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.

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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. j mann

    Funny, I don't remember Jesus saying anything about the subject.

    October 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • RC

      It's called "fornication", and there is plenty about it, specifically against it.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • sk8s87

      Matthew 5:27-28.

      Granted, most people take this as applying only to adultery, but really, fornication goes under same category.

      October 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  2. GAW

    An old wise man once told me "If the shoe fits wear it" .

    October 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  3. Caral from SoCal

    Perhaps part of the problem is that we created (yes, we did) this thing called "adolescence." Until fairly recently (historically speaking), there was no such thing as a teenager. You were a child. Then, you were an adult. Our founding fathers entered college at 14, 15, or 16 years of age. They held positions of incredible authority very early. We have excused not growing up until 18, 21, and now extended adolenscence into the late 20's. Check out Dr. Robert Epstein's book "The Case AGainst Adolescence." A HArvard professor, his work speaks deeply into some of our upcoming societal problems. If this generation were assuming its mantle of adulthood and authority at an historically appropriate age, there would not be the problem of "waiting for 15 years."

    October 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  4. joe T.

    Must be using too broad a definition of Christian.

    October 9, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  5. rev.spike

    where are the parents?

    October 9, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Fnord

      Considering the article is about 18+ persons, I don't see how that really matters.

      October 9, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  6. kimsland

    I wonder if the reason why religious teens wait is because of years of abuse by church leaders.
    They probably associate $ex with pain instead of pleasure. Now that is sad.
    If I was foolish enough to be religious I probably wouldn't have children mind you, since there's a chance they may burn in Hell for eternity. Seriously religious people shouldn't have kids, its child abuse.

    October 9, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • RisenFaith

      That is wrong on so many levels. Not every priest is a pedophile. That's like saying every young boy is gay, or every girl that has a twin has made out with her. If there's a chance that the kids of Christians can burn in Hell, there is the same chance that you can too.

      Because if Christians are right – then God exists for everyone. No matter what you beliefs, there's still the One True God of Christians, called Yahweh, Holy Savior, Mighty Father, name upon name that I cannot even describe. His son – Jesus Christ, is the Prince of Peace, Alpha and Omega, Redeemer, The Lord of Lords, the Living Savior, Messiah. And if He does exist – he exists for everyone. Not just those that believe in Him.

      That belief, that religion only exists for those that believe in it, is completely false. That's why I really dislike our society today.

      Oh, by the way, no I'm not a Priest. No I'm not a Pastor. I'm not even an adult. Yeah, I'm a teenager. If you have a problem with my logic, know that it's from someone that has no experience. Yeah there are bound to be fallacies. Let me know. I'll correct myself.

      You won't convince me that Christianity is false, though. I was on a Mission Trip this summer and saw miracles before my own eyes, sicknesses cured with a prayer instantaneously, kids speaking in tongues, even multiplication of food. Before, I had my doubts. Now I'm convinced: God is real, like it or not.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • peter

      ive never been abused by church leader, and i still find it hard to wait. Not because I've been molested, its just cause 1) It's hard and unnatural to do and 2) I've been given bad advice my whole life, and only now as I'm older, I can start really figuring out what advice to take.

      Youre letting your disgust for religion or religious people get in the way of your reasoning skills.

      Although you may hate or have had bad experiences with church leaders, it is not right to blame them for a problem just because you dislike them. It is certainly out of their control in most cases in my opinion, and they have limited influence for everyone else.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Lena

      kimsland...Isn't that a bit harsh? Live and let live! I'm no Evangelical Christian and I certainly don't agree with their ways but to indict an entire group of people (the "religious") is a bit much...don't you think? My guess is that you had a "bad" experience in a church as a kid and I can identify. I wasn't abused but not exactly treated well and it took me years, YEARS to realize that not all people that identified with organized religion were abusers and jerks.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • GAW

      @ kimsland Your post was very poorly thought through. Please try to avoid drinking and posting at the same time in the near future.

      October 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  7. iluvusa

    I was raised in a christian home and I still to church to this day. I had the promise ring, I signed the contract. I did all of those things and @ the age of 21 I lost my virginity. I wanted to wait until i was married but I made a mistake. the good thing about being a Christian is that I know there is forgiveness. And i did ask for forgiveness. I'm still a Christian, I'm not married yet but I am waiting to be married to be involved with someone again. Christians aren't perfect. We mess up just like everyone else. We all fall short of God's Glory (Romans 3:23). I don;t use that aas an excuse to do wrong but I know that in this life I'm going to make mistakes. I'm a work in progress. I'm glad i've been forgiven for that mistake and many others. I just continue trying to get it right.

    October 9, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Jason

      Admring your honesty!

      October 9, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • samsword

      Awesome! keep it up 🙂

      October 9, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • RisenFaith

      You sir, just won the internet!

