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. Grace

    Wait, really, I can't say the word s-e-x to comment on an article on the subject??? Well a truncated version is that I have a lot of [insert dirty word] out of wedlock and it's all great. I am of age, highly educated, physically and emotionally healthy, compassionate, kind, and a productive citizen of the United States. I don't mind being called a sinner on account of my behavior (being an agnostic, my indifference to a god translates to an indifference to sin). I do mind people saying that I'm contributing the the moral deterioration of our country. I pay my taxes, take care of my neighbors, and work as hard as I can everyday. How exactly am I harming our society by [insert dirty word]ing my man-friend of four years when I get home every night???

    November 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • ArnoldK

      And do you at least compensate your 'man-friend' (whichever client/boyfriend # he is) for all of your services, sweetie?

      Also, do you have all of your teeth?

      And this is coming from a non-Christian.

      November 22, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Grace

      Well the site has blocked three of my responses. But to sum up. Where did you get that from what I said? The four year relationship? The stable, contributing member of society? Hm. Did you insert the wrong dirty word? What I'm doing really doesn't have a lot of dental impact ...

      November 23, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  2. rawdi

    unless you can convince them that God exists AND convince them of what Gods will is.
    Will add that God has in times past and will in the very near future convince all that He exist and what He is...

    November 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  3. ArnoldK

    I don't think Christians are even trying to wait. If they were trying, they wouldn't be failing at a rate of >80% (and that's just what goes reported) or even higher among some denominations - i.e Catholicism, it's probably greater than 95%.

    And they wonder why church membership rates are practically free-falling.

    November 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Laken

      It seems that some non- believers think that Christians are supposed to be perfect, or somewhat perfect. That is by far wrong. Just as non believers, Christians will make mistakes. We sin because we are sinful, we are not sinful because we sin. Sinning is our nature, we are all black hearted and deserve the wrath of God for eternity. The key thing to being a christian and making mistakes is that you are to repent. God views all sins equal. Yes christians will fail just like everyone else and the standards should not be set to perfect for them because that is impossible. Making a mistake can easily be fixed by asking for God's forgiveness. Even though impurity seems huge to some, God does not stress about it. No sin is to big for him to forgive.

      November 22, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Rick

      "Sinning is our nature, we are all black hearted and deserve the wrath of God for eternity."

      Wow....you know this how?

      Do you beat yourself, too?

      November 23, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  4. Shelley

    I'm just saddened by all this.

    November 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  5. Josh

    22. Engaged. Virgin. Getting Married in 3 months and SOOOOOO glad I waited.

    November 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • GodPot

      Get back to us in 6 months then and let us know how glad you are after 3 months of trying to deal with your new wifes unusually large "Dolores" majora, that happens to make you look like a Peanus Minora, all because you decided to wait and go into a legally binding contract sight unseen as it were...

      November 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Laken

      That's so awesome and exciting! You should be so proud of yourself.

      November 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  6. OregonTom

    Treat your partner with love and respect and don't cheat on her. That is the only rule in the real world.

    November 22, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Scot

      Why when she will eventually take everything you have when she leaves and make you pay as long as you have children and she does not get married again. Yep what a great life that is. Just ask all those "good" guys out there that have been taked to the cleaners by these wonderful ladies !

      November 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  7. ChristianHat3r

    "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." -Albert Einstein

    A country of fornicators giving rise to more fornicators - 'values' which are further apart than binary opposites at the time of the foundation of this country - wondering why nothing functions as it used to, and why society is rapidly disintegrating in lawlessness and chaos. Hmm.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • ChristianHat3r


      November 22, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • Ummmmm

      "nd why society is rapidly disintegrating in lawlessness and chaos. Hmm."

      Wow – your community must really suck because where I live, it's peaceful, great people, don't have to lock your door at night unless you want too, extra, extra. It's funny how christians are suppose to be so optimistic yet they're so full of doom and gloom. Oh, that's right you think your christ is coming so you have to create such negative crap.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Dina

      I wish Christians were purposely painting a negative picture of the world but the reality is most of the world is suffering. Take a moment to look outside of western society and you will see that for the vast majority of the world life sucks. Close to 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Millions of people die each year from lack of access to clean water. How many people have died because they cannot afford HIV/AIDS medication, that is available just not affordable. Lets not forget about all the crazy natural disasters and the famine in the horn of Africa. Look at the economies of the global north? The rate of unemployment and poverty, c'mon, this has nothing to do with Christians painting the world as negative to suit their purposes. Some of us are fortunate to live in a bubble but at the very least we have to acknowledge the injustice, inequality, pain, and suffering that is going on all around us.

