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. Scott

    Thats because waiting is ignorant and juvenile. Its a biological function, and done responsibly, completely harmless and totally fun.

    October 12, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Erik

      This may be news to you, but you are not just a body; you are a spirit.

      October 13, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • MarkinFL

      This may be news to you. There is zero evidence for a "spirit". Life is what you make of it, have fun before you're gone again. The highest attainable goal for a human should be to have fun while doing your best to help others enjoy life as well. That is one reason s.e.x is such a positive activity!

      October 13, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • charlie

      This may be news to you Erik,but chicks don't weeze on goobers like you

      October 13, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Shine

      Advocating 'fornication' ?The animal kingdom practices it.You sure will have pigs following you.

      October 13, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  2. JeremyJK

    "Second best is good in the meantime." Ho Ho Ho, so funny. Until the other partner gets bored with you and considers you secon best. Then it won't be so funny will it. No you will go to a pastor or a counselor or psychologist to pick up the pieces of the mess you guys made. I see it over, and over, and over again.

    October 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Scott - 1

      And if they had gotten married you would need to add 2 divorce lawyers to the list of support personnel

      October 13, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • myweightinwords

      I have never needed a counselor after I stopped having intimate relations with someone.

      I can't imagine why one would, unless the partner was abusive in some way. Even if you regret it later, nothing is going to change the past, own it, and move on. Wallowing in self pity over past actions doesn't help anything. Guilt for past actions is crippling and stupid and brought on by others judging you, making you judge yourself.

      Free yourself of the guilt. Accept that you're human. Stop regretting the past. Learn from it and move forward.

      October 13, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  3. Wait

    In our church youth group, most young people have already taken the wow to remain celibate until marriage. Our Youth pastor encourages us and supports us with spiritual guidance and support when needed.

    Some people in our group also mentioned that they rely on their parents/grand parents for spiritual counselling.

    Above all we uphold each other in prayers to live a life that reflects his glory!

    To all you Christians you are waiting , when in doubt don't hesitate to reach out to a spritual coach either at home or in church who upholds 'Abstinence'

    October 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Douglas

      Keep up the good work!
      Best, Douglas

      October 13, 2011 at 1:27 am |
    • Scott - 1

      Another graduate of the Bristol Palin abstinence only birth control club.

      October 13, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Scott - 1

      Is this vow public so the group can apply pressure to those who don’t take it, or do you play fair?

      October 13, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  4. Telia

    The article misses the point: people should marry earlier. Christian people especially. There is no reason aside from money, careerism, and fear of commitment that a person waits until 30 or 40 to get married. Our parents and grandparents married younger and most stayed married and had happy lives together until death. They also had more children. Today, couples are waiting to marry until late in life and then find it's difficult to conceive. A woman hits her peak fertility in her late 20's. God clearly designed us to make the commitment sooner. But that would require our young people to grow up, and not revel in delayed adolescence.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • JP

      What a small-minded way to look at things. How about the fact that we don't even know who we are until our late 20's anyways? The person you are when you are 18 is not the person you are at 40, or even 30. If you get married young, you take the risk of having the realtionship fail simply because you develop into a different person – one that wants different things in life. I've seen a lot of marriages fail, and this is the single largest reason.

      There's absolutely nothing wrong with waiting until you are comfortable with your self and career to get married.

      Oh, the reason your grandparents "stayed together" wasn't because they got married young. It's because divorce was frowned upon in the past – if it was available at all. Wake up.

      October 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Reveling in delayed adolescence! What wonderful memories you stir up... I married at age 32 and am still quite happily married 16 year later. I am not pining for my youth as so many do at my age as I had a very full and adventurous life prior to marriage leaving me quite content to continue with a more stable and "safe" life in which to raise children.

      October 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Over It


      We have *enough* people on Earth already. If you are breeding to propagate and indoctrinate new members for your religion, you are causing harm to the planet.

      October 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Natalie

      You're just so stupid, it's unbelievable.

      October 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Over It

      Natalie, Yes, stupid... and she's undoubtedly breeding more stupids. "Idiocracy" here we come! *sigh*

      October 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • J.W

      Maybe some people haven't found the right person yet. Why be miserable with the wrong person when you can wait and find the right person?

      October 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Xerxes

      Yes, people used to marry earlier. Of course, they didn't live nearly as long, and it wasn't unusual for families to have 8 children - but only a few survive to adulthood. But, if you want people to marry younger, are you proposing marriage at 13?

