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. Lucas

    I've enjoyed the thoughtful discussion about the relative merits or disadvantages of waiting. As lovers of God, we don't think first of what will feel good or work out better in the long run; we want to know what pleases our Maker.
    He has the power to give life and to take it. I trust that He gives the best gifts.
    We do wait quite a long time for marriage, though not as long as some. We waited for 27 and 28 years, respectively. It's tough – tough like boot camp. It is all useful.
    Blessing on the journey.

    November 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  2. Westcoastphilly

    i used to believe in Christ and everything like that i waited until i was about... 16 and im continuing to do it im 19 now i still do not regret that i did it back then main reason being is back then i remembered to be safe unlike so many people i knew.

    November 5, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Jessica

      You don't feel bad because you don't have the Holy Spirit, you can believe in Jesus and be without the Holy Spirit
      John 14:16-17
      And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

      November 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  3. thought food

    Bringing God into the relationship or exempting God from the relationship can make a huge difference if you follow God first thought what would Jesus say?

    November 5, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Jessica

      I completely agree

      November 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Rick

      how would you know? how much of the sayings of jesus were recorded decade after he lived? then it was edited and tranlated. so, how much of these statements are actally what the man said?

      November 6, 2011 at 7:08 am |
    • Ben

      Hi Rick, there are thousands of manuscripts verifying Jesus' words. We can even compare current translations to these actual manuscripts. The Case For Christ was written by a Journalist and former athiest who asked the same question. Check out the book and website LeeStrobel.com

      November 17, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  4. JeffinIL

    Just another example of how Christians pick and choose what to believe from the bible that few of them bother to actually read.

    November 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  5. John

    i waited too we were 15 and 14, it was well worth the wait! but that was many many years ago 🙂

    November 5, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Jason

      "Waiting" until 15 or 14 is not waiting. You are part of the statistics of the study.

      November 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  6. keectNitO

    Футболки с рисунками и надписями.
    Для тебя, для друзей, для всех.
    Заходи, выбирай, покупай.

    November 4, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Kame

      T-shirts with pictures and inscriptions.
      For you, for friends, for all.
      Come on, choose, buy.

      LOL That's what keectNito is saying, thanks for that contribution 🙂

      November 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  7. Douglas

    Waiting is cool. STDs, HIV and misery is uncool.
    Celib@cy for GLBTQ youth is helping them to enjoy long, healthy life spans.
    Saying no to fornication is helping young Christians to remain obedient to Biblical instruction.
    Start a support group for celib@te GLBTQ youth and abstinent straight youth at your place of worship.
    Movie nights, bowling outings, community volunter projects and career mentoring can build partnerships that last a lifetime with our
    GLBTQ and straight youth.
    Best, Douglas

    November 4, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Rick

      Why should anyone care about instructions (edited, translated hearsay) from Bronze Age texts?

      November 5, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  8. Guest

    I'm a single Christian. I consider myself to have a well rounded life; well educated, social, fun. I'm a virgin. I am also 32. While I respect everyone's opinion and firmly believe that God gave us all free will. It is my decision to wait. There are really many reasons why I do so, to name a few; my Christian beliefs, my desire to not have an STD, my feelings of self worth and independence and finally my desire to only be with one person, my future spouse. I recognize my perspective is a mixture of religon, pragmatism and romance. I'm not saying I haven't struggled with this choice. Still, I encourage everyone who takes the time to read this comment, decide for yourself, wait or don't, accept that your decision may or may not be in line with Gods plan for your life, you may suffer for your choice, whatever it is. I hope that whatever your choice, you are happy and do not hurt others. I hope you don't codemn others for their choices, judgement is for God. Finally if you do not wait, please BE SAFE!

    November 4, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Alex A.

      Wonderfully respectful. The world needs more thinkers like you.

      November 5, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Guest

      I'm actually a Muslim but find that I can relate to many of the points in this article. I'm also a virgin, 22 year old full time college student. I agree with what you say and hope more people take your advice. For the longest time I've struggled with my decision to wait but because I look more for the long run type of relationship and the person who will keep me happy for the rest of my life, I feel that it's worth it.

      Thank you for sharing your opinion.

      November 5, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Yes

      That's one of the wisest decision of your life. Surely if you want people to respect you, you must first respect yourself. You are definitely worth more because of your choice.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  9. Elayne

    Who would want to wait? Make sure you're in a committed, loving relationship. No wonder guys rush, they have blue balls

    November 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  10. Guest

    I was too young when I lost my virginity. I have deep faith, but not religiou faith. I have two daughters, aged 12 and 15. I have conversations with them, about respecting themselves, and loving themselves. And I have been explicit that I don't expect them to wait until marrage, but that it should happen when they are emotionally ready, and in a serious relationship. Then I could not help to say – after highschool!! I would want my daughters to experience life a bit before marrage, not sleep around, but be respectful of themselvs at the same time.

    November 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Jessica

      Too many people in our society believe there is no "life" in marriage, but God created it to be one to the best relationships to be in aside from being in relationship with Him! Purity is one of the things he wants for us so it CAN be an amazing relationship in marriage with complete trust and intimacy. I encourage you to find out more about having a relationship with God for you and your children, it is much more fufilling then coming up with wise words and philosophies on your own

      November 5, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Yes

      @Jessica Awesome saying sis! Marriage with God's blessing is definitely the start of new life!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  11. Hayley

    Remember how the Catholic Church sold indulgences to dupe people out of money? They also put Galileo under house arrest until he died for saying we revolved around the sun. I could go on and on about how immoral Church's have proven themselves throughout the years. Just throwing that out there, because people forget this stuff then still trust organized religion.

