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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 (5,770 Responses)
  1. af090391

    Could it just be that the bibles "word" actually came from man instead of from God? I mean, back when the bible was written, men much much closer to the start of puberty then now. The difference is in years. Men and women today wait almost over 50% longer than men back then. If we wrote the bible today, we'd probably focus on how to properly use contraceptives, and avoid life destroying early age pregnancies.

    October 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  2. Tom Cruise

    I think everyone should keep an open mind. I keep one on my coffee table.

    October 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  3. Young dad

    I am a young dad with three lovely children, me and my wife met in high school and are now married for about 9 years. Both me and my wife made a covenant to each other before God that we will remain pure until marriage, and thank God we remained faithful to our covenant, looking back we will not have it any other way.

    There was temptation during our courtship and it was always a struggle but our love for each other saw us through those moment when our hormones got the better of us.One thing that we found helpful was we always hung out together in public.

    I know it is very difficult to remain committed to abstinence but that is the way to go for many reasons.

    For all you young Christians who are not yet married always remember that your body is a temple of the living God and you will have to treat it that way. May God so help you.

    October 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Seth

      Amen! Thank you for your godly example and encouragement.

      October 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Bricha

      good for you, and my story is very similar

      October 10, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Patrick

      Amen! Thank you, from one christian father to another. I worry about this subject, it's so sad so many kids doing the wrong thing, but how can you blame them when all they see is adults doing the same bad things. We need more true believers to stand up and be courageous in this time. It's difficult also being a christian when so many other christians are hypocrites and make non believers think, if he's a christian then I want nothing to do with christianity. Christian marriages have the same divorce rates as non believers, thats truly sad.

      October 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • PRISM - 1234

      A M E N ! So glad to see godly people's stories! It's very lonely for a true Christian now days... But you people are an encouragement

      October 10, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • HKJ

      thanks!!

      October 10, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  4. tonelok

    @dont ask
    The first commandment pretty much shoots down that thought ;(

    October 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • dont ask

      And that response proves mine. Why do you think that one religion is superior to any other? I could write a book today about some higher being and all the teachings and bury it in the ground and what do you think would happen a few thousand years from now if someone dug it up? How many followers of it do you think there would be?

      October 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  5. tonelok

    @PP
    So, by your logic, it's better to be religous 'just in case'? I'm sure God would love that.
    @TJM
    OMG, you actually think that atheists must 'disprove' God? It is physically impossible to prove something DOESN'T exist, so what you are asking is impossible, because you can't prove empirically that he does, and I can't prove that he doesn't.
    .
    As for explaining love, it is a chemical release in your brain that causes a mental and physical connection with something. And what the hell is 'balance in the universe'? Is this star wars?
    .
    Lastly, there is only one unforgivable sin in Christianity, can you tell me what it is? Hint, every self-proclaimed athiest is already guilty of it and no amount of repenting/prayer/do-gooding can fix it. So, by denying God, regardless of the fact that I may lead a better, more charitable life than most christians, I can never be brought into 'heaven' while murderers, child molestors, thieves and rapists can all get in as long as they repent. I guess i should have just killed a bunch of people and said some hail mary's instead of thinking for myself :[

    October 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • af090391

      You are mistaken about the unforgivable sin in that every atheist has done it. Blasphemy against the holy spirit requires you to be in full knowledge about God. If God does exist, than Atheists do not have the knowledge of God, and thus cannot truly blaspheme against him. Aka, you cannot fully sin if you do not know the consequences of your actions and the situation surrounding your actions, even if your actions are wrong.

      Or at least that was what I was taught in a Catholic high school. I'm sure varying denominations mileage may vary. I'm an Atheist anyway.

      October 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  6. Red

    ...I like girls that wear Abercrombie & Fitch?

    October 10, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • kojo

      No wonder the prospect of 72 virgins appeases u.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  7. Karen

    Some of you who comment on here are so brilliant you're foolish. Before you respond, ponder the thought for a while. You are so brilliant it will take you years to understand what I mean...if at all.

    October 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • reddog

      Huh?

