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?