      October 9, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • musings

      You can be a Christian without being a fundamentalist, evangelical Protestant. I won't count all the ways, but this broad brush painting comes from a journalist who is apparently not up on American society and culture in all its variety.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Fnord

      You didn't make a "mistake"

      October 9, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  8. chetthejet

    wow. now is this something new?. Don't think so.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • psb

      With respect to the history of our nation, the level of morality and the rate at which it is declining is very new, within the past 50 years or so. Anyone old enough has witnessed it first hand.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • ramicio

      I witness the decline every day and I don't even see it by polluting my mind with the TV.

      October 9, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Observer

      The concept of moral decline has existed for thousands of years. It's nothing new; just new people "discovering it".

      October 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  9. psb

    "Why young Christians aren't waiting anymore?" The answer is quite simple: Society is in a downward spiral, morally speaking. Although technology is improving, morality is decreasing. Not surprising. The Bible said it would happen. That's what is so fascinating about the Bible; its predictions of the future are actually accurate.

    October 9, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • Rick

      Like Jesus returning within one generation?

      October 9, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • RisenFaith

      @ Rick

      He never claimed that. Matthew 24:34 reads "I tell you the truth, this generation(d) will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." This is the passage you're referring to. However, you must be careful with your interpretations. What did Jesus mean by "Pass away?" Did he mean perish? Or did he mean go out of existence (as in extinction)?
      Plus, you must remember that the Bible is translated from Hebrew and/or Greek. Those two languages are not always clear in their wording. My Bible (NIV) has an annotation by "generation," which says that "generation" can be translated as "race." With that wording, to me, it becomes obvious that Jesus meant that the human race would not be extinct before He came back.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Fnord

      Wouldn't it be entire reasonable to assume that the perfect word of the perfect creator of the universe wouldn't be tricky to interpret in the first place? Shouldn't it be easily accessible to all- those without seminary or other "leaders" to help interpret it- and incredibly simple to understand, not to mention almost impossible to misinterpret or misunderstand? Instead, you have people quibbling about the meaning of certain words. That doesn't sound like a kicka$$ "salvation plan" to me.

      October 9, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  10. ness

    I care less about those over 21... how do their numbers compare with the numbers of the average teenager? Do they have a better teen pregnancy rate? Once the people are adults, who gives a crap?

    October 9, 2011 at 6:09 am |
  11. mike

    Funny how those hormones win out over religion every time. Seems like God gave us instincts and desires too powerful to control.

    October 9, 2011 at 5:49 am |
    • samsword

      I managed to wait till I was married... If you believe they are too powerful to control, then you're right. Belief can be a very powerful thing.

      October 9, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  12. Herf

    Yeah it's just a pledge to God that they're breaking. No big deal. And their reason for breaking it is very compelling. "Everyone else was doing it." So God won't care in that case. Hypocrites! LOL!

    October 9, 2011 at 4:50 am |
    • Rick

      Yep. Nothing so pretentious as someone speaking for "god"

      October 9, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  13. AdamsImage

    Christians have secularized. They want to enjoy what the world does, with just the decorations of Christianity. I'm in a struggle with that in the church I'm visiting, now. I'm trying to understand what they are thinking, but I've never been able to do that the last few decades at other places, so I don't know that I will do any better, now. What they say is that setting up moral standards is "Legalism." They come done pretty hard on that. Adultery and fornication? Not so much.

    I'm a 45 year-old virgin. I've never had an "official" girlfriend. I would have thought that the Christians, at least, would respect that. Nope.

    As a young man, I made it a point not to pay attention to a woman's body. My focus was always on her face. I apologized to a girl for holding her hand while we were roller skating (even though we held hands only to keep me from falling on my face). I was opposed to kissing outside of family. When I was in the Navy and saw that someone had put a poster of a nude woman on the wall, I tore it down. Another time, late and night, when I was extremely tired, I saw that someone had propped on a shelf in the bathroom a photo of a nude woman from a magazine. I mechanically took it to the trash and threw it away. As I walked back, it struck me that I had not felt any reaction at all to that image.

    Many factors might account for my being devout. I very much wanted to live a life that would be pleasing to God. I also come from a conservative and religious family, and I was emotionally close to my mother. And, I was semi-ascetic, anyway, practicing meditation to control every aspect of my body, even my heart rate, from my ability to concentrate (something I picked up from TV). I was always a bit different.

    Much has changed in my life in the last 25 years. I've actually, intentionally, looked at a naked woman. In fact, I even hired some women to model nude for me (I'm a photographer). I used to be terribly shy about exposing my body, always wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to hide my figure. A few years ago, though, I spent a wonderful day, naked and alone with 2 beautiful, naked women at a hot spring out in the middle of nowhere. I spent a day and a night at a nudist resort. It doesn't make any difference to me, anymore. I enjoy the sight of female beauty, but that's as far as that goes. I sure do get tired of listening to young people whining about how they can't wait. I'm thinking that if their life were on the line, they could wait.

