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. pat

    It feels good, it looks good, it sounds good. What do you care what we do? if anything christianity itself has damned the world. Lay off the kids so they may lay into eachother.

    October 30, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  2. Danman

    Go forth and multiply.... never said get married.

    October 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  3. Wewaited

    My wife and I waited until we were married. We married when we were 25 and dated for 6 years. It is really not that hard if your mind is focused on things other than s-e-x. We know each other better than we ever imagined we could ever know anyone, we have a very strong relationship based in discussion and expression, and now we have a great s-e-x life! We feel great that we both waited and do not have the baggage that is associated with marrying someone who has experience. Take it for what it is worth, but we made it work!

    October 30, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  4. Tom

    Blogs like this always capture my curiosity. This blog is why I gave up religion at age 50. I feel a lift from all the guilt, threats, promises and rewards. All of the word games and references to the bible through human interpretation. religion is a battle that will never be won. Take a minute from your reading and see the world for what it is, live, think and enjoy your feelings on whichever personal direction you choose. Use your best judgement and live with the rewards and consequences of your decisions. Remember, Christianity is only one of many religions in the world people are passionate about. Are they all right or wrong? Let's use our time on earth more valuably.

    October 30, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Drew

      Hey Tom,

      It’s interesting to me that your experience brought guilt and threats...while some people choose to regard religion as a carrot and stick approach, I've found that a relational approach with your creator is best. It's this epiphany that's made my faith more important as I get older, now at 27. I've found that my time spent on faith has been extremely valuable in my life.

      As you allude to, there certainly is no right answer, no one size fits all interpretation, which is why so many forms of religion exist. Where people get hung up is on the specifics, and what is right and wrong for everyone rather than what is right and wrong for themselves. It is possible to 'think and enjoy your feelings on whichever personal direction you choose' while pursuing one's faith. I'm living proof.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  5. Stan

    It would be interesting to know the sample size of the author's research. And was it a mix of rural and "big city life?" There really IS a difference between the kids of South Los Angeles and those in South Dakota.
    Why, even so much as the place where the questions were asked, would make a difference. Was the atmosphere conducive to "bragging," (late night beach party, etc.) or a religious meeting (show of hands) situation?
    Another factor,at a certain age, if "most of my friends" are answering afirmatively, well, you know!
    Bottom line. Without knowing the methodoligy of the research I can't place too much trust in it.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:58 am |
  6. dr.sm

    Why don't people marry early? Marry in early 20's intead of in 30's. If you can have s-e-x with each other why can't you marry each other.
    I guess even if the girl is willing to marry early, the guys, generally as a whole, will never do that because they are afraid to take the responsibly. They just want to have fun with the girl and move on (i.e to the next). A survey done few years ago tells that on an average, an american has 8 se x-ual partners before he settles down with one.
    Are the women folk only for having fun?

    October 30, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  7. SoThankfultohaveWaited

    I will be thankful for my entire life that my wife stayed faithful to her future husband and that I did the same for her and that we both waited for marriage. We have a happy, healthy relationship and are committed to remain as faithful after marriage as we were before. Following Christ has brought me so much freedom: freedom from STDs, freedom from emotional baggage, freedom from unwanted pregnancy, freedom to give my wife the most valuable gift I could have given (a clean, safe, committed partner). It is possible to wait, and so worth it.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  8. regretsIhaveAfew

    I waited, married a "good christian minister" who was also a virgin. Proceeded to have 11 years of the most demeaning, horrific "s e x" with that abusive a$$ until I finally woke up and divorced him. Found a fabulous partner, making up for lost time, been treated like a queen this time around, and have NO desire to marry ever again. Wish I could have done it differently – the christian god I prayed to for years didn't help, so I let my ex keep the god in the divorce... happier and healthier now!

    October 29, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Seren

      Good to hear you woke up and did what was best for you.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:52 am |
    • Samsword

      So why don't you want to marry this new partner? If he's treating you like a queen?

      October 30, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • dr.sm

      I have the same question above too?

      October 30, 2011 at 6:06 am |
    • Bianca

      For the people who wonders why she isn't married, you must have never been in that type of relationship. It changes you forever. Your heart my want you to trust, but your head won't. He first husband left her scared. You just don't get over it. Marriage isn't the answer in all relationships.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  9. Ittehgaps

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster says there is no waiting period.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • PulTab


      October 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  10. Fred

    I'm waiting for the "study" to come out that indicates a connection between ;waiting" and the divorce rate !!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  11. Aaron

    If geneticists have confirmed that the story of Adam and Eve is impossible based on the genetic make up of humans than original sin is not possible and Jesus did not die on a cross because of it. You live your life on a 1600 year old fairy tale book, sweet.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • justin

      sad really. some people live their whole lives believing a genetic connection between humans and apes that is theory and not statistically or even genetically proven. believe me, i know as a veteran scientist with 6 years of research in the area. its as crazy as people believing the world was flat.

      genetics actually proves a common ancestor.

      and the argument about 'why wait' if we are marrying later is as illogical as questioning the necessity to wait to drink due to genetic resistance in the gene pool.

      use logic people. Jesus wasn't just the son of god... he epitomized wisdom.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Robert

      Actually the book dates back about 1930 years...but hey...you were kinda close.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Norman

      justin-wow-your ignorance is shocking-no way youre a scientiist-humans descended from an ape like creature, not an ape. And 99% of our DNA is shared with chimpanzees-thats fact.
      Not sure why a soc alled scientist would believe in some deity snapping its noodley appendages and creating all life-thats absurd

      October 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Ardnassak

      Hey Justin, humans are genetically connected not only to apes but even to chickens, sharing somewhere around 96% of their genetic code, and to your point we share over 98% of our genetic code with chimps. This is not theory, it is fact. If you are a "scientist" you might consider going back to school.

