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. Cythara

    What happens if they get raptured with their knickers down?

    October 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • steve

      One of my favorite positions!

      October 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  2. Tom

    IMHO...the good lord made it feel so freakin' good...so we'd do it more, right?? We're the idiots who put dogma and rules and laws ad nauseum in effect, cuz we just haven't figured out how to control our OWN hedonistic selves...let alone the thoughts and actions of others...SOOO, we set up these fairy tales to keep (good) folks (good)...Oy Vey. Looks like a kind of archaic version of 'crowd control', in that we wouldn't cerate so many offspring, who in turn will need...food, water, ...'stuff'. Just like the Jewish orthodoxy and other Semitic tribal 'rules' forbade the consumption of pork...why?? Probably 'cause it killed a bunch of folks from trichinosis...and the myths that follow were written in the language and comprehension of the time...D'oh!!!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  3. Andy

    So according to this article, the survey just let people self identify. Do you know how many people of all age groups claim to be a Christian yet know nothing about their faith nor do they follow "the rules" so to speak? They're a Christian in name only..

    October 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  4. Mike

    It doesn't surprise me that this is a surprise to the conservative Christian crowd. Biology is tough to beat, even when it's in your best interest. That shouldn't surprise anyone over the age of 12, and if it does, it suggests you're a person who chooses to deny the obvious if you find it uncomfortable.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Byrd

    Catholic girls, with their tiny little mustache, have known about this stuff for years. Thank goodness.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Tom

      Love me some Zappa quotes...and so d@mned appropriate!!

      October 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  6. OregonTom

    I'm glad choices such as this are still free to make in the United States. If evangelicals have their way they will probably try to bring back all the crazy morality laws.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  7. Thatguy371

    Boinking is good. It makes a couple grow closer. Nothing wrong with that. End of story. NEXT!

    October 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  8. Ahha!

    I'm wrong, you're right!
    The effort it takes to respect someone enough to engage in finding a solution is exhausting.
    We're all ridiculously pathetic and ridiculously glorious.
    I like who I think God is. Pretty amazing if it's true.
    I like what logicians had to say...they definitely are 'smart'.
    But I also admire the fervor of the some of the 'crazy christians'.
    And the practicalness of the people discussing the topic of course.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  9. Roger

    So what should a Christian parent or youth pastor do? Parent: Live the gospel of Jesus Christ seven days a week. Let your children know about your mistakes and regrets and lead them to the rock that is higher than yourself Jesus Christ. Pastor: Preach the word of God. How do they convince more young Christians to wait until marriage, or should they stop even trying? The responsibility of convincing belongs to the Holy Spirit, we must continue to preach the entire scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to give power and direction in their lives.


    October 16, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  10. Nick Naranja

    If you have lusted you have committed adultery. If we start comparing sins we forget that any infraction of the law is a total infraction, you either pass or fail. We are saved by grace, not by works. Life is a purification process

    October 16, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  11. Hysterical

    This is the most bizarre comment thread I've ever read. This is the reason we're in this mess. Everyone thinks their God is better than someone else and they really think what they do in the name of God is going to matter. You do realize that when you die all that happens to you is you go in the ground. Thanks for coming out.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Igakusei

      Doing what 'God' tells you to do is easier than thinking for yourself.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  12. rita

    the bible has been interpreted in so many different ways- twist it however you like

    October 16, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • Mei

      True that the Protestant Reformation created thousands of 'self professed" leaders to create their own interpretations of Scripture, however, MOST Christian denominations recognize s..x before marriage as a sin (it is listed as fornication in the Bible and is mentioned quite a lot as a grave sin). Sadly, the reason why young Christians are not waiting til marriage is due to lack of practice of the Faith, poor examples (given by their own parents, peers and media) and lack of overall morality and virtue instilled in society. Christians who are having s..x before marriage are NOT practicing their faith. They need to return to the Faith, period.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Sandy Toes

      S..x? You gotta be kidding, you won't even spell the word out???? That's sad.......

      October 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  13. zizo

    All adent christians know what happened in Sodom where Noah and his family where the only ones left following God's commandments in a city. It is not about how many but it is about what is the truth. I say unto you all the bible says thje road to salvatio is a narrow one and henceforth difficult to navigate hence like abstinence.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • awaysaway

      And I say unto you... really? That is how you speak?
      And you threaten an old testament apocalypse (like it was real – come on!) for all those who think differently than you (very christian I am sure.) Religious people really come across as complete nutters at times.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Mark

      Noah? Really... are you sure you're not confusing a story about the arc and one about a man named Lot? It's nice to see an evangelical that doesn't even know basic Bible fairytales.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Biblereader

      Dude go back and read your Bible...Sodom was in the time of Abraham not Noah. Comments like this reduce the credibility of anything else you say

      October 16, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  14. NIA

    Im a 21 year old young woman! I have fallen when I relied on my my own strength. Apart from the grace and mercy of Christ Jesus, we are bound to fall. I say let Biblical truths arise and being to strengthen this generation! His blood is strong enough to overcome all strongholds and the onslaughts of the enemy!

