For young evangelicals, can true love wait?

Mary Altaffer ASSOCIATED PRESS Bristol Palin poses for photographers on the red carpet during an event to promote National Teen … Continued

Mary Altaffer


Bristol Palin poses for photographers on the red carpet during an event to promote National Teen Pregnancy Awareness Day Wednesday, May 6, 2009 in New York. Unwed mother Bristol Palin said Wednesday that abstinence is a realistic way for teens to avoid unwanted pregnancy –a view not shared by the father of her infant son.

Relevant Magazine, an evangelical Christian publication, made ripples in religious circles with their recent article titled “(Almost) Everyone’s Doing It” about some “surprising” findings on evangelicals and sex.

The October issue article cited research showing that unmarried evangelicals are having sex almost as frequently as everyone else. While 88 percent of all young people (ages 18-29) said they have had sex, 80 percent those who self-identify as “evangelical” had.

The research was conducted by the National Campaign to prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies.

Tyler Charles, author of the article and a campus minister with the Coalition of Christian Outreach, said that he found the data “surprising, but not shocking,” in an interview with On Faith. Charles was quick to note that he is not a specialist or scholar on this matter, but strongly believes in “the need for honest conversations and creating an atmosphere where people can ask honest questions.”

“If the church can do more to foster an environment where these sorts of things can be discussed honestly and with a message that extends beyond just ‘don’t do it because it’s wrong’ but is willing to really wrestle through the issues with people, I think that would be a huge step and a great thing for the church at large,” said Charles.

Charles cites Christian writer and theologian Scott McKnight on the cause of such a high rate of sex among Christians who are taught that it is reserved for marriage. Writes McKnight: “If young Christians no longer deem marriage a worth-while endeavor — or see it as a temporary thing (proven to them by the brevity of their parents’ marriages and the prevalence of divorce in Western culture), then sex within marriage certainly loses some of its profundity — and sacredness.”

One way that churches are responding to what they see as way-faring couples is by marrying them. A recent poll by the Christian research group LifeWay indicates that 58 percent of Protestant pastors would perform marriages for couples who are sleeping together or living together.

Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas, has been beating the “early marriage”drum for years, calling for couples to marry younger in order to avoid temptation, and has recently remade the argument in his new book on premarital sex.

Is it unrealistic to expect true love to wait?

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  • meowmixe

    Having that pic of Bristol Palin just reinforces the blatant hypocrisy of all this: Do as I say not as I do. If I was a believer and promoter of abstinence only , she’d be the last person I’d want on my side.

    But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matt. 5:28.

    This verse is just asking for trouble. So why not go all the way if fantasizing (an absolutely normal human activity) is equal to the actual deed? Think about the inherent guilt in that verse. Every human being has checked out the menu and to associate that with actual infidelity is beyond cruel.

    And we haven’t even started in on discussing geology with someone who believes the earth 6000 years old.

  • ccnl1

    Dear Evangelicals et al,

    From the Guttmacher Inst-tute:


    Percentage of women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy

    Method Typical

    Pill (combined) 8.7
    Tubal sterilization 0.7
    Male condom 17.4
    Vasectomy 0.2

    Periodic abstinence 25.3
    Calendar 9.0
    Ovulation Method 3.0
    Sympto-thermal 2.0
    Post-ovulation 1.0

    No method 85.0″

    (Abstinence) 0

    (Masturbation) 0

    The failure of the Pill as noted above results in one million unplanned pregnancies every year because women basically fail to take it once a day as prescribed on the box in big letters. Added sex ed in schools would be great but the larger issue is stupidity and/or basic literacy.

    The failure of the male condom results in another one million unplanned pregnancies every year basically because many men, as per Guttmacher, fail to use them even though they have them in their pockets or billfolds. The issue then is stupidity and/or being in a drunk/drugged state before and during intercourse.

    And the annual abortion rate in the USA is?? ~1,000,000 as per the CDC.

  • play25

    I was brought up in a strict religion, and abandoned it in my 30s. Maybe our youth is realizing more and more is that: Religion is “hogwash”. The Bible (Torah, Koran, etc.) is so outdated and sexist, that it could not have been inspired by a just God. Today’s youth is realizing that independent thinking is the real morality. You don’t need religion to have a sense of what is right for you. The main thing is working through “the guilt trip” of not believing in a religion that “spoonfeeds” and tells you what to think and do, and that is entirely possible. Think for yourself. Your beliefs create your reality. Change your beliefs and you change your life. First, believe that you can change. Second, realize the more emotion tied to a belief, the more “working through it” may have to be done to change it. BUT, it is doable. Remember: “Everything is mind over matter. What’s the matter? Never mind.” Henry Ford said something like this: “Those who think they can, and those who think they can’t, are both right.” Eleanor Roosevelt said something like this: “No one can make you feel badly without your permission”. Be yourself, and be a critical thinker. This will foster confidence and self esteem.

  • journeyer58

    The idea of a ” sacredness of sexual activity ” reaches far beyond the theological basis of Christianity. Sex was seen as a sacred experience by many cultures, they even had priestesses and priests who were seen as sacred for the task of sexual activity in temples.
    Rather than wait for marriage, I would have gladly given up the ” 1st time ” jitters for an experience that would have been pleasurable and meaningful had I had the chance.
    I am not at all happy with the idea of teaching children that sexual activity is only for marriage, only for procreation and withing a certain time frame and in certain positions. This is not what sex should be, it should be a pleasurable and meaningful experience between two people who love each other and are hoping that they can commit to each other.
    I would have used the time if it could have happened, to live with the person I married. As it was, I was soon divorced because of money problems. Had the opportunity come I would have chosen to ” live in sin ” for at least 1 year before committing to my spouse for life. But be that as it may, I am now divorced and happy without the struggles and verbal combativeness that was our marriage.