      November 22, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  8. TrueWorshipper

    U can kno by the way sum of these "ignorant" people speak that they are not christian. The article just exposed what others have been covering for a long time, as a christian, in a relationship, it is hard to abstain. but if a christian aspires to be like Christ, then tho they may make the mistake of fornicating, they will feel bad and sorry, they will ask for forgiveness and find ways not to let it happen again. If a christian loves God as he/she should then tho they falter, they will not stay down, but continue in grace and they wont be overcome by the same trial twice.

    November 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Scott

      "U can kno by the way sum of these "ignorant" people speak that they are not christian. "

      Oh, the irony.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • MyMotoMike

      "Oh, the irony."

      November 22, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  9. kayla

    Im catholic, 32, a virgin who still plans to wait. I have a boyfriend of 2.5 years, we live together for financial reasons. Hes not a virgin but respects my decision to wait until we marry, probably in the next year or two.

    November 21, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Pam

      Any fornication when not married is a sin and you shouldn't be living with each other if you are having financial issues move back home!

      November 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Opinion

      kayla, It's none of my business, but since this is a comment section:

      It is very likely that your boyfriend is either gay or has outside "interests"... or both. It sounds like you are a convenient financial stopgap, until something better comes along for him.

      November 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Let'sSee

      "t sounds like you are a convenient financial stopgap, until something better comes along for him."

      Agreed the one's that want to wait and not get married usually are the ones you need to run from, you are probably nothing more than a live in maid for him.

      November 21, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • kayla

      omg, first of all we are not fornicating pam. If I moved home Id move hours away, lose my job, and put a strain on my relationship. Secondly, "let's see" we have discussed getting married many times, he told me he wants to propose, but I said its okay to wait as I know financially its very hard for us right now (we are broke) as we are trying to start a business. Plus, he does all the cleaning, so that would make him the maid not me.

      November 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Emma

      17, Catholic, dating, and enjoying the wait.

      November 22, 2011 at 6:28 am |
    • Rick

      I hope the wait is worth it for you.

      November 22, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • SSgt Johnson

      All of you people need to pack up your judgement and let Kayla live how she wants to live. I see "Christians" too many times judge others and act so wicked towards their fellow man it makes me want to vomit. She's probably got her life together FAR more than you do and to be able to live together and stay abstinent is quiet an accomplishment. This is the new-age Christian couple, deal with it. You often don't know if it's good to be with someone until you live with that person for an extended period of time. They are doing wonders for their relationship and financially it's not plausible for them to live up to your overrated and ridiculous expectations. Get real.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Shelley

      SSgt Johnson (and others). Any kind of stereotyping including all christians are this way or all non christians are another are wrong. One thing the Christian faith has taught me is love your neighboor as yourself. All people are my neighboors and I do my best to show the utmost respect to all of them. But, don't forget that all humans christian or not are human and not perfect. What this country needs is a little more forgiveness and less condemnation on both sides. Kayla I think it is amazing that you found someone who cares enough about you to wait. I hope you both are blessed

      November 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  10. kayla

    Im still waiting, Im 32 yr old virgin. I have a boyfriend of 2.5 years, we live together now for financial reasons. Hes not a virgin but he respects my decision to wait 🙂 We plan to marry in the next year or two

    November 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  11. Jesus Loves

    Obedience is the Key here as God word says in 1&2 Corinthians 6:15 to End, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Hebrews 13:4, Proverbs 6:32-33, 2 Corinthians 12:21, 1 Corinthians 10:8, Acts 15:29, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-12. wait till you get married. How? Pray, Fast, plead the Blood of Jesus on you hormones.

    November 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • BobZemko

      Please cite more passages written by celibate old men thousands of years ago that will do my thinking for me, too.

      Get a mind for yourself.

      November 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • J.W

      Actually most of these are speaking of adultery or prost1tution, not necessarily fornication.

