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.


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. Christiancult

    They should stop trying.

    Glad that's settled. Next article please!

    October 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  2. meme

    This is a product of feminist values (no consequences for behavior) and a general decline in morality in our culture.

    October 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Rick

      "This is a product of feminist values (no consequences for behavior)....."

      How is that, Meme?

      "..and a general decline in morality in our culture."

      Perhaps people are just moving away from bronze age stories to determine their morality

      October 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Jezebel

      Damn right!

      November 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  3. Mas360

    Assuming you are pure Christian and you do not have XX with your GF/BF, instead you play with a cigar or a rubber doll to get a relief. Is that sinful in Christian standards?

    October 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  4. PSAztec

    I was a non-Christian until my first year in college. I wanted to explore around in high school but was too shy. In college, talk about the opportunities to do it. However, I chose to honor Jesus by being pure before marriage. It is not an age issue, it is an obedience issue. Movies like 40 year old virg!n, porky's, etc., just want you to believe that you are missing out on life if you don't hvae s_x before you are married. That is just a crock. Instead of having s_x as a sacred releationship between a husband and wife, its just do whoever you want, whenever you want, whatever you want. Anyway, not to waste anymore of your time as you don't fully understand what I am saying. So glad that when we had our first child, we did have to worry about passing HIV and Herpes on to our child. When we got married, I did not have to worry about if my new wife had had chlmidia, syphyllis, etc., before or if she had HPV. Likewise, she did not have to worry about those things with me. I cannot tell you how many times we were told to get AIDS testing before we got married and when we had kids. Well, we did not have to worry about that. So, I guess you athiests, agnostics and promoters of s_x before marriage are right, there is no benefit to abstaining from s_x before marriage.

    October 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Rick

      Well, good for you. Did you have Jesus in your head when you were doing it the first time?

      October 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Rob Witten

      You have what a lot of people lack, and that's discipline and God giving you strength

      October 7, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  5. Paul

    A lot of "christians" talk the talk but don't walk the walk.

    October 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Blake

      That's because a lot of 'christians' aren't christians.

      Professed belief isn't necessarily possessed belief.

      October 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  6. John

    I'm sorta young (27) and I haven't done it. There is a delicate line on foreplay. The most important thing is, however, if you have then you should ask for forgiveness and star trying to live your live differently. That means doing your best not to do it again until you are married.

    October 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • John

      That should have read: You should start trying to live your life differently. One more thing is also important: It also important to have friends who support you and respect your desire to wait.

      October 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • John

      That should have read: You should start trying to live your life differently.

      October 7, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • *frank*

      Lol, a little tense?

      October 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • John


      I recently became aware of the fact that I have a national following. So yeah, a little bit. I'm not sure why though.

      October 8, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  7. TG

    My impression is that people in general who are against Christianity have no idea what they are talking about. They are ignorant, but I cannot blame them, because I was once like them I was once against Christianity because of my stubbornness, pride, and ignorance. Ask around, and you will find out. Those who speak against Christians have no idea what Christianity really is. It is a shame that Christians have to understand and listen to non-believers defiling them. I might be wrong, but I heard that in the Bible this is predicted: that nonbelievers will laugh and hate believers. So, that is why Christians can accept non-believers, because they know they will be treated this way. ALSO, be aware of people who claim to be Christians but are not really, we cannot judge, only God can.

    October 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • wayne317

      "I might be wrong, but I heard that in the Bible this is predicted: that nonbelievers will laugh and hate believers."

      Laugh at a book that contians talking animals and zombies? No s**t.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Observer

      A recent poll/test showed that the average atheist and average agnostic know more about the Bible than the average Christian and have higher educations.

      Guess again.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • MiddleWay14

      Non-believers (especially former believers who have woken up to become non-believers) realize how st_up_id, naive, and ignorant believers are. That's why they ridicule them.

      Make no mistake. The ridicule is absolutely not out of envy. No one wants to be you. But rather because believers are an obstacle to progress in the real world.

      Did you hear me, din_g_bat? You are a freakin' dinosaur who substantially inconveniences society as a whole. Wake up!

      October 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • John


      No your wrong. That poll was about major world religons not just Christianity.

      October 7, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Brooklyn Boy

      Actually, a lot of us used to BE christians of one sort or another until we dropped it when we realized that all religions are little more than bronze age myths designe to control our minds, control our behavior and take our cash. That's why recent surveys show that agnostics and atheists ofen know more about the bible than believers. Religion is a big con. The sooner we dump it, the sooner we can approach the universe at large and our own lives with rationality.

      October 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • A True Christian Voice

      I don't doubt that many non-believers know more about the Bible than "believers" do, but to say that that fact makes religion a con is idiotic. Judging Christianity on a select group of christians doesn't give you an idea of the religion at all. The problem with Christianity is not that it's a con or that it's slowing down the growth of our country. If you truely believe that than you are a moron. The problem with Christianity is that people call themselves "Christians" to save face. In fact, Christianity isn't about living a certain lifestyle at all. It is about worshipping an unbelievably glorious God that created everything. There is a lifestyle that follows a belief in God, not the other way around. Your statement clearly shows that you are not one of those non-believers who knows a lot about the Bible.

