East, that were cobbled together into a book during the Dark Ages:

    (a) The Ayatollahs of Iran

    (b) The Afghan Taliban

    (c) American Christians; or

    (d) All of the above?

    September 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Nah

      colin: "Which of the following groups bases their 21st Century social outlook on $ex on a collection of Bronze Age myths from the Middle East, that were cobbled together into a book during the Dark Ages:"

      *yawn*

      More strawmen, eh?

      What a brilliantly deep thinker you must be.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Bob Smith

      I think somebody doesn't know about the word "satire" yet. Still stuck in straw-ville chewin' on a piece of straw.
      Wake up you mental hick. That isn't even a straw-man argument. Get your facts straight or GTFO.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Bryan

      Colin your lack of understanding of the difference between the bible and the others mentioned show how ignorant you are on the works of antiquity

      September 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  13. ffat

    Sodom and Gomorrah also said they could not wait, because of that God took action

    September 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • gupsphoo

      Sodom and Gomorrah were nothing. Your god supposedly killed off the entire human race with the Flood, including women and children.

      Keep worshiping that monster.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • Scott - other

      Do you know what Lot (gods man in that little drama) and his daughters got up to ( because they could not wait) after god destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for being naughty? What part of hypocritical don’t you understand

      September 27, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Magic

      Scott – other,

      Yep... and the Sunday-school coloring book picture of Lot's salt-pillar wife also doesn't tell them : “Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof,” (Gen. 19:8)."

      September 27, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  14. Mike the Episcopalian

    So start marrying off those teenagers and the problem is solved.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  15. Anon

    Remember, don't stick your d**k into crazy or you'll regret it in the near future.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  16. clearfog

    Please don't let them breed.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Anon

      Kinda ironic since mythological Jesus advocated eunuch-ism and Christians ignore that.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • mickey1313

      agreed, sterilize all thiests, for the sake of humanity.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Anon

      Please no, we don't need some random apologist claiming that atheists are advocating eugenics and confusing it with evolution that they usually do. Education in comparative religion, history and science is the key in solving this worldwide telephone game.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  17. E

    Funny how the Christian obsession with virginity usually only applies to girls...

    September 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  18. Virtuoso

    I am missing! don't let me die.

    Signed,

    "Virtue"

    September 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Lucy Fur

      sad to see you go 'Virtue'...you don't wanna play with me.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Anon

      Kill it with fire.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  19. JamesRaynor

    gerald, comparing atheists to stalin and hitler is very baseless, hateful, and offensive. you surrender credibility when you make such idiotic comparisons. please, stop embarrassing yourself.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      Hey, at least they were effective. Most of the Christian psychopaths (and there have been plenty) just fail miserably and die in obscurity.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Scott - other

      Marx, Lenin and Trotsky were Jews. Hitler, Mussolini and Franco were catholic. Stalin was eastern orthodox christian

      September 27, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed, and for all of the athiest hateing christians, I have 2 things to say: "judge not, least ye be judged" AND "let HE who is without sin, cast the sirst stone."

      September 27, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  20. Sheila

    Observer,

    Do you think you can be explained the whole bible in a comment box? If you truly would like to start learning then find a good church. Otherwise, there is no need to waste my time on someone with a hard heart, closed ears, and who is blind to truth, because you will not receive truth. I would teach you if you were sincere about seeking God.

    If you seek God, with all of your heart, mind and soul, he will come into you, and you will learn many things and develop wisdom.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Colin

      Ironic that somebody who refers to the existence of the Christian god as a fait accompli accuses others of having a closed mind. I guess the Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Wiggans, Zoroastrians, Jews, Seikhs and Shintos are wrong.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Observer

      That's okay. I didn't expect you to answer the question anyway.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Nah

      colin: "Ironic that somebody who refers to the existence of the Christian god as a fait accompli accuses others of having a closed mind. I guess the Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Wiggans, Zoroastrians, Jews, Seikhs and Shintos are wrong."

      Perhaps you should take a few classes in logic.

      It's not "closed minded" to simply hold a belief. It's "closed minded" to hold it dogmatically and without reason. Consequently, there's nothing "ironic" about a Christian or Jew calling a militant atheist "closed minded".

      Good job?

      September 27, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Colin

      So nah, do you accept that Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Shinto, Shiekism and all the other religions are just as likely correct as yours do you?

      September 27, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Nah

      colin: "So nah, do you accept that Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Shinto, Shiekism and all the other religions are just as likely correct as yours do you?"

      Who said I believe any religion? I merely pointed out the illogic in your arguments.

      September 27, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Magic

      Sheila,

      You are a Sunday-school teacher, right?... under-14 age-group, right?

      September 27, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Nah, um, the term Absence of evidance IS evidance of absince mean anything to you. Belief without proof is simply faith, and there is no diferance between faith in an all powerful, and faith in the goblins you wackos see under the bed, no proof = no reality.

      September 27, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.