      October 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • MAT

      You're not alone in your views. I'm sorry that some of your detractors are unwilling to accept other viewpoints as having any validity. Most of what I've read suggests that there is no noticeable benefit to a later marriage as opposed to an earlier one. In fact, waiting to "find out who you are" often makes an individual more rigid and unwilling to adapt to the needs and expectations of their new spouse–causing greater marital conflict. If you want to find out who you are, who better than the one who knows you best to help you along the way?
      -MAT - Still waiting

      October 12, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Scott - 1

      “money, careerism, and fear of commitment” seem like pretty good reasons to hold off, to me. Why would you want to jump into poverty, dead end job and commitment to the wrong person?

      October 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  5. dosa

    unfortunately this reflects exactly the state of the u.s. i believe if these christians fall then the cornerstone of american christian belief is crumbling. it is a very sad state indeed. after all they have given the christian world a lot .. christianity will not be as it is if it was not for what america stood for and did. sadly not anymore.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Pasta

      Yep, once a person no longer can hold to the standards of how God wants one to treat their bodies, then the intrinsic value is lost, there are consequences one might face.

      It is better to be safe and wait than be sorry.satan is a deciever.

      Abstinence until marriage is the way to go!

      October 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      "christianity will not be as it is if it was not for what america stood for and did."

      Excuse me? Are you using the future imperfect neglected past participle in the present or past tense?

      Is this was what will happen the past or what has already happened in the future? I'm sorry but I never got the hang of time traveler grammar rules.

      October 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Vulture culture

      It is also good to point out another plague-the dreaded 'D' in marriage, what is commonly referred to as 'Divorce' ie., Death of marriage.

      I think Christians ought to seriously attack this plague that is impacting millions of homes and the lives of children.
      Bring back that 'Till death do us part" back into the wedding wows and live it out!

      Sorry Mr Robertson, death does not mean 'alzheimers'

      October 12, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Scott - 1

      "I'd rather laugh with the sinners then cry with the saints"

      October 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  6. JeremyJK

    You know Christians have usually felt like the minority and the pressure of the masses arguing against the wisdom of scripture does make it hard because we want to be like eveyone else and feel accepted. But the truth of the matter is is that if you know what God expects of us the rest of the voices should become rather mute to us. God has established a healthy Christian ethic for us so that we can live guilt-free lifes and be free from the foolishness of what the world tells us to do. All these people who want to say...drive the car before you buy it...illustrate their lack of value for themselves and for others. If all people are is an object for my pleasure in bed, what love is that? Thats not the world the Lord wants for us. There is something amazing about sharing one thing that you will never share with anyone else as long as you live...that deep intimacy. To the world it is usually just physical. If thats what they think it is, well then they have never made love to another person.

    October 12, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Scrolls

      Agreed 100%

      October 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Disagree 100%. How's that?

      Se.x with someone you truly love is the best. But until then 2nd best will do just fine.

      October 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      " Christians have usually felt like the minority "
      How can a group that makes up 85% of the American population be a minority?

      October 13, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Rick

      Doc: It is because their paranoia makes them feel like the only moral people out there. They adopt a bunker mentality. It is most amusing when they condemn other Christians for "false" teachings. In all, they are sort of like geeks at the circus, biting the heads off chickens

      October 13, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Rick

      Allows you to lead guilt free lives? Are you kididng? If it weren't for pushing this supposed guilt on people (for which Jesus is sold as the cure), Christianity would largely be dead in the water. Come on now, Jesus died for YOUR sins, even before you were born. How is that NOT guilt?

      October 13, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • True

      True, it serves as a protection too from those who have VD. People will never admit that God truly knows what is best for us.

      October 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  7. Zoe

    I am so encouraged to hear so many Christians respond to this article. When I read the article, I really felt disheartened because it seemed as if the cause is lost for us Christians. it is very very hard to wait and lately I was debating with myself which path to take. Thanks to all you Christians for raising the banner and encouraging me to not give up. We need to help each other and encourage each other because there is a really heavy onslaught on us lately. It is tough to be a Christian in this society but I guess at the end of the day we need to have a backbone of steel. We need to stand our ground. Onward Christian Soldiers. :0)

    October 12, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Its just hormones. Nothing has changed. This is not new behavior.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • J.W

      I don't think I have had too hard of a time being a Christian. Just don't waver in your faith and always do what you think is right.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Scrolls

      Zoe, Keep on Keeping on! being a follower of Christ and following the word of the God is very tough and challenging amidst all the temptations.

      Onward Christian soldiers indeed!(At war with the powers and principalties of sins that surround us)

      October 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Loins thus girded with steel she steps gamely into the fray! (vast crowd cheers in the background)....

      ummm, its just se.x you know..... Not a battle....

      October 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  8. Mike

    Because, you have to know what you're getting before you take it home... You wouldn't buy a car without test driving it.... Would you ?

    October 12, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • mixed up

      Sorry to break your bubble but there is a certain wisdom in choosing your life partner, and it is not about testing their prowess in bed.