      October 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Observer

      "@Observer. No your wrong. That poll was about major world religons not just Christianity."

      WRONG. The average atheist and average agnostic know more about BOTH the Bible and Christianity AND world religion than the average Christian. (PEW Research, 9/28/10).

      Do research next time.

      October 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • John


      I'm sorry buddy, the pew research poll was a survey of peoples knowledge on ALL major world religons not just Christianity. Christianity was only a small part of it so and there were no data showing just the scores on the Christian portions. So you see for you to say that the atheist knew more about Christianity than Christians is misleading at best and more than likely a lie because there is no data available on what you are saying at least not from Pew Research. Perhaps you saw it in another poll.

      October 8, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Observer

      How much of a dim bulb can you be to accuse someone of lying when you are too ignorant to look up or find the facts?

      Pew Survey released September 28, 2010:
      Out of 12 questions about the Bible and Christianity: Christians averaged 6.2 and atheists/agnostics averaged 6.7
      Ouf of 11 questions about world religions: Christians averaged 4.7 and atheists/agnostics averaged 7.5.

      Do you consider yourself to be the typical Christian when it comes to honesty, integrity and INTELLIGENCE?

      October 8, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  8. mroll

    Looks like that abstinence-only education really worked well... and by "well" I mean "not at all."

    October 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Ashley

    You people are morons. I just read 100 post and nobody mentions the obvious thing that was in the article and its really really simple. The bible laws/religions were established long ago when people got married at 12-16 years old. That means they were fighting nature only for a short time. S*x is part of a healthy lifestyle and any doctor will tell you that. People get married alot later now. 29 – 50 range etc. I would argue that it is insane and unhealthy to NOT have a s*x life 20 years after puberty. It's that freaken simple people. Good LORD!!!

    October 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Gen. Buck Turgidson

      Spot on! This is basically the same thing I was going to write but you beat me to it!

      October 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Mas360

      This is the best and most logical analysis I've seen thus far.

      October 7, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  10. Maureen

    This poll is extremely biased! It just surveyed people who ages 18-29 who currently identify themselves as Evangelical Christians!?! What this article fails to take into account are those Christians who come to Christ in their mid-20's after experiencing the "party life." I know plenty of solid, Christian people who realize that they made mistakes in the past, but they do not want to repeat those same mistakes! Too many Americans self-identify as "Christians," but they do not follow Christ. I would like to see a survey of people who were raised in an Evangelical Christian home who professed faith in Christ at a young age who went to Christian and Bible schools and were taught not just "Yay, Jesus!" cheerleader faith, but also deeper theological issues, and are now in their mid-20's, such as myself. I bet the numbers would be drastically different.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Rick

      Maureen: Your post implies that the "party life" is a mistake. I don't think it is. Perhaps to continue it is, but the experience is not bad

      October 7, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Observer

      "Christian people who realize that they made mistakes in the past"

      Of course! Born-again virgins.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Yeah, probably 95% have pre-marital s*x. But they feel guiltier. Which of course is half the fun of it.

      October 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • for Maureen

      I agree with you whole-heartedly. I did have my wild days and I after I came to Christ I came to realize how cheapened the act of love was – even kissing was no longer intimate and was expected on a first date as a sign of approval. I now have a daughter who is almost 17, still a virgin and her reason is not simply because it is wrong but that she is valuable and her virginity is valuable. I have told her that she can always be like someone who is no longer a virgin – but they can never be like her and that I don't want her to give herself away and have nothing sacred to offer her husband when she does get married because every part of her has already been shared with someone else. She has chosen to not kiss her boyfriends and not be intimate with them and she has weeded out some real losers that way. If they can't value her in that way she has decided that she doesn't need them in her life.
      It is worth it, and she doesn't have to have a "party life" to live.

      October 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • vanessa

      Maureen, I absolutely agree with you. I waited for my husband and he waited for me. We, as a result can reap the benefits of that decisionand bring MUCH less baggage into the rmarriage. Nothing is impossible with Christ. The problem is most people reject him.

      October 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  11. tonelok

    I don't recall the "Thou shalt not have pre-marital relations" commandment...

    October 7, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Mas360

      You cracked me up.

      October 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  12. peick

    The Bible's teaching on morality is clear. You can rebel against it and live differently, but you won't change the teaching.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Douglas

      There is intense pressure on young Christians to fornicate. This comes from relentless messaging from popular culture media streams which glorify infidelity, adultery, zoo s*x and countless other sinful acts as the "new norm". The downside is disastrous. Unplanned pregnancies and nasty STDs with no cure just aren't worth it. There is redemptive power in Celib*cy. Support young couples who strive to remain virgins until marriage. It is worth the wait!
      Best, Douglas

      October 7, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • MarkinFL

      What the he!! is zoo s*x? I seem to be missing the pop culture reference on this one.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Rick

      Douglas: There is also pressure from their own hormones. Go ahead, keep on trying to fight nature...