      October 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Red

      ...fail

      October 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  8. Karen

    There are too many angry people on CNN.com. Get some counselling or something. For those of you who hate religion (code word these days for mainly Christianity and its teachings) find other things to occupy yourselves. You're wasting comment space with your constant hate. Its getting too ugly on here. I bet most of you would never say to someone's face half of the things you say on here.

    October 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Chainyanker

      It's not hate, it's trying to spread logical thinking and factual knowledge which is often in short supply among the religious, thanks to early brainwashing by the Church Organism.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • dont ask

      Chainyanker
      Its nice to know there are people out there who still have an open mind.
      Karen
      No one is hating on here. This is an open discussion that you are free to participate in or not. I hate no one for what they believe in. But I question whether what they believe is truly their based on their own thoughts or if they believe what they are told? I don't hate religion if it is practiced for the right reasons. I hate that it has infiltrated our every day lives in our laws and politics and education. Unlike overly religious people, I treat every one the same regardless of their beliefs, I treat them like human beings. Kevin V brought up a great point about believing in religion makes you human and to that I can not argue and I appreciate him for bringing up that point to me. Keep an open mind Karen, you could learn a lot from people who are different from you. I know I am just by participating in this discussion.

      October 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  9. PP

    ASSUMING that there is no God and no heaven or hell, if people die, both the Christian and the Atheist amount to nothing. They are equal to any animal that dies. BUT, if God exists and there is heaven and hell, the Christian who has trusted in the finished work of Christ brings him to heaven and the Atheist who denies God and Jesus goes to hell. In either case, the ATHEIST = NO WIN or LOSS, the CHRISTIAN = NO WIN or WIN. HOWEVER, it takes greater FAITH to believe God does not exist than to believe He exists. Take a look at creation (micro and macro), it is full of incredibly intelligent design. Jesus also changed my life from the worst of men to someone capable to forgive enemies.

    October 10, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • dont ask

      Well put PP. I enjoy hearing logical, well thought out explantations for peoples reasoning/beliefs. I only suggest cutting people who aren't christian, but maybe follow some other teaching of god, some slack. They deserve a fair shot at an afterlife too don't you think? Not everybody can be perfect/christian, but they are human too and should not suffer a ill fate just because they didn't jump on your religious bandwagon. This pretty much sums up my whole point. Not once did I say I didn't believe in God in either of my posts, but it was assumed by everyone that I didn't. Why, because I simply asked questions about it? Asking questions about religion and having open discussion about peoples beliefs does not mean you don't believe in God. It makes you human.

      October 10, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Chainyanker

      Reasons for religion

      Religion and god(s) was invented by ancient people to do three things:
      1) Explanation of natural phenomenon that they did not understand
      2) Help maintain social order among the masses
      3) Help cope with the harshness and brutality of life

      These days only (3) is somewhat relevant but not necessary considering the strife that religion has caused over the years. Science explains enough to eliminate the first and the rule of law and social systems makes (2) unnecessary. That is to say one can live a life without religion and be just fine, works for me. The Church Organism attempts to survive by brainwashing the young and the ignorant so that it can continue to survive. The controlled will feed and nurture the Organism and provide young to continue the process...I learned this when I was 10 and learned the concept of brainwashing introduced to the public by way of some brainwashed POW U.S. soldiers during the Korean War. I realized the same thing was happening in Sunday school.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • af090391

      Your logic only makes sense so long as the journey is completely unimportant compared to the destination.

      If that is so, then God would have put us at the destination first, and completely skip the journey, if he exists, and if he is benevolent, and if your logic holds.

      We are not born dead, nor in heaven. If there is a purpose behind this, then the journey matters. If the journey matters, with or without God, then how you live your life still matters, regardless of what happens after death.

      In other words, if a Christian lives a miserable life following God, and a Atheist lives a happy life without God, and there is no God, the Atheist wins mate.

      This of course completely forgoes the fact that there are several thousand religions out there which could change your original argument back around on Christians themselves. In other words, Pascals Wager (the philosopher who made your argument) has some serious set backs you might wanna look at.

      October 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  10. dont ask

    I did give religion a try. I was raised Catholic and even went to catholic school when I was younger. I said nothing about not beliveing in a higher power. I consider myself spiritual, not religious. The problem I saw and still see today with religion is how it stifles free thinking. You are taught to "think differently". Not to ask why, but wonder why. These are two very different ways of thought. And when religion is used as an excuse to treat others inhumanely as it is in many cases these days, I find it less and less appealing. It's difficult to be both, religious and educated, because many religious beliefs are challenged by science. People should be more open minded and not let their religion cloud their judgement.

