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. M

    I'm a Christian over 25 and I'm still waiting. From what I see of my buddies that decided to give it up, I'm not missing much (heartbreak, shame, family problems, unwanted pregancies, std's, financial difficulty, etc.). This article makes it seem like no one is waiting and that's not true. We can wait. We're not animals. We do have control over our actions (read: hormones). It's hard but not impossible.

    October 31, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Heartbreak can happen in any relationship, be it chaste or se.xual.
      If you're ashamed of intimacy, it is probably becuase you've been indoctrinated with a religion that encourages guilt.
      Family problems – once again family problems often come from parents who have been idoctrinated with a religion that encouraged shame, guilt and fear of eternal damnation. Or they just don't like the person- and that would apply whether s.ex is involved or not.
      Unwanted pregancies – extremely rare if all parties involved are educated in proper contraceptive methods.
      Std's – Condoms are extremely effective at reducing risk – but a couple can still have non-penetrative intimacy – IE: mutual mast/urbation – which effectively reduces the risk of infection to zero.
      Financial difficulty?? Only if you're paying a h00ker!

      November 2, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  2. Joe

    I waited until marriage and it was at the age of 33! It was hard, but so worth it! To those you haven't waited, I know that purity is a gift from God that is given and not something that we can lose. We can lose innocence but not purity. We never had it until it was given to us.

    October 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Alphy

      Well said, Joe. Sounds like you have met the One about whom you speak. Forgiveness is a gift. Purity is a gift. Life is a gift. all of it means we have to learn how to live loved. Thanks.

      October 31, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  3. Iwaited

    I see this as an issue where Christians should be counter-culture and marry earlier. My husband and I both waited and married at 22. The more you try out new dates the more temptation there is and hoping you'll find Mr. Perfect. Marry young and learn to accept each other with your faults. My parents and grandparents married early and have remained married for 40+ and 67 years respectively. Early twenties used to be the norm not too long ago.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Slaveboy

      THe issue is that women now are easier to bed than earlier generations. A date or two, buy some dinner and they feel obligated to get on their knees that night. Back in the day it was more of an effort and women had alot more self respect (when sober).

      October 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • broken saint

      What if you want to get married but you aren't? What if it's not a choice not to get married early?

      October 31, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  4. westward

    Newsflash: They never did wait.

    October 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  5. nhu

    To point out, religion requires faith. So trying to shoot it down with logic and reason won't work, because that's not the only thing a religion is based on. But God, the Creator of science itself, has logic to back up everything. I don't know everything about the world, or how things work, but I know that everything on this earth right now has a reason it came to be. I'd rather believe that I was created by a loving God, than that chemicals randomly combined out of an impossible chance and made me and the entire world to work perfectly. (i.e.: my body functions fine because it was creatively designed to work this way, there's natural food to feed my natural body,etc.) That is logical thinking. I can't prove God, but He is real. And I have faith enough to believe it.

    October 31, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Neither your body nor the planet are perfect – life if FULL of imperfections, redundancies and other "design" flaws.
      You are correct in stating that there is no logical answer to an emotional argument – and religion is an emotional argument.
      The concept of an anthropocentric Universe is appealing to the Ego, but alas it is not so.

      "Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, "This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!" This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise"
      – Douglas Adams

      October 31, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Elll

      Faith is the act of making yourself beleive something that you already know is wrong.

      October 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  6. Jeff

    It’s simple: tell them to get married. Why the heck are they waiting until 50 to get married, or even 25? I was 22 when I got married and was among the older guys in my singles-only congregation. My wife was 23 (and a college grad!) and therefore positively ancient. (My wife’s sister, who didn’t find her husband until age 28, stopped going to the singles congregation because there was no one left in her peer group.)

    Seriously, folks; this isn’t rocket science.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • HR

      Jeff, you are obviously Mormon since you're referring to the "Singles Ward" (No other church has it's own specific church just for single adults) and shouldn't be commenting on what Christians should be doing. The LDS church tells their young men to go on a mission and the minute they get home to find a wife and start a family. If a LDS woman is over the age of 25 then she's ancient and probably won't find a man until one gets divorced... The problem with all these 22 and 23 year old kids getting married is they have no clue what they want or who they are for the most part. Maybe 1 in 100 of those marriages will last and I think that is being generous. People in Utah live in a bubble and think that is how the world is. Shockingly enough, people on the east coast don't even think about getting married usually until they're at least 30! OMG! Making a decision when you're old enough to have discovered who you are and not having to live in your parents' basement with your three children??? It's not rocket science Jeff.....

      October 31, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • westward

      Our 50%+ divorce rate in this country is across the board, including Christians too. Better to know the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with really well before entering into such a strong commitment. Marriage is not for the faint of heart or the superficial shopper.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • broken saint

      some of us want to get married and aren't.

