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. rick


    September 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  2. sir_ken_g

    Teen hormones vs preaching talking heads. Hormones win everytime.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Slave

      "Teen hormones vs preaching talking heads" – actually either I obey God's command to not commit adultery or I just do it with no care for consequences. A regenerated heart will win over teen hormones (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Romans 6:15-17).

      September 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Norbert The Antimatter Dragon

      @Slave, don't eat any shellfish either. And make sure you slaughter and burn a goat today or god will punish you. The bible says so.

      Christianity is one sicko religion.

      September 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Anon

      Christianity is primitive nonsense.

      September 27, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  3. Samay

    The so called 'Religion' is pure Science.
    The biggest problem these days is no one understand what religion basically means; People who preach religion or people who don't follow the so called religion.

    People who preach religion needs to go back to their books and understand why something was written and what it really meant. Not just to the physical life but the spiritual life. You cannot condemn someone who is ignorant about something but yourself who thinks to know all about it. It is well said that "little knowledge is too dangerous".

    September 27, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  4. David

    People have a problem with accountabilty for their sin. They do not want to accept the fact that Everyone will stand before the Lord and give an account of their lives. I am glad on that day I will see that my debt has been paid at the cross over 2000 years ago by Jesus Christ. The ONLY way to the Father. The Lord is not slack concerning His promises. Anyone can be saved. Today is the day of Salvation. Accept Jesus Christ as Your Lord and Savior. Only He can wash your sins away. One day all will stand before Him. Call on Jesus today. Admit you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself. Do not put it off. Your life is but a vapor.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Colin

      Sorry David, the whole idea of an all loving Bronze Age sky-god sending me to burn for all eternity or live in eternal bliss is about as silly as it gets to me. It is superst.itious nonsense. I wish it never made it out of the Dark Ages.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Magic


      There is just as much of a chance that you will appear before Quetzalcoatl on "judgment day".

      September 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      If you were honest, you would have started your line of bullshi<b<t with "despite no evidence to support what I am about to write, and recognizing that there is some non-zero probability that no gods every existed and that the jesus myth is man-made crap, I believe ..."

      September 27, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Anton LaVey


      People have a problem with accountabilty for their sin. They do not want to accept the fact that Everyone will stand before the Lord and give an account of their lives. I am glad on that day I will see that my debt has been paid at the cross over 2000 years ago by Jesus Christ. The ONLY way to the Father. The Lord is not slack concerning His promises. Anyone can be saved. Today is the day of Salvation. Accept Jesus Christ as Your Lord and Savior. Only He can wash your sins away. One day all will stand before Him. Call on Jesus today. Admit you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself. Do not put it off. Your life is but a vapor.

      And David admit your faith originated in man and ends in man. When you realize this you can then begin to learn.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Rick

      David: You surely seem to confuse facts with opinions

      September 27, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  5. tallulah13

    I find it hysterical that they actually thought the pledges and rings were going to work. Human drives will generally be stronger than artificial constraints.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Indeed, abstinence pledges have an extremely high failure rate as contraceptives. So I don't know whether to laugh or cry when people, reviewing the failure rate of other methods, conclude that "we gotta teach abstinence!"

      September 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  6. billy davis

    True. Every Christian girl I know likes it in the bottom so they can claim they are still virgins. If only Bristol Palin had figured it out.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Anton LaVey

      Reminds me one time...christian girl and she asked for a dirty sanchez.lol freaks

      September 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  7. Dan Botica

    It's interesting that most of you, guys, who applaud the trend of "not waiting" don't realize that the same studies, done
    by secular universities, show that marriages in which the partners did not wait have a much higher rate of failing, than marriages in which the partners waited. In turn, divorce affects people emotionally, financially and socially, not to mention the children that go through the divorce of their parents. On the other hand, please know that there are many, many young adults who do wait. Too bad the rest won't get to live out the dream that marriage can be lasting and fulfilling!

    September 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • pat carr

      Blah Blah Blah Blah. I started 2 weeks in with my girlfriend after meeting. we've been married 12 years.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I don't have any problem with anyone waiting (for anything) if that's what they want to do. I do have a problem with anyone (individual or group) saying anyone else should wait because their imaginary Sky Daddy says so. Well, they can say it 'cause the do have 1st Amendment rights, but they have no right to impose, and if they do say anything like "my god says..." they should expect to have their wacky beliefs challenged.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Sean

      More Kool-Aid talk.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Mara

      And where would one find these studies? Because it's easy to say that studies were done, but without acessing the actual data it's all just opinion. I googled for such studies but found nothing. There's a saying that "two virgins in a bed are one too many". it'd be interesting to see if the divorce rate (if such independent correlation actually exists) holds true depending on the gender of the virgin as well as whether both spouses are abstinent before marriage. So...link please?

      September 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  8. George

    There's nothing like a good hot christian girl.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Brian

      When more and more evangelicals spew more fiction instead of reading from the Bible then yeah I could see young men and women being chased away by money greeding pastors with their crocadile tears/heart cry.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Mitch

      Oh hell yeah!

      September 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  9. Ross

    Jesus shmeezus. I don't believe in anything. As long as my bills are paid and I'm happy who really cares about the details. As long as I'm not robbing you or causing you undue trouble why do you care how I live my life. All you religious people decided to jump off a bridge I totally wouldn't care. Just saying...