    October 10, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Chainyanker

      Well said but don't expect prejudice and bigotry to go away among the religious, there are too many passages in religious books that people take literally as the word of god and that therefore some act is good or bad.

      October 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  11. dont ask

    And this is why we are lagging in science, engineering and technology and overall education. Religion. I can not understand how people can devote their whole lives to believing in something that they have no way of proving to be true. Why should there only be one "God" and no other? If there was only one god/jesus, then what's up with all the other religions that exist who don't believe in him? Are all those people doomed? These are rhetorical questions, because no one actually knows the answer. Why not focus on what you know or can understand through science and reasoning? Religion clouds your ability to think freely and clearly. Allow me to explain. What separates humans from other animals on Earth is our ability to ask questions, to analyse, to think for ourselves. If you are a religious person, meaning you base you ideas/believes/thoughts on what someone else told you to think/believe, then you are no different than the other animals that wonder this Earth. Get your heads out of one book and try reading others like the theory of quantum mechanics. You will be far more enlightened when you focus on how amazing the human brain is if you open it up to its capabilities. Be a free thinker. Be realistic. Ask questions. Learn something. This world and this country in particular would be a far better place if people would be less religious and more human.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Kevin V

      Fundamental belief in human kind and it's cognative power is not much different than religious belief. In fact, there's even a name for it: "humanism." Your refusal to explore religion for possible answers, IN ADDITION to (not instead of) human thinking and reason, leaves you just as one-dimensionally educated as someone who ONLY studies religion for answers to life's questions. I would argue that faith in a higher power also seperates humans from animals, and it does take reason and logic to believe in a religion. Why not seach religion in an academic way just as you have searched educational texts. What you learn might surprise you.

      October 10, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • dont ask

      Thank you Kevin. I absolutely agree that having faith in a higher power is indeed a human trait, but it's how you use that faith that I spoke to in this post. I criticize those who only listen to what they are told and play follow the leader. That's not having faith, that's brainwashing. I thank you for bringing light to my one sided rant.

      October 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  12. sleepytime

    "Anymore"? Hate to burst anyone's bubble but teenagers, Christian or not, have been "not waiting" since the beginning of time. This is not some new development.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  13. Bentley

    I would not like to own a car that has been test driven.

    October 10, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Design

      Per the original spec , it was designed for the owner.Any other use is an abuse of the original intention of its 'Creator'. After that it has lost its precious value.

      October 10, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  14. Aezell

    It's true because barbaric superst-tious goat herders wrote it down 2000 years ago right?

    October 10, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  15. John

    It's pretty much one of the greatest things life has to offer.. just use contraceptive if you don't want a kid.. and it's fine. No one should feel guilty for being human.

    October 10, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Samsword

      It still was nice to wait. My wife has been so glad that I waited. She has expressed frequently, that it makes her feel special. And I agree. It's fun to know that I'm the only guy she's been with. Wouldn't trade it for the world. =)

      October 10, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  16. Manny

    This report can be deceiving because of the difference between practicing Christians and nominal Christians. If you remove the large number of nominal Christians, the percentage of Christian couples not waiting is very much reduced.

    October 10, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Floyd

      I'll guess that a lot of "practicing Christians" are practicing a lot till they get it right!

      October 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  17. reddog

    "birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it." (Cole Porter sure wasn't talking about huggin', kissin' and hand-holdin'!) You can put "it" off your whole life if that's your thing, but don't ask me to.

    October 10, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  18. Name (required)

    Abstinence works....ask Bristol Palin!

    October 10, 2011 at 7:22 am |
    • Chainyanker

      Yep, you betcha!

      October 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  19. WillB

    Wonder if I would have stayed a Christian if she had not held out......? Wow glad she did!

    October 10, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  20. Sir Poohalot

    Who cares? As long as it's two people who are mature adults, careful and thoughtful about themselves and their behavior. In the scope of things it's not a bad thing.....

    October 10, 2011 at 6:29 am |
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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.