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. Joshua

    Orgnaized religion is useless. It has been used to control people for 1000's of years and will contiune to do so.
    Try thinking for your self people. and for gods sake.. (if you believe) worry aboat your self and leave people alone.

    November 2, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  2. I Paul

    My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adult eress with her smooth words.

    November 2, 2011 at 6:58 am |
  3. I Paul

    For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

    November 2, 2011 at 6:56 am |
  4. I Paul

    Now the works of the flesh are evident: se xual immorality, impurity, sen suality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunken ness, org ies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    November 2, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  5. I Paul

    For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from se xual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the pa ssion of lu st like the Gentiles who do not know God

    November 2, 2011 at 6:45 am |
  6. I Paul

    Flee from se xual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the se xually immoral person sins against his/her own body.

    November 2, 2011 at 6:44 am |
  7. Detroit Mark

    Oh my goodness who cares. I wish they'd all abstain and producer fewer delusionary idiot christian terrorists.

    November 2, 2011 at 6:42 am |
  8. Missy

    This website is dumb and only lets the comments against Christianity stay last without the counter being able to reply

    November 2, 2011 at 3:03 am |
    • Helpful Hints

      Missy... no paranoia, please... there is an automatic word filter here:

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
      sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:12 am |
  9. Captive Audience

    They aren't waiting for the same reason other people don't wait. But what makes them less Christian for committing the sin of adultery than other Christians committing other sins? Doesn't the bible say that all are sinners?

    November 2, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • Observer

      Christians say they are all sinners, but pick and choose those sins they think are really important. Fortunately for them, most Christians are only guilty themselves of the minor sins. It's the others that are guilty of the major sins.

      November 2, 2011 at 2:05 am |
    • Banana

      There are no major or minor sins if you ever read the Bible

      November 2, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • Observer

      "There are no major or minor sins if you ever read the Bible"

      True. Now tell all the Christians who ignor their adultery while trashing gays. Too many hypocrites.

      November 2, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • VA

      Well, the thing is ... IF you claim to be a Christian, the guidelines are specific n this area – not 'flexible' as the faint of heart may have some believe. I'd rather they choose not to be, than claim it and chalk it up to "I'm only human" if they choose to set aside the basic tenets of spiritual and physical purity. God does know that we aren't wired for this – that's where the Holy Spirit comes in. But no one in FORCED to allow the spirit to work in their lives. It always remains the choice of the believer – specifically, so no one can have a case against God on the last day.

      November 2, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  10. Lauren

    A Christian parent or youth pastor could suggest to young Christians to date and marry within the church.

    November 2, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • tallulah13

      Or if they really were paying attention to reality, they could suggest abstinence, then educate the young person on the proper use of birth control. Because people will have s.ex. That's what humans do.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • Bored

      talluah. you dont sound like a christian

      November 2, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      I'm not a christian, bored. I'm a pragmatist. Humans will have s.ex. Religion has never stopped them. Some christians live in a fantasy world where religion trumps human nature. Pragmatists prefer to deal with the reality of the situation.

      November 2, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • Lauren

      If they were raised right and within the church and were planning on marrying within the church... I don't see why they wouldn't wait, and if they do not wait then they have to live with the consequences of their actions.

      November 2, 2011 at 2:02 am |
    • tallulah13

      Reality, Lauren. Try thinking about reality.

      November 2, 2011 at 2:06 am |
  11. Tony

    Those who are really guided by the Holy Spirit and follow the first commandment would know what to do and when to do it.

    November 1, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  12. Danielle

    By definition a Christian is one who believes Jesus is the son of God and died for our sins, and attempts to live a Christlike life as Jesus did. (Note the word attempt...we do not always succeed.) But the reason "Young Christians aren't waiting anymore" rests in the fact that yes they believe in God and Jesus, but without a relationship with Him they have no desire to obey his commands and seek His will. For example, (not trying to offend anyone here) If you grew up never knowing your parents and never having any sort of relationship with them and suddenly you found out who they were and met them in a grocery store line one day how likely would you be to listen to any advice they had to give you? The problem here is the lack of a personal relationship with our mighty and loving creator. The common belief is "well I'm not hurting anyone but myself". Why does the Bible preach abstinence? It is because of Jesus' love for all of us. At a dating/engagement stage in a relationship there is no lifelong commitment involved. For all that could happen you might end up "cheating" with a man/woman who could end up being someone else's spouse.

    -19 year old college student who needs to get back to homework...

    November 1, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • emi

      Good metaphor on the relationship. I was thinking the same! 🙂

      November 1, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • CJP

      Excellent insights. If people don't really know God, why would they be inclined to abide by his guidelines for our lives? People in general, and some religious people in particular, have no interest in self-denial or making an effort to live like Christ unfortunately.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Tony

      Amen to all that, bro

      November 1, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • VA

      Well said Danielle, Well said.