      Logically speaking, Jesus of Nazerath was most likely an urban legend about as likely to have existed as Santa Clause. However if he did exist he probably had about as many superpowers as you and I, which were later exagerated in a big game of telephone until the stories were finally written down.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Rick

      Justin: How does logic tell you that Jesus was the son of God?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Rick

      seriously, justin, are you going to answer my question?

      October 30, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  12. Mike

    So if you claim to be a believer that Christ died on the cross for your sins so that you can have eternal life with God, and you don't believe God when it comes to pre-marital s-e-x, when do you start believing what His word says? God says to be monogamous. He says to not divorce. He says His son died on the Cross for your sins, and if you believe that, you will have eternal life. If, when He said, don't be an adulterer or fornicator, etc, and He didn't mean it, did He not mean that Christ had to die for your sins?

    At which point do you start believing?

    My wife remained a virgin until we were married. She was 32. Don't say "EVERYONE" is doing it, or it's not possible to do because of temptation. She wasn't even a believer until she was 25. She had plenty of time and opportunity to do "it". And all those years prior to becoming a believer, she didn't have the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in her to keep her from sin. By God's grace, she saved herself for marriage. Christians that say they are not going to wait, presumably have the indwelling Spirit of God in them to keep them from sin. They just choose to sin.

    Reflect on Jer. 17:5: CURSED is the man who trusts in Man. Jer 17:7 BLESSED is the man who trusts in the Lord.

    Whom do you trust. That's the issue.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Christina

      Praise God!! 🙂

      October 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • john

      im sure there's many reason WHY, no one wanted to the first other than you. im guessing you two met in church....

      October 30, 2011 at 3:16 am |
    • dr.sm

      lol @jhon for " im guessing you two met in church...."

      October 30, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  13. Ibry

    Why do the nations rage and the people's plot in vain?

    October 29, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  14. NotAVirgin

    God still loves me =) <3

    October 29, 2011 at 6:36 am |
    • Norman

      but everyone else thinsk youre a silly prude

      October 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • jake

      God still loves you, but remember what Jesus told the woman at the well.

      October 30, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  15. J.R.

    My wife and I waited until we were married, and the plus to this is that we don't have past experiences (good or bad) as excess baggage. In other words, I can't compare her with others and vice versa.

    October 29, 2011 at 2:48 am |
  16. Flora

    I'm a young adult and I'm NOT waiting. Not because "everyone's doing it" (can't even imagine anyone being that weak-minded), but because I don't believe that God really affixes that much of an importance on virginity. People forget that these rules were set in place before reliable contraception, so if a girl didn't wait, she'd probably already have a family of b a stard children running around by the time she did wed.

    Plus, it's just bad policy – I once heard a dead-on quote that marrying someone before you've even had s e x is like buying a car without taking it for a test drive. Willful ignorance about your partner before doing something as drastic as marriage can only lead to regret and possibly even deep resentments.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Flora

      Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I'm also a devout Christian.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • dr.sm

      Are you Sure? @ i am a "devout christian". How can you be a devout christian and reject what Christ said at the same time?

      "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart". [Mathew 5:27-28]

      So according to Jesus, even looking to a women is prohibited and you say that its Ok to even have s-e-x before marrige. Elaborate this to me. You seem Contradictory.
      Still if you insist that you are a "devout christian", then i say that you are a Hypocrite. Because you say something else and do something else.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • Man

      Flora... don't call yourself Christian... devout or not. You don't even know the meaning of or implications of being united with a man you are not married to. You lack the basic fundamentals of Christianity and you speak out of your own mind, not based on what Christ said. Did you even read what Jesus said about marriage and adultery? You can't be ignorant of/contradict what Chris taught and call your self His follower.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Norman

      Go Flora-dont listen to these dried up old bigots-theyre misogynists

      October 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • dr.sm

      @Flora, you said
      "People forget that these rules were set in place before reliable contraception, so if a girl didn't wait, she'd probably already have a family of b a stard children running around by the time she did wed."

      Check for the statistics of america for the %age of children born outside a Wed-Lock (according to you "b a stards"). Its increasing Dramatically. Seems your contraceptions aren't properly functioning?