      November 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Rick

      Or, do what you sincerely feel is right and don't worry about words written 2,000 years ago

      November 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Rick

      Apparently, some people are happy being subservient to a "god"

      November 22, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • Grace

      @Bob: perfect.

      November 23, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • nonbeliever

      "Pray, Fast, plead the Blood of Jesus on you hormones."

      I just got a mental image of 'jesus' blood running all down my di.ck. I'm not sure I'll be able to have se.x with my wife for a day or so.

      November 27, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  12. ManUP

    There not waiting because the male in the relationship is acting like a little boy and neither of them have any self control. A real man treats his partner with respect by not pressuring her, or pushing her, and showing her that actually cares for her

    November 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Sam

      A real man treats his partner with respect by not pressuring her, or pushing her, and showing her that actually cares for her.

      Most women would get bored and dump you like a hot potato. Plus, she'll suspect that you're gay, and you probably are.

      November 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Shelley

      Sam that's a very mean thing to say. I'm sorry you were hurt etc. and that's why you have that opinion but what ManUp said is true. Of all the successful marriages that I know of (some of which that have lasted 60+ years) have been based on mutual respect. Our society runs away whenever the respect word comes up because it involves actually caring about someone else. It doesn't have to be every man (woman) for themselves. we would get a lot more accomplished if we put our differences aside and worked together. AND respected each other. The world is not black and white it is shades of grey and a massive amount of other colors too. ALL are beautiful.

      November 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  13. archepoyle

    It is ok as long as you say oh god oh god oh god while you are doing it.

    November 20, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Misha

      I don't see breaking God's rules as right ever. There's a way that seems right to man but the end is death. I just don't date. That's not any easier. I have no desire to mess around before I'm married.

      November 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Mr Chihuahua

      The holy ghost told me it doesn't count if it's in the butt lol!

      November 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Rick

      misha: you're missing out on what can be a amazing experience by deifying words written by man

      November 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Sam

      "I just don't date"

      You'll never be married. Say hello to your cats for me.

      November 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Rick

      Mischa: All ways end in death. Some folks think that they can beat it, but no one can, no matter to whom you bow.

      November 22, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • Mirosal

      Maybe Misha isn't dating because no one WANTS to date her? Look, every life form on this planet does 2 things before it dies. From the one-celled amoeba to humans, all plants .... everything alive ... will take in nourishment (eat) and reproduce. The 2 most basic instincts of every living thing on Earth, be it flora or fauna. No organization .. I mean NONE ...has the right to tell you what you can or cannot eat, or regulate your hormones. It's only another way for man to control man by telling you that a man-made "god" says 'no'. You are taught that before marriage that se.x is a dirty nasty evil thing .. but as soon as you say 'I do'.. suddenly it becomes this magical act of love and highly encouraged. Sounds like the ultimate hypocrisy. For approx. 20 years you are told NO, then all of a sudden you're told 'YES' just because you now have a spouse. If the Catholic church had abstained from celiibacy and let them marry, I think their scandal wouldn't have been anywhere near the scale that it is. Cel;ibacy is NOT normal it is NOT natural. name me one, JUST ONE species whose nature it is to be celibate, and I'll show you an extinct species.

      November 22, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  14. warrior

    I strongly disagree with this article. No matter how tempting it is you need to make choices that will prevent it from happening. I'm 21, have a girlfriend, and I'm still a virgin. We need to be following what Christ urges us to do, not following our worldly urges.

    November 20, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Af090391

      There once was a time where we believed such urges were the devil taking over our body. Then we learned that it was hormones that existed to advance a species, and was pretty key to our races survival.

      So I ask, if its not the devil that made them, why did God make such "worldly urges" in the first place, if they went against his grand plan. Cause I mean, if I were a creator, I would have them kick in after the time I said they should (marriage), since that would make logical sense. Surely, I can't be a better creator than God?

      November 20, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Sam

      Well, obviously the "creator" is not the Christian God. He's not "intelligent".

      November 21, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • warrior

      He created "worldly urges" becase He loves us and gave us the choice of free will. We don't have to do what He calls us to do if we don't want to. And honestly I believe that waiting till I'm married will be the most fulfilling option.

      November 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  15. Russ

    Don't wait. Use a condom, and learn to deal with your emotions.

    November 20, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Grace


      November 23, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  16. John

    Very funny article. Why don't we do it in the road.

