Sex: Practicing What You Preach

I consider myself to be what is called an “Evangelical” Christian. That word has a lot of nasty connotations these days, thanks to a few select kooks that claim to represent Evangelicals. Logic for the record: some kooks are Evangelicals. Not all Evangelicals are kooks.

In my words, an Evangelical is a Christian that believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, especially in the four gospels, and salvation through Christ’s grace, not works or another entity. Anything more than that, and you’re adding characteristics that don’t apply to all Evangelicals.

With definitions now out of the way, I’d like to share an article that really grabbed my attention today. (And yes, it did grab my attention for having the word “sex” in the title. No laughing!)
Slate.com has a review of Mark Regnerus’ new book, Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers. I did not read the book myself, but the review brought up some both disturbing and redeeming facts:

“80 percent [of Evangelical teenagers] think sex should be saved for marriage. But thinking is not the same as doing. Evangelical teens are actually more likely to have lost their virginity than either mainline Protestants or Catholics. They tend to lose their virginity at a slightly younger age—16.3, compared with 16.7 for the other two faiths. And they are much more likely to have had three or more sexual partners by age 17: Regnerus reports that 13.7 percent of evangelicals have, compared with 8.9 percent for mainline Protestants.”

These statistics mean that Evangelicals, the group with the highest expected moral standards, are hooking up more often than people from more permissive denominations. I’m not too surprised, since it follows the law of Three Ways to Get Something Done:

  1. Do it yourself
  2. Hire someone to do it for you
  3. Forbid your teenager from doing it

So it’s not schocking to see a larger percentage of evangelical teens dealing with this specific issue. It just serves as yet another example of the constant struggle between their “flesh” (Worldly passions and desires) and their new selves in Christ (free from the power of sin, existing in God’s grace.)

Much more interesting was a different demographic noted in the review:

“Among the mass of typically promiscuous teenagers in the book, one group stands out: the 16 percent of American teens who describe religion as “extremely important” in their lives… They can spend all evening sitting on the couch holding hands and nothing more. They can date for a year, be alone numerous times in a car or at the movies, and still stick to what’s known in the Christian youth literature as “side hugs,” to avoid excessive touching. Muslims have it easy compared to them.”

I know a lot of these people. Although it sounds otherwise, most are not the prudish, socially awkward kids that first come to mind from reading such a description. They’re great guys and girls, and you couldn’t single them out in a social gathering. They just happen to know where the line is drawn, and they stand firm in their resolve not to cross it.

Now that I think about it, you almost never hear about those types. Society as a whole recognizes the hypocritical bible-thumper who doesn’t practice what they preach, and the pariah who sacrifices their entire social life in order to follow strict rules. But I find that the world overlooks the Christian brothers and sisters I most admire, the ones who make deep, meaningful connections with God, and as a result develop amazing willpower and self-restraint in all areas. In my eyes, these people are the brightest beacons of God’s glory, and yet they are recognized the least by others.