    September 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  10. Bo

    @Observer, It's onlly because you don't believe in an all powerful God that you deny the virgin birth. So, it's a "no-win, debate. Might as well polietly drop the subject.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Observer


      I do believe in science, biology, physics, and common sense as opposed to blind faith in what logic says is nonsense.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • pat carr

      virgin birth – LOL. next ting you'll tell me is some dude walked on water

      September 27, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Sean

      Mary just better be glad they didn’t have DNA test back then.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  11. George

    I'm calling for ten million more abortions this year and twenty million per year after that. We are being overwhelmed by stupid people and the country is crumbling as a result.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  12. GOP Hate America

    hypocrites is what

    September 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  13. Know What

    azanon – Yes! 🙂

    September 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  14. George

    The forbidden books of Jesus tell how he had relations with Mary Magdalene. He couldn't keep his hands off of her, and christ knows they weren't married.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Anton LaVey

      Actually the bible hints that he was BI, which makes sense since god is not a man or women.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  15. HotAirAce

    If any gods existed and there was any truth to tribal beliefs such as the jesus myth, believers would not break any of their cult's rules and 70% of abortions in the US would not be had by believers.

    If any god exists, and I doubt that even one does, "he" certainly isn't very powerful...

    September 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  16. KRO

    If Christian organizations consider this a problem, then they should attempt to address the issue realistically with older and younger members of their congregations. Church leaders and parents who pressure younger members to adhere to an abstinent lifestyle may end up being deceived by some of those young members. Teenagers and children who pledge to abstain until marriage have little to no idea what kind of pressure they'll face from their peers or themselves if and when they fall in love. If they change their minds later in life, it seems optimal for them and the church community to be able to speak openly and honestly rather than practice in deception and damage the trust they have in their family and community.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Sean

      There is no realistic way.. unless you considered what they do in middle eastern countries to be realistic. Considering that is where Christianity is from I wouldn’t be surprised.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • KRO

      @Sean By your way of thinking, schools would still be legally segregated and women would be hanged for 'witchcraft'. The US hasn't always made progress quickly, but we have shown that we are capable of listening and growing together. If being a Christian means that one is truthful and has honor (as I suppose it does, they are basic tenements for nearly every religious organization), then Christian leaders should encourage their congregations to prioritize honesty and acceptance over enforcing a policy that leads to deceit and damaged relationships.

      And your cavalier mentioning of the horrific violence against women practiced by extremists in the Middle East is so thoughtless and grotesque that it does nothing but demonstrate your pitifully insufficient debating skills. I advise you to take more time and consideration in your future answers, lest you prove yourself eternally stagnant and lacking in creative output.

      September 27, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  17. leroy eppley

    Religion sucks, people need to become aware, If there is one god why do we have numerous religious and everyone kills for their particular God. One God one religon. However no God is better, and get rid of religions, then perhaps we can start living like decent human beings. As far as S$X in someones premarital life, it was originally started because there were not any means of Birth control, we should teach Girls that there is Birth Control Available, then perhaps the wedding night could be the first time for anybody.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  18. azanon

    I am for christian abstinence. In fact, I am still for it after they marry. One has to support whatever it takes for their ignorance to eventually die off.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • KM

      awesome post. +1

      September 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • SciFiChickie


      September 27, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • pat carr

      Best post ever. It would be great if xians stopped breeding altogether

      September 27, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • jason

      So edgy.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Why just christians? There're lots of other wacky tribal mythology believers out there! We wouldn't want to make the christians feel special or to feed their presecution complex...

      September 27, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • sir_ken_g

      ...and teabggers

      September 27, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  19. pat carr

    Great article! Glad kids aren't being bound by bronze age cult rules anymore!!!!

    September 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  20. Orville

    People do not practice a religious faith today because there is no reason to. You have your fanatics out there that do their thing, in the name of God, but even they don't get it. So if people do not have a reason to practice, they don't. They don't because it is inconvenient, it takes effort, there is some sort of sacrifice involved, and they might have to do without something. Maybe they don't want to say and do the things that their particular religion wants them to.

    People have no trouble saying and doing the things that Snookie does, however. They have no problem emulating the MTV version of faith and God. Why? Because it is the socially acceptable thing to do. You've booted God out of the classroom, off your public property, out of public view, almost out of the vocabulary; so why now do you expect your young to have any respect for God or what that's all about? If you don't care, why should they?

    So they will reproduce like rabbits because there are twice as many of them here now, and they have no moral compass, no real guidance from a credible source. The catholic church blew it, the thumpers out there are like the WWF of the church crowd, and about the only place where you have God showing up every day, is the only place where you really seem to want him, and that's on your currency.

    So stop with the hypocritical rhetoric. Your kids are in the sack because that's where they find what they're looking for. Everything else has been taken off the table. "What would Snooky do?"

    September 27, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • KM

      you missed this one : religion is for ignorant, weak-minded people unable or unwilling to think and discern for themselves. And young people in the information age know this more than previous generations. get over it!

      September 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • A. ohEaghra

      No one can take God out of you heart, your home, your church or your community. I'm not sure why you feel loss at not having someone's religion in schools. Kids are not morally adrift because they can't find God in their public schools. Those who are adrift have probably not found God in their homes. Let's start looking at parents and less at our schools for an absence of moral compass. If parents want thier kids to have religious education, they can bring them up in a religious home and/or send them to the religious school of their choice. If they choose to use the public schools, they should not expect those teachers to instill religious training in their kids. Frankly, I would not want someone of another faith teaching religion to my kids.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:46 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.