      October 12, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • JeremyJK

      Wow Mike thats deep...a car huh? What wisdom.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  9. Cullen

    What I don't get is why do so many Christians (and I am a Christian) focus on one sin (lust) while totally ignoring other sins such as pride, greed, lying, hatred, gluttony, sloth, etc.
    Being celebate until you marry doesn't guarantee you a golden ticket to heaven.

    Plus, there is a myth that from the time of Christ up until the modern era, Christians were mostly chaste and virginal until the wedding night. People should educate themselves on history. People today are no different than people 1,000 years ago.

    October 12, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Choices

      The question this article raises is a very valid one, it is about 'lust' which is a very pertinent sin whose effects are manifold in society.(divorce, std,abortion,commitment and so on...)

      Are young Christians waiting in consumating their relationship at their wedding? If the answer is 'No' then that answers how a Christian that does not have self control and discipline can expect to lead a life pleasing unto the Lord.

      October 12, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • JeremyJK

      Being a Christian Cullen isn't just about getting a ticket to heaven. Being a Christian is about being transformed by the power of Christ so that we don't act like the world. We are to change the world by our ethics. God is concerned about you in this life in the here and now...not just if you get to heaven.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I've noticed how proud some Christians act just because they are waiting. Trading one sin for another.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • reader

      It's not about "ignoring" the other sins, It's about working on those that are more easy to work on.

      October 12, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Is there a sin ranking? This way we can focus on them in the correct order.

      October 13, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  10. Helen

    In reply to bish0212: My prayer for you both is to find the grace from above sufficient to see you through challenges, to keep your hearts, minds and bodies pure in love and consideration for each other. Love is patience, love is pure and love is unselfish honoring and respecting one another.

    To the gentleman who suggested that evangelicals should keep their faith under their hats, certainly you have not read the Bible. It is the duty of every Christian to share the Word of God and Christ's saving grace. This is the commandment given by the Lord Jesus " go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved but he who does not believe will be condemned" Mark 16:15-16. Why so? Because when the Day of Jugdement comes, no one can plead ignorance that he/she has not heard of Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation.

    It is not difficult to understand or accept that science can coexist with Bible truths. Science after all is the discovery of divine disclosure. We, human beings can only see in parts, understand in parts and prophesy in parts.

    Conversion is on a willing Giver and willing receiver basis. Christians cannot convert anyone

    October 12, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • Joel

      there is nothing compare to the ways of God. it is so complete. it will be an awe when those of us that uses our human thinking capacity (not up to 60%) to analyze God's way realize how short our views are. God's way is unthinkable; that makes Him who He is- honouring His Word above His name. you (Helen) talk like someone who is making hell leaner.

      October 13, 2011 at 4:08 am |
  11. Samsword

    You know I'd like to hear some of the girl's point of view on this. So far, it seems the people who are saying "yeah let's do it" are all guys. I think a lot of girls get pressured into doing it for the bf's sake, which is just mean on the bf's side of things. You get a couple of minutes of pleasure, at the expense of girl's feeling guilty. Further more, according to statistics, girls don't even get the satisfaction most of the time, and THEY'RE the ones who have to worry about pregnancy... So, while it's easy for guys to say "go for it," they also don't have to deal with most of the problems.

    October 11, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Cindy

      I'm a woman who waited until marriage. You know what? I got married by age 30! Mission accomplished! I really really wanted to be married by 30. Waiting got me there. I was able to weed out the fakes. I know of very many many women over 30 who did not wait and guess what? They are not married. My result speaks for itself. I know some will say my strategy is nonsense. But you can't argue with the result. Ladies, if waiting is your strategy to getting a husband, let me tell you, it works! It worked for me!

      October 12, 2011 at 6:29 am |
    • Rick

      Absolutely, Cindy, no better way to get a ring than to sell your virginity

      October 12, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Cindy, a statistic of one has no bearing on the population at large.
      Your mileage may vary.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Samsword

      @Markin To be fair, I asked what the girls' opinion was, and Cindy replied. So while she's a "one person statistic" her answer still holds more weight.

      October 13, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Britney


      October 13, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • myweightinwords

      For what it's worth, I waited until I was 28, but I wasn't married. My beliefs had changed, I knew I was never going to get married, and so I figured I would go ahead and do the deed.

      What I discovered is that I wished I had done it earlier. Now it's 15 years later, still not married and I've had several partners since. No regrets, aside from the wasted years when I could have been enjoying it and didn't out of some fear based in beliefs I no longer hold.

      October 13, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  12. carlos cordero

    Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it, lets do it, lets fall in love.

    October 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • mixed up

      Methinks 'doing it' comes after Marriage.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • tallulah13

      Methinks you are ignoring the reality of the situation.