      November 2, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  13. Greg

    The only problem is there is no way of knowing whether they have a true Christian faith.

    November 1, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  14. chris

    the absence of abstinence is a symptom of a larger problem- false Christian converts. Modern evangelism has done such a masterful job of watering down the gospel message of the Bible that churches are filled with unregenerate, unrepentant souls. However, these poor souls believe themselves to be Christians because they "prayed a prayer", or signed a card, or "asked Jesus into their hearts". None of these "methods" is biblical, and none of them produces true Christians. Salvation is by grace, through faith. Period. I would suggest that the abstinence statistics among true, born-again Christians is much closer to what Jesus would expect- though still not perfect.

    November 1, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The thing is that religion will never trump human nature. Religion is an artificial constraint on the species imperative to reproduce. Teach your kids that waiting is a good idea, but also teach them what they need to know to protect themselves from disease or unwanted pregnancy. Anything else is just ignoring reality.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:54 am |
    • Banana

      Teach your kids self control, humans have that amazing capability

      November 2, 2011 at 2:14 am |
    • tallulah13

      Sadly, banana, even the best kids will have moments of weakness. If you love your kids, teach them to protect themselves. If you care more about religious dogma than you do about your children, do the world a favor and don't breed.

      November 2, 2011 at 2:19 am |
  15. Mike

    In addition to that, the "Relevance" or "Emergent" movement is a deconstructionist movement so far afield of basic Christian understandings and exegesis that is is a thinly veiled secular movement.

    November 1, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  16. Mike

    CNN will do anything to negatively propagandize the Christian faith in favor of the faiths it prefers.

    November 1, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Observer

      Please talk to your fellow Christians who claim CNN is an atheist organization. Get the act together.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Bored


      November 2, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • tallulah13

      Mike is yet another example of christian paranoia.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Chris

      You're just another example of why I'm smart enough to not be a Christian.

      November 2, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  17. active chic

    I am 32 years old. My boyfriend of 1.5 yr is 35 yrs old. We are born again Christians. We are waiting. It is worth the wait. We will still wait.

    Yes, you tell 30 somethings, 40 somethings to wait.

    November 1, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Rick

      i don't understand the point in waiting. my girlfriend and i did not wait and it has brought us closer.

      November 2, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  18. Kudaboo

    I think it is sad that the young Christian population is not strong enough to withstand the temptations of the flesh. I know it is hard for them with all the music, tv, and movies that are out there, but then again, Christ never said it would be easy. He said that we should lose our lives and follow Him. I am grateful that our sins are forgiven us and that we are all washed clean by the blood of Christ. Someday these young people may want their sins forgiven and until then we need to love them unconditionally as Christ did.

    November 1, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Lauren

      Maybe they just want to know what it is like before they die since it could happen at any moment.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • tallulah13

      Religions change from culture to culture. S.ex is a constant. Remind kids that waiting is a good idea, but teach birth control, because the drive to reproduce is in our very nature, while religion is simply something that is learned.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Banana

      it is called self control

      November 2, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Observer


      Yes, raise your kids like a good Christian, like Sarah Palin.

      November 2, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • Tallulah13

      Banana, don't have kids unless you care enough about them to teach them to take care of themselves. People who live in fantasy worlds have no business bringing new people into the real world.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:33 am |
    • Rick

      "I am grateful that our sins are forgiven us and that we are all washed clean by the blood of Christ."

      I am grateful that I am not burdened by concepts of sin or heaven or hell

      November 2, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  19. godott

    I bet that whole abstinence thing is really helping prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs – for the 20% or fewer who follow it.

    November 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  20. Texan

    These young people are not "true" Christians. To violate their faith makes them alienated from it, plain and simple.

    November 1, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Observer

      There are no "true" Christians by your reckoning. They all pick and choose what sins they agree with and ignor the rest. It's always fun for hypocritical Christians to claim other hypocritical Christians are not "Christians".

      November 1, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Cajun

      I agree with Observer...Texan, who died and made you the decider of who is Christian. We're all sinners. Jesus acknowledged this. Stop dividing this country with your hate

      November 1, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Rick

      If so, maybe it wasn't their faith to begin with

      November 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Susie

      Are we talking about faith or religion here? Christianity is a religion. Faith is in what you believe to be true. A set of standards is not what we believe to be true necessarily, but what we want or hope to live by. Don't lump lonely, weak people into your "sinner" category. We're all guilty of that at some point, and we all want and deserve to be loved.

      November 1, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • c000

      To violate one's faith? So nobody can ever sin? If that's the case, why do us Christians need Jesus?

      November 1, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • True

      They definitely are not really saved. They give Christians bad names. If I were them, I'd rather not call myself Christian.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • ArnoldK

      Cajun, you twisted f-ucking degenerate imbecile incapable of rational thought or any form of human reason, division is exactly why the west thrived while other cultures died.

      November 22, 2011 at 11:39 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.