      October 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Flora

      And to the rest of you – you cannot tell me what relationship I have with God. I beleive what I believe, and I believe in both the power of Christ & that he did not intend for the human race to become s e xually repressed bigots throwing their personal beliefs on everyone else in His name. I live the way I think is right and I believe God is right behind me. That makes me neither a bad woman nor a bad Christian. So if you don't like it, take your personal beliefs elsewhere, cause I'm not interested.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Jordan

      Huh, adultery? To clarify to the people who do not know how to use a dictionary. Adultery: voluntary s-e-xual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse. If you are having s-e-x before marriage, you are NOT committing adultery, and for people to judge if you are Christian or not... I am PRETTY sure the bible says Judge not lest you not be judged, but the that is overlooked. So before you sit and "judge" people, look up your definitions, then feel free to take God off of his throne, and play his role. Good job!

      October 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • dr.sm

      @Flora you said,
      "I believe in both the power of Christ & that he did not intend for the human race to become s e xually repressed ....."

      Then what does it mean when he says,
      "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart". [Mathew 5:27-28]

      I am not imposing my belief on you. I am not a christian. I am curious about your belief as you claim to be a christian because it seems hypocritical when you say something else and do entirely the opposite. Explain me the above saying of Jesus if your a christian.
      Just for information i am quoting one more verse of the bible.
      "the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." [Leviticus 20:10]

      How can you claim to be following the bible?

      October 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • dr.sm

      @Jordan, you said,

      "if you are having s-e-x before marriage, you are NOT committing adultery"

      Good answer Man. I am speechless. Are you a Lawyer?

      October 29, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Mirosal

      Think back to high school biology clas. Remember that little one-celled amoeba under the microscope? That little thing is going to do two things in its life before it dies. It's going to take in nourishment, and it's going to reproduce. Thosse are the two most basic insticts of EVERY life form on this planet, be it animal or plant. What gives ANY religion the right to dictate to us rles on either of those 2 things? There are dietary rules in the Babble, I mean buy-bull .. oops bible .. and rules for se-x-uality. If I'm hungry, I'll eat. If I am "in the mood" with someone and she feels the same way, we'll deal with it in a very natural way. How dare "religion" dictate and try to regualte the 2 most basic things any life form will do by pure instict. Just what gives them the right in the first place? If "god" didn't want me to eat a pork chop, then why make the pig in the first place? If god didn't want us to have s3x, then why make us the way we are made? No one, and I mean NO ONE, has the right to tell any of us what we can or cannot eat, or who we choose to "sleep" with if both partners are willing. You know celibacy doesn't work, for proof look at the Catholic church... 'nuff said there.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  17. Wade

    I was raised Christian, my wife and I did what we thought God wanted us to do and remained virgin until marriage. Looking back, we both regret that decision- years of depravation while love was careless, young and fiery. You can never get those years back. We both agree, if we had it to do over again we wouldn't have waited for marriage.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Zach

      Wade, do you realize that you are publicly stating "as a christian", that you are in disagreement with God's word? Be careful what you say....

      October 28, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Wade

      All I said was that I was raised Christian, and followed Christian ideals at the time I was married. But if you must know, presently and for many personal reasons I no longer associate myself with Christianity.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Ali

      i had awhile back decided i would wait, it had little to do with my lack religious upbringing or the fact i went to a christian college, becuase as this article states, the majority of the people i went to school with were not virgins, though some were. i decided to wait because i found it be a nice sentiment for the person i chose to spend my life with. i did not make it til marriage, however i do believe i waited for the person i will spend my days with, and for that i am grateful.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Jim

      Wade, first, I just wanted to extend kudos to you for being honest about what you really believe, and what you really experienced. You doing that is a mark of true depth of character- and I salute you for it.

      If our "faith" attempts to suppress that, then IMO it is motivated partly by fear- fear that somehow honest expression is dangerous. Thank God (literally) that, as an American, I am largely free from restrictions on open dialogue.

      The benefit of time often shows which approach has more merit. Martin Luther spoke honestly about what he believed- and in retrospect many believe that he had more truth than did those who sought to stop him. Jesus also spoke honestly, and the Pharisees and Sadducees who attempted to stop him similarly are believed by many to have had less of the truth.

      Those who feel threatened by the ideas of others, and the expression of those ideas, can easily end up in the camp of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and those who sought to stop Martin Luther. By fearing ideas that differ from ours, we can end up preventing ourselves from hearing what ends up to be those who HAD more truth, and were trying to reach out to us. That's something we should all want to avoid.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • hannahc

      You know what's funny is my husband and I both wish to God we had waited for each other. Grass is greener, eh?

      October 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  18. Pagandaze

    Let's just bring back arranged marriages and marry at 15. That will solve the unwanted teen pregnancy and abstinence issue...

    October 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  19. Tremor

    I'm waiting. I'm 17 but I won't be doing it until I'm married in the eyes of God.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Rick

      Is it the eyes of God, or the wishes of bronze age sheepherders?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  20. Ripdog

    S-e-x can wait, master-bate!!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Peaceful Nutrino

      technically that is forbidden to

      October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • mary

      Or just get yourself involved in things that you love to do such as hobbies, or even furthering your education. Just get so involved that you don't have time to look for or have a care to look for that s-e-x. It usually opens up a whole another can of worms that is not worth it.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Yes, Mary, by all means avoid natural, human instincts. Because being a human is a sin.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:43 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.