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. Chris

    "Look at our own country's wars (e.g. Revolutionary War was about taxes, Civil War was about slavery, WW II was about fascism, Vietnam War was about communism, etc.)" -DC

    The Civil War was not about slavery. It was about states rights. Read a history book.

    October 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • John

      A state's right to do what?

      October 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Lucy

      I'll answer that question, John. A state's right to..oh wait for it...OWN SLAVES! Wow, looks like the Civil War was about slavery after all.

      October 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Vivi

      I LIKE LUCY!!!

      October 26, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Cristin

      Actually Lucy the Civil War was not completely about slavery. Abraham Lincoln actually said the south could continue to have slaves as long as they did not leave the union. He wrote the emancipation proclomation after the south turned to Britain and France for help, which they never got because Lincoln made the war about human rights.

      October 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Ian

      There was an interesting article in Time magazine how, for whatever reason people try to say that The Civil War was not about Slavery. Make no mistake, it was the beginning, middle, and end reason for the war.

      October 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  2. what really matters

    Know the Bible and read it together, but "knowing each other" the biblical way before marriage? Don't think the Bible advocates that.

    Your body is a temple of the living God, treat it that way!

    October 26, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Rick

      interesting to turn on the TV and watch jimmy swaggart's F(amily) W(orship) C(enter) show. Got lots of singing. The camera shows the singer and pans the audience. Obesity rules. Apparently, some feel that the "temple" schtick does not apply to their health. Or, like other churches, they are constantly expanding

      October 26, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  3. Glades2

    My nieces and nephews, though active Christians, have also lived with their boyfriends or girlfriends before marriage, and as their Uncle it's very disappointing that they have compromised their faith – whether they accept it or not, that compromise is unacceptable to God, and in doing so they are risking judgement. My late sister, their mother, was often helpless in trying to stop their behavior, and while they are decent young adults, they've fallen into their generation's way of thinking that everything is acceptable because that's the only thing they know, and even though they are believers apparently their faith isn't strong enough to make them realize that their behavior is placing them in spiritual danger. Rachel Scott (Columbine Christian martyr) realized this and left the boyfriend she loved, because as her parents later said Rachel realized her passion for her boyfriend was standing between her personal relationship with Jesus Christ – she was the example of a true Christian, and as in the case of other true Christians, she paid for her faith with her life, because of her love of God...

    October 26, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Alex

      You should read the book Columbine and research the actual events of that day. Most of the martyrdom stories are untrue.

      October 26, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Rick

      "...as their Uncle it's very disappointing that they have compromised their faith – whether they accept it or not"

      If they don't accept it, it is not THEIR faith, it is someone else's

      October 26, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Rick

      Glades: How did Rachel being shot make her a martyr? Did her death stop others from dying that day?

      October 26, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Kristin

      WHo are you to judge anyone?

      October 26, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Hmmm

      And you have set yourself up as their judge apparently. Aren't you worried about that? Is this your place? How big is the log in your own eye? The good Samaritan didn't follow your rules but was favored. Are you thankful to God that you are not as bad as your neices and nephews (and the tax collector)? What do you think these parables were about?

      October 26, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  4. brooksjk

    Each epoch has found in the Gospels what it sought to find there, and has overlooked what it wished to overlook. - Ludwig von Mises
    “One has to wonder, how many people, self-proclaimed Christians, many of whom we see in church with us every week, never really even made a conscious choice to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. How many people inherited their faith, have maintained it, and adhere to it publicly, but have never actually asked Jesus to be lord of their lives? How many of us are unwittingly destined to hear Christ tell us, “I never knew you; depart from Me.”
    My new book, The Four Pillars of the Kingdom, is set to be released in a week. It is, not only a response to some of the metaphysical arguments of the so-called New Atheists, but also a call to believers to take their faith serious in a very real way. You can find a few excerpts from the work and the cover art on my website, The Immaculate Conservative:


    Please read and let me know what you think!

    Joe Brooks

    October 26, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  5. DC

    As someone who is no longer religious but still tolerant of religion, I find it a bit pathetic that so many on here go out of their way to bash other people's faith. First, if you're going to say religion is the primary cause of wars, you're an idiot. Look at our own country's wars (e.g. Revolutionary War was about taxes, Civil War was about slavery, WW II was about fascism, Vietnam War was about communism, etc.) None of these wars were religious crusades. Also, religious people like MLK Jr., Mother Teresa, and the Dali Lama have done far more to help humanity then any cynical, atheist, posting on a CNN blog, period.

    October 26, 2011 at 3:05 am |
  6. Steve

    Here's the deal. There is no God. I firmly believe that. Also, religion is dangerous. Morals are not created by someone or thing that does not exist. Or a group (sect, cult, religion). It comes from being a good person who cares and respects others and themselves. Am I perfect? Nope..but am I a good person? Absolutely.