      October 31, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  7. crazypete

    @clay: Quote: "plus the gruesome instructions for animal sacrifice in the bible" Which were done under Law, and are no longer necessary under grace. Your grievance is against the Jews."

    Um... actually the grievances against the Jews god, which is the same as the Christians. Unless what you are basically saying is the god used to be a jerk, but he changed his mind and is now a pretty nice guy.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  8. sargeanton

    I've never met a genuine Christian who hasn't striven to wait. (That doesn't mean they NEVER slip.) What the article fails to mention is that about 95% of people who profess to be "Christian" are not only NOT Christians...they don't even know what Biblical Christianity is. (Most people on earth think it's Catholicism; nothing could be further from the truth...and I might add, nearly all of modern protestantism today is apostate as well.)

    October 31, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Michael

      Here we go. Another "Christian" telling the other "Christians" that they are not "Real Christians." Precisely why your religion is so fragmented and has become such an atrocity to the the original origin and values. I suppose next you will be telling people that the particular version of the bible that they read is not the "real" bible! Perhaps they don't pray right either. If only everyone believed exactly like you, SargeAnton, the world would be so wonderful.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Observer


      You're not the only person who hasn't met Sarah Palin's daughter. So what?

      October 31, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Truth


      October 31, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      How do you know whether Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, oriental Orthodox, As.syrian, Byzantine, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Anabaptism, Brethren, Methodist, Pietism, Apostolic, Pentocostal, Charismatic, African Initiated, United, Quakers, Couthcotti.tism, Millerism, British-Isrealism, Latter Day Saints, Mennonite, 7th day Adventism, Kelleyism, Co.oneyism, Shakers, Methernitha, Strigolniki, Yehowism, Christadelphians, Christian Science, doukhobors, Iglesia ni Cristo, Makuya, Molokans, Subbotniks, Ebionism, Martinism, Rosicrucians, Rastafarianism, Santo Daime, or Umbanda is the REAL interpretation of your God's words?

      October 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • westward

      Oh, that's funny!

      October 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Shrug

      If you are truly a true Christian then you would have to agree with what sargeanton says. Christianity is more than going through the motions. All Christians make mistakes, but true ones acknowledge it, are filled with the motivation to get back on track and they look to God for answers and they look to Him as an example. True Christian strive to be "Christ-like". If this is not your priority then you better check yourself next time you call yourself a Christian.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Observer

      – 1 Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes"

      I don't see any of your names listed in the Bible as exceptions. Where is your name listed as an exemption?

      October 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Which Lord again?
      Angus, Belenos, Brigid, dana, Lugh, Dagda, Epona, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Atehna, Demeter, Dionysus, Eris, Eos, Gaia, Hades, Hekate, Helios, Hephaestus, Hera, hermes, Hestia, Pan, Poseidon, Selene, Uranus, Zeus, Mathilde, Elves, Eostre, Frigg, Hretha, Saxnot, Shef, Thuno, Tir, Weyland, Woden, Alfar, Balder, Beyla, Bil, Bragi, Byggvir, Dagr, Disir, Eir, Forseti, Freya, Freyr, Frigga, Heimdall, Hel, Hoenir, Idunn, Jord, Lofn, Loki, Mon, Njord, Norns, Nott, Odin, Ran, saga, Sif, Siofn, Skadi, Snotra, Sol, Syn, Ull, Thor, Tyr, Var, Vali, Vidar, Vor, Black Shuck, Herne, Jack in the Green, Holda, Nehalennia, Nerthus, endovelicus, Ataegina, Runesocesius, Apollo, Bacchus, Ceres, Cupid, Diana, Janus, Juno, Jupiter, Maia, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Neptune, Pluto, Plutus, Proserpina, Venus, Vesta, Vulcan, Attis, Cybele, El-Gabal, Isis, Mithras, Sol Invictus, Endovelicus, Anubis, Aten, Atum, Bast, Bes, Geb, Hapi, Hathor, Heget, Horus, Imhotep, Isis, Khepry, Khnum, Maahes, Ma’at, Menhit, Mont, Naunet, Neith, Nephthys, Nut, Osiris, Ptah, ra, Sekhmnet, Sobek, Set, Tefnut, Thoth, An, Anshar, Anu, Apsu, Ashur, Damkina, Ea, Enki, Enlil, Ereshkigal, Nunurta, Hadad, Inanna, Ishtar, Kingu, Kishar, Marduk, Mummu, Nabu, Nammu, Nanna, Nergal, Ninhursag, Ninlil, Nintu, Shamash, Sin, Tiamat, Utu, Mitra, Amaterasu, Susanoo, Tsukiyomi, Inari, Tengu, Izanami, Izanagi, Daikoku, Ebisu, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Fu.kurokuju, Jurojin, Hotei, Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, Inti, Kon, Mama Cocha, Mama Quilla, Manco Capac, Pachacamac, Viracoc.ha, or Zaramama?

