Belief Beat

Here’s the latest story reporting that most evangelical youths, despite the best intentions of their clergy and parents, ultimately losing their virginities before marriage: Why Young Christians Aren’t Waiting Anymore (CNN)

This story addresses the obvious angle that coverage of the abstinence movement often seems to ignore:

 Relevant notes that in biblical times, people married earlier. The average age for marriage has been increasing in the U.S for the last 40 years.

Today, it’s not unusual to meet a Christian who is single at 30 – or 40 or 50, for that matter. So what do you tell them? Keep waiting?

Scot McKnight, co-author of “The Jesus Creed,” acknowledges that young, single Christians face temptations that their counterparts in the biblical age didn’t face.

He  tells Relevant:

Sociologically speaking, the one big difference – and it’s monstrous – between the biblical teaching and our culture is the arranged marriages of very young people. If you get married when you’re 13, you don’t have 15 years of temptation.

In other words, the Bible and traditional social mores come from a time when puberty and marriage were synonymous, if not even reversed. So “waiting until marriage” was kind of a no-brainer. But now, the average Americans don’t wed until they are over 25. That’s another decade or more of polishing those purity rings — twice their lifetimes, at that point, and during the years when hormones and peer pressure are at their most insistent.

On a related note, check out this NYT Modern Love column that ran earlier this year, about a 35-year-old single Mormon woman who wanted to wait until marriage.

Anyway, the facts are the facts — even youths in stable two-parent middle-class Christian households don’t wait. Bristol Palin and some of MTV’s “Teen Mom” stars are famous (glorified?) examples; I can think of plenty of less famous ones, can’t you?

So to paraphrase Original Recipe 90210’s St. Donna Martin (who also ended up not waiting until marriage, despite real-life daddy’s intentions): Let’s say your neighbors have a swimming pool. You can put up a tall, locked fence around that pool, and warn your kids over and over again that pools are off limits, and that they are incredibly dangerous. But if there’s even a tiny chance that your kids will sneak into that pool — don’t you think you’d better teach them how to swim?

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.