  • Cobalt1

    The photo caption states: “Unwed mother Bristol Palin said Wednesday that abstinence is a realistic way for teens to avoid unwanted pregnancy –a view not shared by the father of her infant son.”

    This really should be amended to say “–a view not shared by the [mother or] father of her infant son.” You can’t get more realistic than… reality.

  • iceman219

    It is almost impossible today to maintain virginity/durable chastity in the era where the average marriage age is ~28 men/26.5 women.

    I agree with what others have mentioned, that there are a lot of problems that can be caused/exacerbated by premarital sex. I think the main point, which needs to be honestly discussed in the open, is that self-evaluation is necessary, whether you personally can carry the emotional and physical burdens of sex, before you toss the V-card out.

  • Cobalt1

    Greenberg “wonders how Christian communities will respond to the discrepancy between their beliefs and actions.”

    Wonder not. This answer is easy. This is not a problem that can’t be solved by a little bit more denial and entrenchment.

    Facts? Do we really think the targeted demographic cares about — or for that matter believes in — such nonsense. [Ok, I apologize, facts that reinforce the evangelicals’ worldview are ok — should be supported, even. Folks gotta grasp at something when facing a mountain of hostile evidence. ]

  • ccnl1

    Hyphens added to defeat an apparent secret word filter.

  • Cdnxian

    Anybody within the Evangelical community with half a brain has known that their has been a deep decline and fall. Most of those who call themselves Evangelicals are Altar Call Christians who really didn’t commit to following Christ but in getting themselves a free ticket into heaven at the Altar Call. However, that was never true conversion and Billy Graham has much to answer for in his promotion of the Altar Call.

    Thus, many of those who call themselves Evangelical Christians are not Christians as many a baptized Catholic who rejected every doctrine of their Church are not Catholic or the Chinese Communists are no longer Communists.

  • greenmansf

    Wow. How sad. You are sad, not what you posted.

  • warking7

    These statistics tell us that many people are Christians in name only. Worldly, self serving people can say anything but be totally committed to themselves only. The parents are accountable for allowing opportunity for their children to have sex.
    America, in general, is in dire straits morally.
    The answer still is, and always will be, Jesus Christ.
    “If any one will be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Luke 9.23

  • TArkay

    It appears that the only real Christians are the Mormons, in spite of what some self-appointed Christian spokespeople insist. Study after study reveals that the group of young people who actually live according to Christian principles are the Latter-day Saints. What did Christ say? “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31) and “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Confess all you want with your lips. The only Christians Christ recognizes are those who keep his commandments.

  • AhhYes

    Religion is no match for biology.

  • tallyhohohoho

    That’s why there’s repentance, folks.

  • julie_sapp_gt

    “Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas, has been beating the “early marriage”drum for years, calling for couples to marry younger in order to avoid temptation.” – WTF?! Marry young to avoid temptation? This guy would advocate rushing into something as important and long-term as marriage to avoid a simple short-term carnal temptation? How about you educate individuals to either have the discipline to adhere to their chosen belief system or to change their belief system responsibly? By “responsibly”, I mean an educational overview of their contraceptive options and how to access them.

  • ccnl1

    JC’s family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 “And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.”)

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann’s conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694

    Actually, Jesus was a bit “touched”. After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today’s world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with John’s gospel being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today’s followers of Paul et al’s “magic-man” are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and “magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

  • ccnl1

    Matt 12:36, as per many contemporary NT scholars, was not uttered by Jesus as it is a single attestation found no where else in scripture and therefore historically unreliable.

    e.g. Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 695

    and Professor JD Crossan in his book, The Historical Jesus, p. 448.

  • Secular1

    “Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas, has been beating the “early marriage”drum for years, calling for couples to marry younger in order to avoid temptation, and has recently remade the argument in his new book on premarital sex.” Is this guy serious? To avoid the temptation make it palatable, is this the answer this idiot wants people to buy. Of course palatable to him. I wonder if this isn’t social engineering? Did this moron even think of the consequences of early marriage?

    So finally we now know the payback for hiring these leeches of society to pontificate every Sunday morning is lousy 8%. Parents take note for the thousands you give to these leeches every year and the countless hours you spend in those grotesque buildings it reduces your child’s chance of fornicating by 8%. Just imagine that if you get involved in your child’s life, instead of outsourcing it to an otherwise grade school dropouts how much better your life would be?

  • Secular1

    ScottinVA, my life hasn’t been useless. Perhaps irrelevant to you but not irrelevant to lots of others. I have contributed and continuing to contribute through my professional life. I have contributed not one but two design notes on celestial mechanics during my tenure at NASA. I also hold some 13 US patents on varied topics as “traveling sales man problem”, to instrument design contamination containment, to address resolution in private networks.

    But of course in your church. That’s right your church is shining exception. Every church is a shining example when congregants have twisted themselves into pretzels and find their heads where the sun don’t shine. What else is new. And of course it is the most rebellious. And at that age who isn’t.

    No, not the people who espouse morality and charity, the leeches are the pompous who are certain that they know the mind of your imaginary sky daddy and pontificate to the kool aid drinkers like you, instead of putting in a honest days work.

  • Secular1

    I wonder if some one has done the research to see how widespread pre-marital or extra marital sex is prevalent based on the wide spread condom or birth control devices. Also taking into account the birth control pill prescriptions dispensed. Compare that against the number of abortions that are performed, an distribuition theree of in terms of the marital status of the biological