How to Make Teens Pledge Abstinence and Really Mean it

Casual sex is common. Everybody does it, many say. A new study seemingly confirmed premarital sex as "normal behavior" for the vast majority of Americans, and one national youth leader is asking how the country got to this point.

"We can say 95 percent of people have been sexually active before marriage," Ron Luce, founder of Teen Mania, told The Christian Post, "but if you look at the progression – if you say for decades it's been like this – it's been getting younger and younger as far as sexual activity."

A new study released Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute in New York reported that 95 percent of Americans have had premarital sex. Based on interviews with more than 38,000 people, most of them women, the national survey found that more women aged between 28 and 56 had premarital sex by age 30 than those born in the 1940s.

Although some, like Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, which supports abstinence-only education, were skeptical of the high numbers, Luce said the outcome of the study is "definitely a commentary on how we got to where we are right now with teenage America."

"We've allowed the promiscuity in our culture to become more and more common," commented Luce, who has led millions of teens in a Christian movement against MTV culture – sex, drugs and violence.

"As it's more commonplace, it's more in the media; and as it's more in the media, kids are experimenting younger and younger," he added.

On a general note, the findings from the study did not come as a complete surprise. An earlier Barna Group study had found young adults to be less conventional in sexuality and morals. People in their 20s and 30s expressed less conventional attitudes toward sexual activities. Most said cohabitation, sex outside of marriage, and viewing pornography are morally acceptable behaviors.

Current events such as the Mark Foley scandal, sexually oriented school shootings and now sexual misconduct among evangelical ministers indicate a "sexually unrestrained society," research director David Kinnaman of The Barna Group had noted.

The study called into question the many abstinence programs and ministries trying to keep teens chaste before marriage.

But the question was raised even before the release of this week's sex study was released. Faculty at Columbia and Yale universities studied 12,000 teenagers over the course of six years and found that 88 percent of those who pledge to be abstinent reported having had sexual intercourse before they married.

At the same time, the abstinence pledges caused teens to delay the start of sexual intercourse by 18 months and to have fewer sexual partners than those who did not make a pledge, the study further noted.

"Delaying is better than nothing," said Luce, who said he believes many abstinence programs "miss the point."

"They (abstinence programs) are all about 'don’t do active sex,'" he said, "but the problem is that if we don't teach young people to guard their heart and not give their heart away, then what happens is they get ... emotionally attached.

"Then they don't know how to say no [to sex]."

Luce has been traveling across the country in a "Battle Cry" movement warning parents of the sexualized culture Americans live in today.

One of the major consequences of such rampant sexual activity is the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, Luce pointed out.

"We keep inventing more of them," he said. "Man has got a moral code. Man is created in the image of God and when you break the moral code, there are consequences that you pay."

With sex becoming, or having been, normalized, it's not just about teaching teens to keep their body pure, but their hearts pure as well, Luce stressed.

"People that are passionately committed to following Christ and his ways are people who would make a commitment to abstinence and really mean it."