As many as 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults have had sex, according to an analysis of a study on sexual activity in the upcoming October issue of Relevant, a Christian magazine.
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 who identify themselves as evangelicals are almost as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, according to the article “(Almost) Everyone’s Doing It.”
The article, which carries analysis of a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in December 2009, notes that of the unmarried non-Christian adults surveyed, 88 percent said they have had sex – only slightly higher than evangelicals.
Of those 80 percent of Christians who said they have had sex before marriage, 64 percent have done so within the last year and 42 percent are in a current sexual relationship, said Relevant writer Tyler Charles, analyzing the study that did not look into religious identification initially.
What’s perhaps even more disturbing, Charles noted, is that 65 percent of the women obtaining abortions identify themselves as either Protestant (37 percent) or Catholic (28 percent). “That’s 650,000 abortions obtained by Christians every year.”
The Church must acknowledge the reality and address it. “It’s a call to the Church to live in reality,” Charles quoted Jenell Williams Paris, the author of The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are, as saying.
The root problem, the article suggests, is the willingness to have sex before marriage. It’s hard to save sex for marriage, Charles wrote, identifying reasons including 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.
Charles quoted a licensed counselor, Carissa Woodwyk, as saying that most Christians know God wants them to wait until marriage. But the problem, she said, is that most do not have a personal understanding of why it’s important. They should “go back to the beginning” and “focus on the origins of masculinity and femininity,” she suggested, adding that Christians must not think talking about sex is a “bad thing.” The Church should help people see “God’s picture of sex and marriage.”
Scot McKnight, professor of religious studies at North Park University in Chicago, pointed out in the article that while the abstinence message has been geared toward teenagers, in recent years, the average age for marriage has consistently risen. When Christians mature into their 20s, they normally reevaluate their beliefs, he said.
Joanna Hyatt, director of Reality Check, a group that promotes sexual integrity, wondered, if sex is only physical, why do sexually active youth often encounter depression? She said there is a need to promote “renewed abstinence,” a way to commit again to “a life of purity in body heart and mind.”