This article is from Issue 53: Sept/Oct 2011

(Almost) Everyone's Doing It

A surprising new study shows Christians are having premarital sex and abortions as much (or more) than non-Christians.

Eighty percent of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year. Even though, according to a recent Gallup poll, 76 percent of evangelicals believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong.

Like other believers she knew growing up, Maria Kearn* planned to save sex for marriage. She made it through high school with her virginity intact, but when she was 20 she started having sex with her college boyfriend.

“I was so enamored with my first boyfriend,” Kearn says. “He was the first guy I really fell in love with, and suddenly all the barriers came down and I was way too vulnerable.”

Kearn believes better role models may have helped her abstain, but even her Christian friends were having sex.

“It seemed everyone in my life, older and younger, had ‘done it,’ ” Kearn says. “In fact, I waited longer than most people I knew and longer than both of my sisters, even though we were all Christians and came from a good home.”

Kearn continued to have sex with her college boyfriend for years as they maintained an on-again/off -again relationship.

“I was so hooked on him that it took me too long to fi nally break up with him,” Kearn says. “Th e straw that broke the camel’s back was that I came down with HPV, highlighting the fact that even though I was only with him, he [had been with] other people.”

Stories like this aren’t oft en heard in church, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t common.

In fact, a recent study reveals that 88 percent of unmarried young adults (ages 18-29) are having sex. Th e same study, conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, reveals the number doesn’t drop much among Christians. Of those surveyed who self-identify as “evangelical,” 80 percent say they have had sex. Eighty percent. So much for true love waits.

Whatever Happened to Abstinence?

Apparently, the concept still exists even if few are following it.

Dr. Jenell Williams Paris, an anthropologist and the author of The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are, says the high rates of premarital sex are a call to the Church to live in reality.

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