    October 26, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • DC

      What do you know of God's existence? Did you create the universe? No, you are a mere mortal like the rest of us, so don't talk like you're omniscient, because you are NOT. The only people that know for sure are dead and they aren't talking.

      October 26, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • Rick

      DC: Do you see "creator" and "God" as synonymous? If so, why?

      October 26, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Rick

      DC: Don't theists imply omniscience by claiming to know what "god" wants?

      October 26, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • RBP

      Rick: That is a great question but my rebuttal is simple. Christians should not claim omniscience. One great quality of Christianity is the constant growth in their life through Christ. If we were all knowing (omniscient) what would the point in having faith in a higher being? The Gospels, who wrote the New Testament, were a group of men that had direct contact with Jesus; I would think they had a pretty good understanding of what God wanted for his people.

      October 26, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • StMikeFan2011

      Steve, Im sure you are a good person. I also bet you are a smart person. I held your beliefs at one time in my life. Now I am completely convinced of the existence of God. I will pray that God will give you a sign that he is real.

      October 26, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Rick

      RBP: Even if the authors knew Jesus, to assume that there has been no editing along the way strikes me as absurd.

      October 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Rick

      RBP: I see lots of Christians on the forums saying they know what god likes or does not like. It seems to me that they are attributing the words of bronze age man to god.

      October 26, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  7. John-Paul


    October 26, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  8. TheMostWise

    Young christians aren't waiting any more because they realize that the belief system they were indoctrinated with from birth is nothing more than mythology as is the phony morals espoused by its doctrines.

    October 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • DC

      What's your doctrine, bashing other people's doctrines? Stay classy, pal.

      October 26, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • Kristin

      And it feels good

      October 26, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  9. Laura

    I honest to god waited until I was 43 due to my religion. It wasn't that difficult because I really thought I was going to get married someday. I never did marry and I'm now 52. I've had a boyfriend, for lack of a better word for someone in my age group, for several years now. I would recommend to young people that they wait but after a certain age, I wonder if it really matters. That's why I finally no longer waited. I thought, "What possible difference can it make at 43!?"

    October 25, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • waited

      I waited longer than some, but not as long as you. I find it sort of arbitrary at some point.

      October 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Italian Catholic Girl

      Laura...I am doing the "I am not worthy" bow at you! You are awesome! I waited until I was married, but I was 19. My son is 19 now and his girlfriend and him are both waiting (so they tell me). I will show them your post!

      October 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • ChuckNY

      Now, how come, regardless of the name, or any mention of "boyfriend" etc., I would have known instantly this was from a woman? 'coz it's easy for a woman to wait... they don't have the same needs. I guess there are more female saints than male.

      October 26, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  10. Just a person

    In the early church days a religious wedding was not held until a couple was in a civil union for more than year. The problem now is that people are terrified of marriage based on huge divorce rates that carry both an emotional and economic cost.

    October 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  11. dinglehopper

    waiting is for sissies. i hope you have an awesome 30 seconds on your wedding night.

    October 25, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • as in

      lusting is for hussies

      October 25, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Observer

      as in,

      Get serious. Tell us you have NEVER lusted for anyone. LOL.

      October 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • can

      The devil is a sly old fox,
      if I could catch him and put him in a box,
      lock the door and......

      October 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  12. AllenS

    Adultery: (Noun) – "Voluntarily cheating on or breaking the vows of your married spouse"

    That's it. *That's* the sin. And don't give me that "Sin of the Heart" line, because you know what? It's not true. If it is? Then we're all just as guilty as "Gluttony of the stomach" or "Sloth of the lower back" about a dozen times a day. So you might as well enjoy your life, or go excerise, eating bread loves alone for the rest of your life.

    October 25, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • jamathes

      What about Matthew 5:28? Was Jesus just kidding?

      October 25, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • nonbeliever


      No, it's called interpretation issues. Adultery was probably the only English word that made sense coming from Greek, and in the end, it still doesn't make sense.

      November 20, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  13. bob

    The answer is simple: By and large these so called Christians are not Christians

    October 24, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      No True Scotsman


      October 24, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • TCVAN

      Gread Bob, you'll do wonders for the unsaved with judgemental quotes like that.

      October 24, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • djslinkk

      Bob, you are a moron. Perhaps you should read your own bible.

      October 25, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • waited

      Bob has it right.

      October 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • waited

      oh... but not for the reasons he seems to think.

      October 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Rev Daryl

      the most sensible and truthful of all these statements. This world is so lost and for the most part are in total darkness. The bible is fulfilling right before our very eyes every day. This worlds concept of what a true born again believer is totally forsaken and forgotten.

      October 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • tirvin

      I am a Christian and I did not wait and I am not waiting. I waited until I am now 20 years old and have found the girl I am going to marry, we have vowed to be married. I am not committing adultery by sleeping with my future wife. We are too young to be married, we live a long distance relationship, in college, no money, its improbable and impossible.