    People don't wait because they don't want to wait. That's really all it amounts to. People do what they want.

    October 9, 2011 at 3:32 am |
    • bobjbob

      Buddy, that isn't waiting. Thats being gay, and being too afraid to admit it

      October 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • tyler durden

      two beautiful naked women? right. I hope one wasn't my canadian supermodel girlfriend....she's awesome. She exists...I swear.

      October 9, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  14. ChristIAN

    A Martian is one from Mars. A Christian is one from Christ. Christ's Words say "Adultery, FORNICATION, uncleanness, lasciviousness...those that do such things shall NOT inherit the Kingdom of God, Galatians 5:21 Just one of Christ's verses, and those that are CHRISTIANS DO

    October 8, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Sockpuppet

      you seem to have confused Paul with Jesus there ChristIAN.

      Maybe you should actually read the bible, and not just quote verses from an angry sunday school teacher. I'd recommend John 8...something Jesus actually said. Here is an excerpt:

      15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.

      October 8, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • onmyafricanjourney

      @SOCKPuppet: You are correct. Jesus said it Best!

      October 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Hey there!

      Religion is just plain silly! : )

      October 8, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  15. TheMostWise

    They aren't waiting because they are realizing that Christianity is a mythology that's not worth waiting for. Few believe its nonsense and even fewer are even willing to practice it......like the other 2999 gods they find to be quite silly.

    October 8, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • wasso

      And when your plane is in a nosedive I guess you say: God ? Bah humbug !!

      October 8, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • asrael

      Wasso: No, you say, "God, this may be your chance to prove yourself to me..."

      October 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • clab

      It seems a bit ridiculous to require your Creator to prove himself to you.

      October 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • TheMostWise

      When a plane is in a nosedive.....it would be quite natural to hope that the pilot is.."very experienced with nosedives"..........
      if she/he isn't experienced with nosedives......then it might be time to be hopeful that the coffin maker will offer the family a fair price for a modest wooden coffin.......and then....at least enjoy....the ride downward.

      October 9, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Rick

      cleb: no where as ridiculous as making the leap from a creator to a judge of human actions and thoughts

      October 9, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  16. montyross

    perhaps those that give in are not christian after all

    October 8, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • Inna

      I totally agree, how can they be christian knowing what they are doing is wrong. Something here doesn't add up.

      October 8, 2011 at 2:21 am |
    • OcRic2

      Who are you to say who is Christian or not! it is God who decides who is true christian. religion is not in your hand its in Gods hand. Jesus died for sins. now my daughter can do whatever she wants. She likes to follow Jesus and “do what feels good philosophy.”

      October 8, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • TASinIndiana

      I'm a Christian but do sin. Are you saying that we never do after converting? Of course, continuing in a sinful practice is something that needs to be addressed, but I don't think we can question the faith of others solely on their behavior.

      October 8, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Observer

      The Bible says that all you have to do to get everlasting life is to believe. That explains why so many Christians can ignor committing adultery by remarrying and yet hypocritically pick on gays.

      October 8, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • ramicio

      Religion is in humans' hands. People created religion. There is a big difference between following the Bible and what church teaches people.

      October 9, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  17. Chris Collino

    I think a well constructed qualitative study done with semi-structured interview questions of people who were abstinent until marriage and those who were not would reveal two things: One would be that the full abstinent young adults had parents that had good self-control and strong values (without being rigid or prudish) and the second would be that those that were abstinent had good supports and accountability to stay on track. I think you would also find that the abstinent participants in the study have better boundaries and the ability to say "No" to things that will harm them in the long run, like being an addict or co-addict, marrying a rage-a-holic, being a rage-a-holic, marrying a borderline personality disorder, having long term high levels of debt, poor boundaries with in-laws, etc.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Bullet

      I think rigid is a requirement of doing it, I dont think prudish means a hell of a lot.

      October 8, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  18. Mike

    Tell the boyfriend you want a ring on your finger before you do it. If he runs the other way waving his arms and screaming, well then, maybe you should wait for someone who is committed to more than a quick bang.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Rick

      And the bigger the ring, the better the payday.

      October 9, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  19. Apatheist

    I don't see what's wrong about banging your high school sweetheart. Have fun! Enjoy life! Why bother being abstinent? Worked well enough for me..

    October 7, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Middle of the road

      I agree. I could have saved myself a lot of grief and wasted years had I not listened blindly to the self righteous preachers & know-it-alls. I'm not saying to go out and do anything and everything, irresponsibly, but a middle of the road, level headed approach is probably what I would do if I had a second chance. And if I had a nice girlfriend and she was willing, then high school love would be a nice prelude to a satisfying mid-life. Middle of the road is the way I'd go.

      October 8, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      Middle of the Road: Youve got it right. Balance is the key to everything.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  20. bluemax77

    Let me guess, the end of the world is coming – Again..!!

    October 7, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
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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.