    Don't fall subject to such a lie, it is not justifiable to abuse your freedom in Christ. READ it James 4:1-6, Romans 8:5. Romans 12:1-2 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your REASONABLE service."

    I know I am a youngster, but Parents you have been chosen to be a good steward of your children, that really belong to the Lord anyway. Continue to share the truths of scripture, keep trying, remind them of who they are as they stand in the redemption of Christ. Don't stop even If you become weary and feel like it is pointless, thats why Jesus says , "come unto to Me"! Let Christ renew your strength as a Parent. You follow through with your part, and the Spirit will take care of His part. Glory!

    Lets destroy these strongholds that are coming against the future generations of believers. What kind of warrior would you be if you gave up! DON'T GIVE UP! CHRIST JESUS IS OUR STRENGTH.

    note: I am now abstinent, I am in love with Jesus, and delight myself in Him and Him alone. I choose by the strength of Christ and the Helper, Holy Spirit to be faithful to my Lord.

    TAKE COURAGE Brothers and Sisters.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:45 am |
    • Wow

      You are full of crap

      October 16, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • vbd

      Wow, looks like the hook is set pretty deep.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • A


      October 16, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • godlesskate

      you should read the comparisons to battered wife syndrom and your relationship to your Jesus. It's strikingly the same.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Mark

      Nia – your testimony is beautiful. People "of the world" will never understand the beauty of which you speak, and it is their great folly to criticize you for attaining a standard which they cannot.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Jane

      Hi NIA!!! THANK YOU!!! :). I agree. May He Bless you and keep you and may yo be His bright shining light in this dark generation and may you never compromise with His TRUTH!

      October 16, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Jane

      You know what guys. I agree we are crazy for Jesus! Because once you taste something so beautiful and so amazing you do not want anything else!!! Purity is so much more addicting than sin. Sin leaves us empty to want more which leads to more despair. However God said if we delight in Him He gives us the desires of our heart. Those who wait and choose to follow the Lord in the midst of radicule are rewarded! I live to please Him and He loves me and I love Him and that is the only thing that matters!

      October 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Jane

      10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

      October 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  15. Marvin

    People can call themselves Christians all they like,

    but in the end, its your a c t i o n s that show who you really are and there is nothing nobody can say to refute that.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Matt

      Marvin what you're saying about holiness, in other words, following what is laid out for us in the bible is definitely important. And I do agree that if you are truly a Christian then you won't willfully, habitually sin, but I just want to clarify what you're saying about grace. The fact is that we all sin, even if you're not aware of it. The best of all of our righteous actions are nothing but filthy rags to God. We need God's grace and Jesus' sacrifice to be accepted by God. So while yeah I do feel that Christians should wait till marriage, it's OK if they slip up.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  16. Marvin


    Would Jesus give grace? Did he give grace to the Pharisees? What about those who sold within the temple? Did he give grace for those who were "claiming" to be be "jews?" Keep in mind those he DIDN'T give grace to were -supposed- to be practicing Jews.

    Jesus gave grace to those who -werent- practicing jews and encouraged them to change.

    If you don't wait, then your not a Christian sorry. You can call yourself that if you want, but as Jesus said, not everybody who calls him will get through the narrow door.

    Everybody sins. That is correct, but when you keep repeating the sin over and over and over again, its no longer an oops moment, its a habit.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Jen

      Do not judge lest you be judged. I am sorry for the way you feel that way. My God is bigger than your judgement and he forgives every sin. To those who do not believe in God know that Marvin's judgements are not represented by all Christians. That doesn't stop me from respecting that Marvin has a right to his views.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  17. Jen

    As one who fits into this statistic of being a christian and not waiting, let me enlighten you. There are so many things I wished I had known. I wish I had known that the cookie cutter answer of waiting til marriage actually had some relevance in this current age. The theory of contracts and purity rings working is based on the fact that the child fully understands what they are signing up for. True love does wait, but true love doesn't pressure others too. I believe that it really all comes down to communication. I am raising teenagers now and I tell them all the time that when you make choices you need to be prepared for the consequences. I want my kids to know that who ever they are dating is potentially someone else's spouse. That they need to respect that future union. We as christian parents need to engage in conversations far before the teenage years to help our children make good decisions. We need to trust our kids to make God honoring choices. And we need to give grace when they choose differently.

    October 15, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  18. True Love

    True love waits indeed!

    October 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Rick

      Until you meet your love, you cannot love him or her. Therefore at that point you are waiting for what may not come

      October 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  19. Briana

    I don't understand why people think it's so weird to wait until marriage. I for one feel that the bond grows stronger if you only have one partner your whole life. I get teased because I haven't lost "it" yet, but I'm not ashamed. I just say to them that I'm going to wait until I'm married to the one I love, not lose it to a boyfriend I'm gonna be with probably only for a couple of months. Also, true Christians can wait IMO.

    October 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  20. Jason

    What exactly did Jesus say about waiting... nothing?

    October 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • sky

      What do you think he meant when he told his followers,

      Ye ought to the salt of this earth and the light of this world?

      The Bible say 'do no fornicate'

      October 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Radu

      Read the Bible man..........He did say to wait..

      October 16, 2011 at 7:30 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.