      So to say I'm not a Christian is ridiculous.

      October 25, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  14. stephen foreman

    Please Obey The Book Called The Acts Of The Acts The Apostles,Chapter Two Verses Thirty Eight,And Thirty Nine. The First Half Is Talking about the Isaraelites=Jews,And afterwards All Of us Who Are Not Born In The Nation Of Israel!!!!!!!

    October 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Rick

      why should anyone care?

      October 25, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Just a person

      No thanks I have my own mind.

      October 25, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  15. 2 Pc

    Hey, word to the wise: Love your zeal for God but when making your point, just quote the Bible, don't try and write a new one!

    October 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • 2 Pc

      Sorry. This was a response to an earlier post.
      Whats goin' on with CNN's website???

      October 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  16. lanceg

    Economics might also play into it. Some people may not feel established enough to get married.

    October 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  17. NGN

    Actually, some people ARE waiting...and NOT by choice. When is CNN going to do a story on involuntary celibacy? When is CNN going to do a story on individuals who have not been intimate for no reason other than loneliness, shyness, social awkwardness, and lack of partner? Why is it so difficult to give a voice to those who are suffering in silence?

    October 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Ugly nerds aren't photogenic, thus CNN won't do a story.

      October 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • NGN

      CNN doesn't need to use photographs, and not all incels are "ugly nerds".

      October 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  18. Niki

    OK, having wasted a few minutes of my life reading this let me answer the article's question rather simply:

    "Why are young Christians not waiting anymore?" Answer: they never did. Any survey, questionnaire or study done prior 5-10 years ago or so could be attributed to social biases in answering the questions. This conclusion would be far more reasonable than anything posed in the article above.

    October 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • e141

      good point Niki!

      October 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • eman

      Nobody adheres to the teachings of Christianity, especially the faithful.

      We don't stone children that talk back as the Bible says we should.

      Most "Christians" will happily eat shrimp, crab and lobster.

      Everyone puts on their "Sunday best" even though the Bible says to be humble in the house of the lord, and that wearing gold in church is an insult to the Lord.

      Preachers in large churches (Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Jimmy Swaggart) have earned millions of dollars, yet the Bible says that a rich man has the same chance of getting into heaver as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. How can a glutton lead you to salvation? EARNING millions of dollars is fine and good, but the bible says to feed and clothe the poor? There are a lot of poor people out there that could use that money more than the Mega-Church or tele-evangelist preachers. Do as I say, not as I do.

      We pick the pieces of religion that we wish to follow and ignore the rest. Maybe you've already heard something to the effect of: "The church is changing to meet the needs of today's youth." When you tell people they are Damned, they aren't likely to attend or put money in the collection plate. We've changed the rules, but I don't remember God saying that he approved of the changes. Come to think of it, God didn't even write the rule book. Man did.

      So, since we get to decide which constructs we adhere to, why would you choose celibacy?

      October 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  19. Do not


    October 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  20. ItsHopeless

    This strangely was dropped onto the next page as a post by Magic. But it was actually my response to him in THIS thread.

    @Magic I am agnostic, but believe in spirits (animist possibly?) and would call myself somewhat "spiritual." As for moralistic living, I do it more out of common sense than for any divine reason (but I don't see anything wrong with that) There are plenty of practical reasons to support honesty, integrity, compa-ssion, loyalty, and even chast-ity. (although I personally think celibacy is too extreme.) Anyway, cheers!

    October 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • ItsHopeless

      It did it again! This is a really weird bug....

      October 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Magic

      It's ok @ItsHopeless. Yes, sometimes it seems that the sprites take control here 🙂

      I appreciate your input. *That's* what this Belief Blog *should* be all about.

      I'm open to the idea that there might be other dimensions of existence which we haven't figured out yet. Imagination and fantasy might help us get to the truth of it someday. Until then, though, I tend to live pragmatically, with things which have been established as true... but certainly open to expanding on that.

      October 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • 2 Pc

      Note to Mr. Magic:
      Interesting you as an agnostic believe in a common sensed-based form of morality. Well, my friend, if you'd just take a moment and read Romans chapter 1(new testament) you will quickly realize why that is so.

      Here's hoping you'll take the time to read it.

      October 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Magic

      2 pc,

      I have read Romans 1. It is the rantings of Paul of Tarsus - a misanthropic, misogynistic, body-hating, zealot. There is not a shred of verified evidence for his supernatural claims.

      October 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Al Anon

      > As for moralistic living, I do it more out of common sense than for any divine reason (but I don't see anything wrong with that) <

      There's plenty of evidence that God's moral standards are for our own benefit, and are not old-fashioned and overly restrictive as many believe. God's moral standards may seem strict on the surface, but just like the law of gravity, if we go against it there are going to be consequences.

      For example, we don't have to catch (nor be dying from) an STD to realize that this is true.

      October 24, 2011 at 6:45 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.