      October 7, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • sigh

      Yes, and in my opinion its most clear teaching on morality is not to force your own on others, no matter what level you happen to hold yourself to. Or have you forgotten most of the gospels and Paul's writings :)?

      October 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  13. Chris

    hey you all want something really annoying to talk about watch this @180movie.com.....the newest christian propaganda.

    October 6, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  14. John

    I think a lot of people here are missing the Main issue. Why are Christians doing it before marriage. Purity Rings or signing a piece of paper will probable not stop anyone. Also the author is right about all the temptations Christians face now, but during the time of the greeks it was just as bad or worse. From my point of view, Christians reasons for waiting until marriage are not that Biblical or i guess you could say only half right.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  15. sup

    As long as they know what they are doing, and are doing it safely it's OK in my book. Now if they start having it with every other living organism, then we have problems.

    October 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  16. Jason K

    Hypocrite, no ONE can live to that standard. That was the ENTIRE POINT of the dispensation of law and Yeshua's teachings during his first advent.
    What is marriage? Its the public physical and spiritual joining of a man and a woman together to form a unit that lives in harmony together as if they were one. They live in one house, they share goals, they share everything of themselves with this other as it was theirs.

    That is not what marriage is now a days, now its a slip of paper you have to go to the court house to pay for so you can file your taxes jointly. Psh...even the gays are starting to do that now. Pretty soon, they might make exemptions for introverts that can't meet another human being to marry their dogs.

    October 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • sarah

      For someone who seems to claim they're religious, you seem pretty judgmental. Pretty sure I want nothing to do with whatever religion you are preaching about.

      October 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • dcaren

      Depends on the person. My husband and I take our marriage seriously, we are one and know each other well enough to know that abuse of spouse or children is not an issue – so divorce is never a word used in our home.

      October 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @jason K
      I've been sharing that bond with my partner for nigh on a decade and we're not married.
      The government started taxing us together as soon as we became parents.
      We have never felt a need to announce our union to the public or to any Gods.
      Yet according to Christians, we aren't a family and are going to suffer eternal torment for living in sin.

      As for people marrying animals/inanimate objects etc. – just two words: INFORMED CONSENT
      Gay marriage does not dimish straight marriage in any way.

      October 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  17. Recovering Republican

    What do you mean "anymore". Young Christians have always been promiscuous, they just were not honest about it. I got more action in my Catholic High School than I got in my so called "Liberal" University. There is a reason uber religious families have 248 kids, and it has nothing to do with growing the flock.

    October 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Cath-O-lic Girls!.....

      October 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  18. Venus of Lascaux

    Funny. Not one mention of late Palaeolithic/early Neolithic Goddess worship anywhere. I recommend these authors (who are feminist, pro-gay, pro-s3x, anti-racist,etc):
    Merlin Stone
    Margaret Starbird
    Monica Sjoo
    Riane Eisler
    Z. Budapest

    and probably a slew of zillions of other Goddess-oriented authors I can't remember off the top of my head.

    Both sides are wrong...one denies the sacred Feminine, and one denies all forms of the Divine.

    When will you all awaken?

    October 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Crawmama


      October 7, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  19. Viktor

    >Why young Christians aren't waiting anymore?
    Mostly because they are not Christians in fact ;( To be Christian means to live as Christian and doesn't mean to "came from a good home".

    October 6, 2011 at 7:09 am |
    • J.W

      So anyone who has relations before being married is not a real Christian? I could say that about anything. If you have ever told a lie you are not a Christian, if you ever skipped church, etc

      October 6, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Guest

      The True Scottsman Fallacy all over again.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Bee

      Viktor would benefit from learning English. Also, who are you to say what qualifies as Christian??

      October 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • inTheDogHouse

      Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep the commandments." The heart is not in keeping the commandments, but in satisfying the flesh.

      October 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      I recently asked my classes, as part of a discussion of mass movements, what is the central doctrine of christianity. Most of the students claimed to BE christians but not a single one could tell me that means to believe that Jesus is the son of God who came to earth to save humanity from original sin, or even a significant part of that. Lots of people claim to be christians but few really know what that means.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      The simple reality is that nothing has changed. Teenagers have been having s*x since the dawn of time and no religion is going to change that. Nature totally trumps everything when it comes to s*x. So unless you intend to chemically castrate everyone until marriage, they will continue to have s*x.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • dcaren

      Viktor, Yes to be a Christian is to be Christ Like. One can never be perfect which is why there is forgiveness. However, the goal of a Christian is to be Christ Like and when we strive for that we make choices to avoid sin, not to see how close we can come to it without actually going "all the way".
      Call hormones, nature, whatever one chooses – but when it comes down to it it is still Sin.

      October 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Rick

      dcaren: seriously? do you expect that what was moral to bronze age sheepherders should be to people now? do you expect that people in a couple of millenia would look to us as barometers of morality?

      October 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  20. ustin


    October 6, 2011 at 6:33 am |
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About this blog

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.