    November 20, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  17. alex

    this article is worthless, this guy didn't prove or explain anything, thanks for waisting my time

    November 20, 2011 at 4:34 am |
  18. DanikaJA

    I for one am an advocate for earlier marriage. There is no reason why traditional college age adults (18-22) should be urged to wait until after undergrad or even grad school before they get married, especially with spiritual, mental, emotional and financial support from parents and churches, particularly not in the age of birth control (if people are worried about not finishing school because of having a baby). I understand that there may be issues of maturity, but the longer we delay the growing up process (of which courtship and marriage are a significant part), the longer young adults will remain immature, seeing no need to enter the adult world of responsibility and maturity. I understand that my views are controversial, but there is no scripture which encourages the ridiculous prolongation of temptation and frustration advocated by our individualistic culture. WHY do we insist that our children live their whole lives and do everything they ever dreamed of doing before they even consider marriage? We unintentionally express to our young people that marriage is "game over" and nothing fun or fulfilling happens after a couple marry. We have stressed that singleness can be a great advantage for ministry, but have left out the fact that married couples are just as powerful in ministry partnerships.

    November 18, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Observer

      The flaw in the thinking is that you have completely ignored the poor children that deserve mature parents.

      November 18, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Ann

      Actually statistically speaking- the younger one marries the more likely it is to end in divorce. 22 may not have seemed young 20 or 30 years ago; but many of the early 20 somethings are much more immature than previous generations. It is important to have a good solid sense of self and what you want out of life before adding a partner into the mix. For these reasons I disagree with you.

      November 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • 12beFree

      I totally agree! It is the one factor often time not considered is age. The age of accountability varies with each individual. Where is the family? There is a spirit of error in this era that has gradually eliminated the only measure of rule and moral compass that has ever existed and that is God.The line are always being blurred. It is God who not only created man and woman, but also defined their roles and purpose. Know God Know Purpose, NO GOD NO PURPOSE. True purpose brings about change first in self and those around us. Lasting and meaningful change is INSPIRED not forced:-) Any movement for righteous change can only come by God's guidance and direction and without that it will utterly fail. We have put more stock in education and most people running this country into the ground are the educated. Education for many replaces their need for Wisdom from on High!! They prefer wisdom from on earth only. Wisdom from on high changes hearts and creates real love and peace between people. Wisdom of man only brings about destruction, moral decay, confusion, disloyalty, oppression, false sense of freedom, and if you need proof look at history. We are declining almost at fast as we rose into power as a nation. With all of the new age ideas, the rise and fall of empires, and philosophies that abound, the one constant is God Almighty.

      November 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • No.


      November 20, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Tonelok

      These rules were made when the average life expectancy was 40-50 years. People married and had kids when they were 15/16 years old. Daughters were allows arranged to be married when they were very young.
      None of these are the case now. The average life expectancy is closing in on 80, and more and more couples are waiting on marriage until their mid-twenties. This is another example of stubborn doctrine not changing when society/science/daily life has.

      November 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • ArnoldK

      Since when is younger marriage an excuse for no self-control?

      November 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  19. Wilmer

    Hedgehog – on Oct. 10 So you don't want to hear about the fact you are a sinner. Would you also be upset for someone to tell you some other truth – that your house is burning and you need 911 to help put out the fire? Can burying your head in the sand fix anything, or is the kindest thing (albeit the hardest thing) to let you know of the SAD news in time so you can fix it?

    November 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Af090391

      Actually, sin by definition is turning away from God. If there is no God, you cannot sin. If you firmly don't believe in God, you firmly believe you cannot sin. Thus, telling someone that they are in fact a sinner is fairly laughable unless you can convince them that God exists AND convince them of what Gods will is. And as you can see from the state of the world, not even the best minds can do that.

      November 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Jane Doe

      Af090391 Well said! 🙂

      November 22, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Grace

      @Af – exactly. Which is why I'm not bothered by the sinner part. It's the accusation that I'm furthering the moral decay of my country by having s.ex. It's safe, monogamous, and awesome. Why do people care what happens in my bedroom if I'm a happy, healthy, contributing member of society?

      November 23, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  20. rancholazer love

    You guys are finally getting it 🙂

    November 18, 2011 at 2:11 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.