      October 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Observer

      Doc Vestibule,

      "@Observer, Which Lord again?"

      Beats me. I can't get anyone to tell me which of the more than 20 English versions of the Bible is the TRUE ONE.

      October 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  9. MIke smith

    Only the moronic evangelical magazine ever thought teens were waiting. So the premise that somehow teens have changed is stupid. Texas , home of the evangelical whack job movement, has always led the nation in teen pregnancy. Try a condom and birth control pills instead of holding a page from the bible between ones legs.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  10. Truth Teller

    SIMPLE: ***They are not Christians***
    Mat 7:14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Douglas


      They are not Christians.


      October 31, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Observer

      The Bible has several comments condemning judging others but it's easy to find the hypocrites who pretend those commands don't apply to them. Same for the Golden Rule. Well done.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Swimmer

      Maybe the Ref. is referring to the millions of lil swimmers that must get through the narrow gate and only a few make it.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  11. LMC

    When the religious beliefs were made they were marrying young people at ages 13 and 14. Therefore they ultimately didnt have to "wait" for anything. Now you are looked down upon if you get married before you get out of college which could be up to age 25 or older. That would result in waiting more than a quarter of the average lifespan of humans to experience a major stepping stone in life. It is just impractical to say young people need to wait until marriage, times have changed.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  12. Earl

    After waiting 2,000 years I guess their patience just wore out.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • westward

      If history proves.....It wore out pretty much from the beginning.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  13. Lisa

    I saw a billboard in Warner Robins, GA that says what I believe: "'WHAT PART OF 'THOU SHALT NOT' DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND" . God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Look at all of the trouble our society is in due to people ignoring this commandment. He said, "Bridle all your passions that ye may be filled with Love".

    October 31, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Rick

      "God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow"


      October 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  14. westward

    When did they ever wait, seriously?

    October 31, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Otaner

      That's true. Some "Christian" girls are the biggest freaks in the bedroom!

      November 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  15. Rapturegal

    **I'm merely telling them the real truth. God does not exist.**

    Are you sure you want to let limited human understanding decide your eternal destiny? Are you hurting, lost, or simply curious enough to directly ask Him if He's real? Know this .... weather in shame or joyfulness, EVERY knee will bow before Him. I hope you will seek and find Jesus Christ before then. ~ In His peace

    October 30, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Rick

      Rapturegall: Are you not viewing everything through YOUR human understanding?

      October 31, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  16. Rapturegal

    **I am not a big fan of Revelation either. Seems more like John having a bad dream. I always want to study it more though, just have not done it yet.**

    Please get serious about eternity and accept Christ now. The book of Revelation is not a dream and its fulfillment is coming upon the world sooner than people think. You don't want to be here when final judgment falls on unrepentant, blasphemous mankind. - In His Peace

    October 30, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Timber

      "The Rapture" is a "christian" mythology, invented by a Jesuit priest, and popularized by John Nelson Darby in the 19th century. It stands in direct contradiction to Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43. It is, as all false doctrines are, dangerous because it leads people to believe that they will have a "second chance" to repent if they "miss the rapture."

      Nothing could be further from the truth. We all get one chance, life here on earth, and those who fail to repent before Jesus comes will not have another chance to do so afterwards. Scripture is very clear on this. Please...repent NOW. Don't wait until it's too late. No one knows when God's patience, individually or with the entire world, will run out.

      October 31, 2011 at 3:51 am |
    • Rick

      "You don't want to be here when final judgment falls on unrepentant, blasphemous mankind. – In His Peace"

      Peace? Sounds like a peaceful dude.

      What makes you think that this "eternity" even exists?

      October 31, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • nonbeliever

      I actually feel a world without Christians sounds like a pretty awesome place. Please hurry and come back, Jesus!

      November 20, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  17. Shh shhh

    Yea right! Everybody is doong it, so i will do it too! Why I do not buy that! May be because there are a lot of people doing things that others DO NOT DO!

    October 30, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Imagine that. Giving in to a basic human urge.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  19. MiND


    October 30, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  20. JMRJ

    I take it this would required a complete change in social arrangements bordering on calamity, but I don't see anything wrong with the solution of earlier marriage.

    October 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Then you must also agree with earlier divorce, earlier infidelity and the possibility of earlier child abuse. A 15-year-old in our current culture is far different from the 15-year-olds of hundreds of years ago. Most are not prepared to be adults, though they think they are. The real solution is to teach s-ex education and birth control. Teach them that abstinence until they are mature enough to handle the consequences is the smartest way, but give them the tools to prevent STDs or unwanted pregnancy should they decide they can't wait.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • BLT

      Well, since marriage is an optional legal agreement in the US, people will marry when they like. the only way to have younger marriage be a solution is to make it mandatory. a law to says you must be married by the time you're 15 or Health and human services will find a match for you and you will be married no later than 6-8 weeks after your birthday.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:16 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.