    November 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • mojo

      yeah and white people enslaved africans so we shouldnt trust white people right? and hitler and the rest of germany killed quite a few jews during the holocaust so i guess we cant trust anyone with german decent right? you find bad people in anything and just because you do doesnt mean you should just condemn the entire group of individuals. especially when it was eons ago.

      November 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Dreamer

      And leaders who lack any faith at all have been better? At least when someone subscribes to a "higher power" they can be held accountable to that higher power, but when a leader believes in nothing but themselves, there is no "appeal" you can make to them if they are doing immoral things (which almost certainly they will be – human beings are, if anything, indelibly self-centered). The only thing you can do is kill them, and most of the world has been run by such people. I'll take the sincerely religious leader any day over an atheistic one.

      November 5, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • guest

      Yeah but the church has messed up time and time again. For example the crusades, they told people to kill in the name of god and yet not to killing is in the ten commandments. And in modern times, the holocaust could have been avoided if the pope had denounced hitler but didnt have the balls to do it so six million, not a few, jews died.

      November 6, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  12. Ted Asker

    I was 49 when I got married and was a virgin. Too much hollywood here!!
    Most of my friends married as virgins and now have happy families.This whole question is nonsense following the leftover 60's nonsense. We are humans not animals. Talk to your dog and you'll see the difference!
    Wait so your wedding night bliss is a sign of your marriage covenant to your partner with no pre-nup cop out!

    November 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • BobZemko

      My dog had nothing to say on the subject.

      November 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Gerry orrison

      My dog makes more sense than you.

      November 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Elayne

      If you would have waited 1 more year you could have been the 50 year old virgin!!!!!!!!!

      November 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  13. Doc Vestibule

    I've been with my partner for nigh on a decade.
    We live together, raise our family together, pay taxes together – but aren't married and don't intend to do so.
    Becuase we sowed our wild oats before we met each other, we are better able to appreciate each other's merits and tolerate the flaws.
    No God required in my happy family!

    November 4, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • don'tbesilly

      Marriage does not equal commitment. Your relationship is a perfect example of that. I think you have done it right.

      November 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  14. Ben

    We waited, we got married at age 26 in 2005.

    November 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • don'tbesilly


      November 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Ben

      We waited because we believe it honors God. It is also a great gift to your spouse. We are not going to heaven because of our works rather our Faith and Belief in Jesus Christ, however our works reflect what we believe in our heart. Thanks for asking why.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  15. WyCawa

    Young Christians can wait if they follow the scriptures. The question is how many believers are willing to live a virtuous life?
    Your body is a temple of the living God, treat it that way!

    November 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Brandon

      The problem is that to many men want to "enter the temple of God".

      November 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • as they say

      Brandon- Shut the door on those silly nuts that will teach them a lesson.

      November 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  16. ct

    I agree that we should all do our best. The problem is that we lower our standard because of the decaying society we live in so abstinence is no longer viewed as "our best". I agree that Christ wants us to do our best and that He will forgive sin. I also believe that "our best" is alot better than what society preaches. If we rely on Him we can be empowered to overcome any temptation. So the bigger question is....how strong is your faith?

    November 4, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Paul Lunsford

      Rock on CT!

      November 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • katiespiromedia

      Excellent point of view– I agree.

      November 5, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Jessica

      Yes! God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but if he does he will provide a way out so you can stand up under it

      November 5, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  17. Zachary C

    We waited. We're 22 and 24.

    November 4, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • CJ

      My wife and I too...I was 28 and she was 26! 🙂

      November 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Elayne

      You don't think to yourself "is that all there is?"

      November 4, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • AGuest9

      @Elayne, it all ends up eventually with a DVD and a bottle of KY late at night, anyway. What's the difference? Just wistful memories of women who were better, but that you wouldn't want raising your kids.

      November 5, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  18. Rick

    My philosophy is to do your best to live a moral, ethical life and don't worry about "judgment".

    November 4, 2011 at 6:46 am |
    • what

      What morals? whose morals?

      November 4, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Rick


      November 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • don'tbesilly

      I agree and I also don't think making love to someone you love before you get married is wrong.

      November 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • what

      Go ahead, please also enjoy the blessings that come with your 'Morals'.

      November 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Rick

      what: thanks, i do

      November 4, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Mike

      Right on Rick!

      November 5, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Hater

      Your moral means nothing! Who cares about your moral, YOU IMMORAL!!!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  19. Mari

    I believe it may have originally been the Catholic church who created the sacrament of marriage along with it all its rules about 'Til death do us part, for better for worse'. Ironically, in the book of Genesis, there wasn't a mention of a priest or a Catholic church who married Adam and Eve and spiritually bestowed his blessing on their wedding vows, because in the eyes of God, they were already considered married.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Mirosal

      OK, you idiots need to stop thinking that marriage is a "christian" thing ... marriage pre-dates X-ianity by centuries, if not millenia. Comkmoners were married, kings and pharoahs were married ... try looking up the code of Hammurabi ... even those laws talk about rights of marriage and divorce, and THAT was 3000 years before your "saviour" was even an embryo.

      November 4, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • Lil

      Considered already married? That is a little disturbing.

      November 4, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Paul Lunsford

      Mari: Maybe you should study the Christian faith a bit before you make such a fool of your self. Wow!

      November 4, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  20. A rounded Christian

    The Christ I belive in knows we are all human and will sin. He asks/demands that we do our best to avoid it with his help. Each and every one of us has failed to fully follow Christ's teachings. We are not to judge, but to do our best to follow.

    All of us would be much better off if we simply did our best to follow his teachings and not judge each other.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • John H

      wise words. amen, sista.

      November 3, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • David

      VERY wise words indeed!

      November 4, 2011 at 2:09 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.