      October 12, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  13. carlos cordero

    And that's why birds do it, bees do it
    Even educated fleas do it
    Let's do it, let's fall in love

    October 11, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  14. Matthew

    Some find it "difficult" to wait, and find other ways of showing affection. Much of it is hormones, and that feeling of being in love. You want to express it.

    The key is this ... don't do anything that you wouldn't want Jesus to see. Or how about your ancestors? For all you know, they could be allowed to watch over you. And don't set a pattern that will harm you for the rest of your life.

    My wife and I opened our "present" on Christmas Eve... and I don't feel a bit guilty. Had it been a girlfriend, though, I'd be an adulterer to be with my wife, today.

    October 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Rick

      "The key is this ... don't do anything that you wouldn't want Jesus to see."

      You want Jesus to see you doing it with your wife?

      October 11, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • L

      @ Rick – Something for you to ponder: It doesn't matter if you want Jesus to see everything you and your spouse are doing – it's not up to you. Jesus DOES see everything you do, no matter what you are doing or where you are!

      October 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      And with equal certainty...

      So does Santa Claus!

      October 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Rick

      L: That is an awfully big claim.

      October 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  15. Steve K.

    This article is not giving the full story. I know plenty of young Christians who waited. I saved myself for marriage. I did not find it hard to do. It was my plan all along. For those that say I am nuts for waiting, to them I say, "no, you are nuts for not waiting." The decision to wait had nothing to do with my faith. Different ways for different people. It's like a career. Different people choose different careers based on their own personality. Just be true to yourself. Stick to your values.

    October 11, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • berman

      How old were you when you got married?

      October 11, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Michael Jr.

      I too am a dude who waited. Glad I did. It is better that way.

      October 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  16. sago

    I never understand these folks who say "we waited and it was worth it"...

    My wife and I had great s e x for years before we got married. We came into the relationship having worked up some good skills on previous partners. We ignited the bedroom from day one and continue to keep it hot to this day. We've been married for 15 years, have a great family, and absolutely no regrets. Abstinence isn't 'worth it', its just a total waste of years.

    If you have that much of a problem with your future spouse having had previous partners, then I'd say you've got serious control and emotional maturity issues.

    October 11, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Samsword

      Well I'm glad you found each other... and that it worked out for you. But not everyone shares your ideals. "Values" are a very emotionally charged subject... so people should do what THEY feel right... not what YOU feel is right for them. That doesn't make them "broken" because they see things differently...

      October 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Scott - 1

      Same story for me and my wife

      October 13, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  17. Boniface

    Its hard to wait

    October 11, 2011 at 6:28 am |
    • Christian

      It can be hard to wait; however, it is worth it. I am a man who got married at 24 - my wife and I both waited (even though we'd dated for 4 years). It's not about skills in the bedroom or other nonsense that is shoved down our throats in pop culture - it is about love for God and our spouse. I also think part of the problem stems from watering down of the commandments - I know too many Christians who have ecclesiastical leaders that just let it go. I marvel at some of my single Christian friends who are out screwing Friday and Saturday and acting like they care about God's word on Sunday. It's called hypocrisy. If you don't think that is a problem, see what Jesus had to say about hypocrites (I acknowledge that we are all hypocrites to a point but we can at least try to avoid hypocrisy, right?). Remember, "If you love me, keep my commandments."

      October 11, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  18. REhab is for quitters

    As the end nears............many will take the broad path which leads to destruction while only a few will take the narrow road. In Revelations, many will say lord lord!, didnt we do this and say this *Things which cant be known unless time is spent in church*...............many christians will go to HELL. STand firm those who know the straight and narrow...stand firm until the end!!

    October 11, 2011 at 5:07 am |
  19. Zakria Samuel

    last days – like the days of Noah – sin abounding
    also first time in history USA presbyterian church ordains an openly gay minister.. WHAT???

    October 11, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • Phyl

      I agree with this...Satan is out to get all that will follow him....and a gay preacher...get real....Wake up folks...God is on HIS way !!!

      October 11, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Rick

      Ooooh, Satan is controlling us....golly gee, someone call Jeebus

      October 11, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Madtown

      first time in history USA presbyterian church ordains an openly gay minister.. WHAT???
      So true, so disturbing. They should stick with only ordaining closed minded bigots, such as yourself.

      October 11, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • tallulah13

      Are you sure it isn't Odin making a comeback? Maybe it's Zeus, tired of being called a myth. He was a pretty hedonistic character. I bet it's Zeus collecting followers, not Satan.

      October 11, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  20. johndoe


    October 11, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • Shaju

      Hey nice. I don't mind seeing stuff like this one bit Nice chnage actually. I love all the lines and textures, especially the one curved line wrapping around the center.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • lhivickxuyq

      SMelJk eovestrontso

      October 8, 2012 at 4:21 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.