US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Who’s waiting for marriage? Not even evangelicals, it seems.

By Meghan Murphy-Gill | Print this pagePrint |

Eighty percent of evangelicals are sharing the marriage bed before marriage.
(Flickr photo cc by Quiet Here)

Despite the widespread prevalence of chastity rallies, purity rings, abstinence pledges, and popular guides to varying levels of intimacy, it turns out that evangelicals are having sex outside of marriage just as much as everyone else. An article in the September/October issue of Relevant reports that “80 percent of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year.” The number is only slightly higher when you look at all of 18-29-year-olds, 88 percent of whom are having sex before tying the knot.

The story begins with a young woman who stayed a virgin until 20 and had planned to stay one until she was married. Why did she change her mind? A lack of role models and the fact that all of her other Christian friends were doing it.

The subsection of the article titled, “Why waiting is so hard,” goes onto theorize that “the media’s marketing of sex, the cultural endorsement of the ‘do what feels good’ mentality, the prevalence of pornography, and the widespread misunderstanding of sex that prompts people to chase after love and acceptance in unhealthy physical relationships are all factors that make it difficult to practice chastity.” Further reasons include the church not placing a high enough value on marriage (to which I’d respond, “What church are you from?”), the need to talk more openly about “God’s intention and design and purposes [for sex],” and the notion that “our culture wants to convince us sex is really about two bodies coming together for a great time.”

Note how in all of these reasons the blame is placed on the wider culture, never on the individuals, and certainly not on the way Christians talk—or rather, don’t talk—about sex.

I don’t disagree that popular culture plays a roll in influencing young people’s sexual behavior. Having watched a few episodes of MTV’s Awkward, I’ve experienced my fair share of disgust at the nonchalant writing about a 15-year-old having clandestine sex with a boy who isn’t even willing to hold her hand in public. But I’m frustrated with how the story passes off the blame to a “hyper-sexualized society where sex is constantly available,” while never questioning the personal responsibility of the “offenders” and only mildly addressing the revising of the message of abstinence at the very end of the article.

Plus, all this blame on popular culture is backed up by zero evidence. I'd like to know how many Christians were having sex before marriage 20, 30, and 40 years ago. Where are the stats that show popular culture is any more sexualized now than in 1960? You'd be hard-pressed to find anything to back that up, and might even find evidence to the contrary.